- Shopping addiction, also referred to as compulsive buying behavior, is a type of behavioral addiction that compels someone to shop uncontrollably.
- Shopping addiction usually forms in people who use shopping as a coping mechanism for stress or other problems.
- Overcoming a shopping addiction can start with imposing strict rules on your spending with a budget or a shopping list.
Shopping addiction is perhaps the most socially acceptable form of addiction. This can make it difficult to receive treatment or even realize that you have a problem in the first place.
If you’re here reading this, there’s a good chance you suspect you might have a shopping addiction. This also means you’ve taken the first step to overcome it. “Being self-aware is definitely step number one,” says financial therapist LaQuisha Clemons.
Shopping addiction, clinically referred to as compulsive buying behavior or monomania, is a type of behavioral addiction that compels people to uncontrollably shop. Of all the behavioral addictions — addictions around video games, the internet, and shopping — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-V), published by the American Psychiatric Association, only officially classified addiction as a gambling addiction .
Just because you enjoy shopping, that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily addicted to it. The line between liking to shop and a shopping addiction comes down to how it impacts other areas of your life. Here are some telltale signs of a shopping addiction:
Shopping affects your relationships: Shopping can turn into a shopping addiction when it creates conflict in your relationships. This can take the form of financial infidelity where you’re spending money behind your significant other’s back or you’re lying to them about how much money you’ve spent.
Shopping is emotionally charged: You also might be suffering from a shopping addiction if shopping is an intensely emotional experience. This may take the form of exhilaration while you’re shopping or a regular wave of guilt that follows each purchase.
Your shopping habits are divorced from logic: The money you spend generally has different levels of priorities attached to them. In order to spend money on non-essentials, you need to make sure your non-discretionary expenses are already covered — things such as rent or utility bills. But a shopping addiction disrupts this hierarchy. “Maybe you’re struggling to pay certain bills, but instead you’re shopping,” Clemons says. Rationally, you are aware you don’t have the money to spend on non-essential items, but you can’t stop yourself from buying them anyway.
Shopping addiction can be especially difficult to overcome because it’s part of everyday life. There’s really no way to avoid shopping. “This is where you have to find tools and things of that nature that will help you,” Clemons says. These tools usually involve imposing strict rules on your shopping habits, though that’s obviously easier said than done.
Make a shopping list: A shopping list can be a simple but effective step against a shopping addiction. When you’re creating these lists, you should go through the same thought process, separating what you want from what you need.
However, this doesn’t mean throwing out the list of things you want. You should go through additional self-reflective questions to separate shopping for the sake of shopping and shopping because you genuinely want an item. “If I want it, why do I want it? Why am I getting ready to spend money or shop when I don’t need to shop right now,” Clemons says. You can set this list aside for a specific day where you spend a set amount of money on things you want, which brings us to the next tool: budgeting.
Keep a strict budget: Shopping addiction can do serious damage to your finances and your credit, especially when you decide that your mandatory expenses like a mortgage payment or a utility bill can be ignored. To get a hold of your financial situation, it’s a good idea to set a budget to figure out how much of your money is actually free to spend.
For budgeting beginners, there are pre-set rules such as the 50-30-20 rule or the 80-20 rule that will split your finances into funds you spend on your needs, wants, and savings. It’s worth talking to a financial planner to see which specific budget is right for you.
Laying out and keeping a budget, however, are two very different things. You may need to find ways to prevent yourself from impulse buying. This might mean locking away your credit card in favor of a debit card, or only taking a set amount of cash with you when you go out.
see a financial therapist† Addictions are hard to overcome, and are especially hard to overcome alone. A handful of articles you found on how to overcome your addiction likely won’t do the trick. For more support, it may be worth your time to see a financial therapist.
Financial therapists are licensed social workers who have gone through certified training programs specifically tailored to handle people’s relationships with money. The Financial Therapy Association has a roster of financial therapists, but keep in mind that like other types of therapists, financial therapists can only practice in the states they’re licensed in.