I don’t normally pay much attention to the press releases that flood my inbox, but this week one caught my eye: it was from shopping site VeryFirstTo, and it talked about how the retailer has been trying to warn its customers of the dangers of shopping addiction – which it defines like this:
“Shopping addiction is the compulsion to spend money, regardless of need or financial means. The addict may be addicted to a certain product, such as handbags or smartphones, but he or she might be buying anything from DIY tools and shoes, to jewellery and cosmetics. Medical experts comment that a compulsive shopper gets the same rush or “high” from making purchases as a drug addict gets when using drugs. Once the brain relates shopping with the pleasure or high, the addict tries to repeatedly recreate it. The long-term effects of a shopping addiction can vary in intensity and scope. Shopping addicts often face financial problems, and can become overwhelmed with debt. Whilst shopping can prove immensely pleasurable for addicts, they frequently suffer from guilt and anxiety. There are frequent cases of relationships with loved ones breaking-down.”
Sound familiar to anyone? Be honest: have you ever had a “rush” from buying that new dress, or pair of shoes? Because I know I have: and while shopping thankfully hasn’t affected my relationships, it HAS made me feel guilty from time to time – mostly because as much as love the thrill of the chase (purchase), I know that as soon as I get that sought-after item which I’ve convinced myself I can’t possibly live without, there’ll be another “must have” item to replace it – and another one after that, too.
The problem is, when you love shopping, you’re never really done with it, are you? There’s ALWAYS another item to get your heart racing, and no matter how many times you tell yourself that you’ll just buy this one thing, and then start being super-sensible, you know perfectly well that you’ll end up buying just one more. Now, as I say, I don’t feel my shopping has ever really been a huge problem as such (and I’m very lucky in that my job means I’m gifted a lot of the items I wear anyway), but towards the end of last year I started to feel that I was spending too much, on things I wasn’t wearing, and I decided it was time for a change. I’m in no way an expert on addiction, obviously, so these tips aren’t supposed to be an alternative to counselling, which is definitely a good idea if you feel your addition is out of hand, but here are some things that helped me cut down my spending…
01. STAY AWAY FROM TEMPTATION
This one is actually pretty tricky for me, because I don’t just look at online shopping sites for fun (although it IS fun, obviously!) – it’s literally part of my job. It’s one of the hardest parts of my job too, in terms of spending money, because it means that I’m constantly being placed in the way of temptation, and seeing things that it’s all too easy to convince myself I MUST have. Similarly, because I post outfit photos over on my other blog, it’s very easy to tell myself that I really do NEED that dress – and so the cycle continues. I may not be able to remove the shopping temptation completely, however, but I can cut down on it. I used to check my favourite retail sites multiple times per day to see what was new, and what was getting low in stock (When that dress you’re after starts to show up as “low stock”, you get to feeling that you MUST buy it, or lose it forever – and we can’t have that happening now, can we?), but now I limit myself to once per day, and I do it first thing in the morning, as part of my work routine. As for “real” shops, I stay away from them altogether – I really DON’T need to go to the mall, and I know that if I do, I’ll see something I want, so staying away is a much safer option.
02. BUILD A CAPSULE WARDROBE
As strange as it sounds, in order to save money, I had to first of all spend some money – on creating a small capsule wardrobe. One of the things I realised, you see, was that, for me, shopping was always a means to end – a way to solve the “problem” of never having anything to wear… even although my closet was always bulging at the seams. By putting together a carefully chosen capsule of basics, I put a stop to that, because now I knew I DID have something to wear, and I wasn’t going to allow myself to think otherwise. Once I’d tracked down the ideal items for my capsule, I bought some of them in multiple colours, just to avoid that feeling of “But if something happens to this, THEN I’ll have nothing to wear!” that I knew I was prone to.
As I say, I know this sounds a bit back-to-front, and it probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but if you’re shopping because you feel like you have nothing to wear, it might be worth trying to solve that problem in a logical kind of way (i.e. by thinking really carefully about what you actually NEED), rather than just throwing money at it in a random shopping spree. I found that although I initially had to spend a bit of money on those “basics”, I DID start saving after that, because there was nothing else I needed, and it was much harder to convince myself otherwise!
03. BUILD TREATS INTO YOUR BUDGET
I know a lot of people’s answer to shopping addition is to impose a strict shopping ban on themselves, and to even create penalties for breaking it. For me, though, I knew it wasn’t realistic to expect to just stop shopping overnight, and the thought of going cold turkey really didn’t appeal. Instead, I built some “shopping” money into my monthly budget, so I knew I could still buy SOME things if I wanted to. The trick, however, is to make sure you don’t go over that budget, so, with that in mind…
04. ORGANISE A CLOTHING SWAP
Think you’re the only one with lots of clothes you no longer have a use for? You’re not. And one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure, so before you dismiss those old clothes entirely, call some of your friends and organise a swap. Not only will your unwanted clothes go to a loving home, you’ll be essentially shopping without spending: what’s not to love?
05. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE
Whatever the reason for your shopping ban, it can really help to make it tangible, so it can serve as inspiration. Pin a photo of that new house or fabulous holiday destination somewhere you’ll see it every day, and be motivated by it. If your shopping ban is motivated by the need to pay off debt, or put money into a savings plan, imagine how you’ll reward yourself when you reach your goal (Make sure it isn’t something so huge it’ll land you right back where you started…) and use that as your motivation instead. Every time you feel tempted to make a purchase, go back to your photo and remind yourself of your goal.
06. CLEAR OUT YOUR CLOSET
If you’re anything like me , you probably have more clothes than you really need, and just THINK you have nothing to wear. Just to be sure, pull everything out – and yes, I do mean EVERYTHING – sort through it, and decide what to keep and what donate/bin/whatever. Not only will you discover items you’d forgotten you had (which feels a bit like shopping for free…), paradoxically, less can start to feel like more once you’ve had the chance to organise things properly, and in such a way that you can actually see what you have. Every time I clear out my closet, I always end up re-discovering something I’d forgotten I had, and it also forces me to realise just how many great clothes I DO have. Not only do I not shop for a while afterwards, I don’t even WANT to shop…
07. MAKE YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
Not everyone wants to share their personal business with everyone they know, and personal finances are exactly that: personal. By declaring your intention to stop shopping for a certain amount of time, though, you’ll make yourself accountable, and be less likely to cheat. You don’t have to take out a billboard in Times Square for this purpose, either: even telling a friend about your shopping ban, or simply writing it down somewhere could be enough to make you feel like you’re answerable to someone (even if that “someone” is yourself…)
08. GET A NEW HOBBY
Still feeling the lure of the mall? Mouse finger itching to feel the click of the “add to basket” button? It’s time to employ some distraction techniques by acquiring a new hobby: ideally a free one, which doesn’t take you anywhere near the mall. Whether it’s taking up running, joining a team or club, either make the time to re-discover an old hobby or start a new one. Then keep on doing it for as long as it takes for the shopping itch to subside…