The word addiction tends to summon images of alcohol and drugs, but addiction is an illness that can take hold in almost activity or substance. An especially costly form of it is shopping addiction, where you become addicted to spending money buying things you don’t truly need. No matter how much money you start with, a shopping addiction can cause you to quickly have to resort to credit cards or a signature installment loan to afford everyday expenses and bills.
How can you avoid shopping addiction? How can you stop once you’ve started? Here are a few of our tips on how to control your shopping.
One way to figure out whether you have a shopping addiction or not is to throw it into sharp relief and take an inventory of everything you’ve bought in the last year to evaluate how much use you’ve actually gotten from it. Did you really need that third tablet? That vintage jacket? That home gym? Listing and evaluating past purchases en masse has a sobering effect that can help prevent you from lapsing into a shopping addiction and give you the motivation to dig yourself out of one.
A big contributor to overspending is impulsive spending, where you go to the store and start putting things in your shopping cart you didn’t plan to. It’s hard to be disciplined in the moment, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the options in front of you.
The best way to counteract that impulsivity is to outsource your impulse control to before you go shopping. If you’re serious about cutting down your spending, make a list of what you need before you leave the house, and then be strict about sticking to it once you’re at the store. Doing so will keep you from buying frivolous things and driving back home with a canoe in the back of your car.
But what happens if you’re at the store and suddenly think of something you left off your list? Or if there’s a sale that could save you money? This is where you should take advantage of the 15-minute rule. Simply put, when you feel the urge to buy something that isn’t on your list, just walk away for 15 minutes. This’ll be enough time for the novelty and excitement of the impulse to wear off, and then you can evaluate whether it’s a good purchase or not rationally.
If the above methods don’t work, another option is to institute a hard limit on your spending once you hit a certain amount. Basically, at the beginning of the month, you map out how much you’ll need to spend, and then force yourself not to exceed that amount. This will force you to contain your spending, and if you do hit that limit early in the month, the discomfort of having to not spend money for the rest of the month means you’ll be less likely to do it the following month.