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Shopping Addiction: How to cure the shopaholic in you
Everyone likes to go shopping once in a while, some more frequently than others. The good old ‘retail therapy’ never fails to lift up your spirits when required. Shopping at times becomes more than just accumulating things that you need. It is a way of spending time with friends, a way of celebration and one of the things to do for an instant ‘pick-me-up’.
But if window shopping trips often become buying frenzies for you and you end up spending too much on stuff you don’t really use much less you need, then you have an addiction problem. Drug addiction, kleptomania, alcoholism and gambling are dirty words. But ‘shopping’ is considered an acceptable and harmless addiction. At times your friends and family even encourage your shopping sprees. And it definitely doesn’t help living in a world that is more materialistic than ever.
So what are some typical signs of a compulsive shopping addiction?
• You fell the need to shop when you are unwell, upset.
• You are compelled to shop even when you are out of cash.
• Shopping is all that you do with your friends.
• Your credit card is your best friend and you are often surprised with your bill.
• If, “Next month, I will start paying off my debts and saving money” , “I can’t live without buying this pair of shoes/handbag” and “I can absolutely live below my means. As soon as I have the things I want, I will do just that” is what you keep telling yourself.
• The absolute red flag signal is when you have to hide your frequent, impulsive and unnecessary shopping binges from your family.
If you see yourself in any of the above excuses, then you have a problem. The good news is that it is very much possible for shopaholics to change their attitude. The Addiction Intervention Resources say that very few shopaholics need psychiatrist assistance.
The first step towards changing your attitude is to accept the problem and point out the causes behind such behaviour. Here are a few typical personalities of shopaholics that determine the possible causes for such behaviour:
• The princess/diva/fashionista that spends everything and saves nothing because she believes that her princes willcome along and take care of all her needs. And the best way of finding that prince is to wear designer shoes and ensembles.
• The indulger who abuses money the same way as addicts abuse alcohol and overeaters abuse food.
• The daredevil who subconsciously enjoys the thrill of not knowing where the rent at the end of month will come from.
• The status seeker who enjoys showing off expensive stuff to impress people around.
• The shopper with emotional problems. Shopping addicts suffer from a general tendency for emotional instability, or mood swings and anxiety and/ or depression. Shopping is a way of lifting spirits, even temporarily.
Try and analyse if you can identify yourself with any of the above. If yes then your aim should be tackling that main problem and you shouldn’t hesitate from seeking professional help for the same.
Other than that, here are a few things you can do to keep a check on your spending sprees:
• Snap your credit card into two. The next worse thing to spending over budget on things you don’t need, is being in debt because of them.
• Stop strolling/ hanging out/ catching up at a mall. Because you know that feeling in the stomach when you see that perfect dress in the window. If you have to go out to eat, choose a restaurant at a shopping complex or local market than at a mall. Better still, order in and save on the fuel!
• Make a budget before you get your pay check and stick to it. The plan should account for all your short term and long term needs (and not wants). Keep track of all your purchases during the month and see where your money is going.
• Start saving. It will be a little difficult at the beginning but once you get in the habit, it is just as infectious as spending. To make sure you don’t break into your savings at the sight of a sale banner, at the beginning of every month, transfer what you plan to save to your parents’ or spouse’s or a friend’s account and make them accountable. Whenever you need the money back you will have to convince them about your needs and let them be the judge.
• Channel your energy and free time into something more productive. Volunteer or exercise. Hit the gym so that you are in a better shape to go shopping once in a while
• Try doing something else with your friend who always wants to go shopping. If you are important to him/her, they will understand.
While the causes may be many, the phenomenon of shopaholic-ism spreads like a virus in a consumer-driven society that we are today, where we are fed messages through media and other outlets about the things that we need in order to live well.
Remember that overspending and compulsive shopping are symptoms rather than problems. It is very important in the long run to identify and sort out the underlying problems. Breaking free from shopaholic-ism is not going to happen overnight. You will have to work hard for it. You will fail and you will backslide but it will be fine as long as you keep trying. Keep focused on your long term goals and tackle your problems one purchase at a time.
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