Once upon a time I had a shopping addiction.
I bought, clothes, shoes, stationary, to be honest – it was anything and everything. I’d even class buying certain food products as part of my addiction, for me it was a complete lack of self control and a urge to spend money regardless of what I spent it on. The aim was to feel better, to have that rush of good emotions, sometimes even to feel like someone else. The end outcome wasn’t a life full of expensive things, I instead had debt and I had no idea how I had found myself in a place of owing.
I always knew that something was wrong, I was spending beyond my means and would often experience guilt after buying things.
So, what changed and how did I stop my addiction? In my opinion there are two areas which people who have a shopping addiction need to focus on. Firstly, work on developing yourself as a person then secondly, learn how to become an expert in your finances. These two things coupled together worked for me. I’ll break it down for you:
1. Admit that you have a problem.
Firstly, I admitted to myself that I had a problem which was the most important part of the healing process, and I refer to it as healing because it really is. In my experience an addiction forms because something is happening for you emotionally and you are not able to cope, so you seek something which makes you feel good whether that is for a second or for hours. For me shopping made me feel good, there was nothing else which compared. Funnily enough I used to have a phrase ‘when I’m happy I shop, when I’m sad I shop’ meaning I just shopped all the time. It actually makes me laugh when I think about it because I was not happy back then, that’s the reason I could not stop the shopping urges, it was pretend happiness that I was really referring to.
2. Get to know yourself.
I began to really work on my self development, my main resource was and still is books. I read anything and everything which helps become the best ‘me’ possible, what I mean by this is someone who is comfortable in their own skin, who appreciates their own strengths and builds on them. I then started to search for answers relating to the concept of ‘loving yourself’, I’ve heard so much about self love but there didn’t seem to be any resources on the topic which spoke to me, to be honest I didn’t really get it. At first I thought it was merely about your physical appearance, making sure you wore nice clothes and your hair looked pristine. I mean taking care of your body and taking pride in your presentation is definitely something which helps you feel good but it wasn’t actually the true definition of self love. Self love for me, is having boundaries and being able to assert them with anyone in your life, giving yourself permission to be happy without guilt or shame and acknowledging your own needs and honouring their importance.
3. Ask yourself – What do you want do I want my life to look like?.
I built a picture of my future, something compelling. I have a vision for what I want to be like, all the characteristics I want to embody, the type of things I would like to do, the career I want, cities I’d love to visit or maybe live in. This helped me create goals for my future. Create a vision board if that helps, I would highly recommend that you do. Take some time to brainstorm anything that leads you to some clarity about what you want. Make sure it’s something you can refer back to which will help keep you on track. When I think about this, I feel excited – you should too that’s really the key.
4. For every purchase ask yourself questions.
More recently I bought a hypnosis CD by Paul Mckenna which is called ‘Stop emotional spending’ I find it helpful to listen to this often, the introduction of the CD is just as helpful as the hypnosis. McKenna asks that you questions your purchase before taking the plunge, a simple question like ‘ Do I really need this or am I looking to feel better?’ try it, it’s powerful and effective. I once heard Eckhart Tolle answer a question about shopping and he said something along the lines of ‘if you are walking in the park and see a beautiful flower, can you appreciate it’s beauty without ripping it out of it’s home? Of course you can, you do not need to possess every item that you see as beautiful, you can appreciate its beauty and leave it.’ Enough said.
5. Become an expert in your finances.
I used to be one of those people who said, ‘I have no idea where it all goes’ REALLY?????? Is there a big black hole in the ground in your bedroom where all your money disappears? It’s your job to know where your money is going! You need to know when you are being paid, when your direct debits are coming out of your account – also which account?! If you are like me and have more than one. Do you have debts? How much are they costing you each month in interest? Are you renting or have a mortgage, is your rent likely to increase in the next year or maybe your mortgage rates are about to change? Know everything. I allocate time every day to check my accounts, just to make sure everything is okay.
I’ve given budgeting it’s own paragraph because it’s that important! Budget, Budget, Budget. Look at your income, set out your costs each month and then figure out how much you need to live – please be realistic otherwise this isn’t going to work. When you are over ambitious and think you’ll be able to live on £10 for a whole week you are just setting yourself up to fail. I’ve noticed when you have some room to manoeuvre you’re more likely to meet your budgeting targets. I find what works for me is, to write a list for all the food I need for the week and stick to it, when I’m at the supermarket I am definitely enticed into buying all sorts of random stuff but I keep my focus on the list.
8. Stop paying for everyone else.
I thought I’d put this in here seen as this is something I struggled with for so long, let me tell you something, most of the time when you offer to pay for something let’s say dinner the other person isn’t going to say no. There could be many reasons for this, the key one being – you offered!!!! Stop offering. It’s okay if you genuinely feel like treating the other person, a special occasion or the other person has forgotten their purse at home (actually the truth) that’s fine but remember this should be planned in your budget most likely under entertainment/socialising. However if you are doing it because you hate the awkward moment when the bill arrives and for whatever reason it makes you uncomfortable then no, just NO. You are on a road to financial ruin if you continue down this path. I was this person, I paid for a lot of dinners/cinema trips/days out you name it, for a lot of ‘friends’ but I realise now they weren’t friends but people who took advantage of me. I’m not saying your friends are taking advantage of you but some of mine did, and it makes me really angry. What worked for me in this area is to cut people out, I am good at cutting ties with people I have absolutely no problem doing it. I have no tolerance for freeloaders, it’s just plain disrespectful. Another thing I used to do is buy people expensive gifts for birthdays/events and never get anything in return. The ridiculous thing is that I do actually believe in the concept of giving without expecting anything in return. But if you’re in a good place financially then thats great, but if you’re depriving yourself of financial peace of mind then it’s probably not the best idea to keep buying people gifts while you’re in financial chaos.
7. Get a life coach
This is different to a therapist, a coach should be able to give you practical advice and guidance. If you haven’t got the money or can’t find a good coach an alternative is Youtube where you will find lots of information, I particularly like Dave Ramsey. I watched youtube videos, read books and even attended a bookkeeping course. I would recommend finding someone who can look through your finances and support you in the early stages.
A point I’d like to make is I still shop, and I enjoy it very much, this post isn’t about convincing you that shopping is a bad thing and you must stop, far from it. When I shop now I do it for the right reasons and the whole experience feels completely different. When I buy now I feel like I’m making an investment in my future, whether it’s a dress I’m buying or something for my home. This is how i see it, every purchase is directly connected to my goals in life. Let’s take something like clothes, why would that be a connected to your goals? I only buy clothes which I love, I feel good in and I know will support the vision of myself that I have. I never buy without thinking about my life, and how this item will support the life I am living and creating. I’ll make a confession, I still get urges to buy pointless stuff it often happens when I’m feeling emotional. Now I’m able to do something I thought I couldn’t before which is to exercise the self control, by simply closing my eyes for a few seconds and thinking about a life free of worry and debt – then instantly the urge is gone. It’s taken time and lots of work to get to that place, if it’s achievable for me it is definitely for you too! Crucially you need to remember -everything that works for you must be practised daily and become part of your lifestyle. If you can incorporate all of this into your life, you’ll become that person who is in control of their finances and their life.
If you’re struggling with shopping addiction, please seek help – speak to someone, a friend, colleague, whoever you feel comfortable talking to. In the U.K we are able to see our doctor and request a referral for therapy through the NHS this is something I’d definitely recommend. I am also happy to answer any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are you experiences of shopping addiction? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
Create Happy Thoughts