Hello, my name is Heather, and I'm a shopaholic.
I’ve been actively trying to pay off my debt for 8 years now, and during that time my debt has gone up and down like a roller coaster because of my shopping addiction. I’ve paid off more than $15k in debt… so far, and I’ve got about 9k left. It’s an ongoing struggle, but the following tips have helped me manage my debt and pay it down despite falling off the wagon frequently.
1. Figure out what your triggers are. What makes you go on a shopping binge or make an impulse purchase?
We shopaholics all have triggers, something that makes us decide to swipe that credit card over and over again. If we didn’t, we would always be rational and say “That looks nice, but I don’t need it, so I’ll just keep walking.” Here are 3 of the most common triggers:
- Exposure to temptation
Simply being aware of what our triggers are can keep us from making a purchase. All you need to do is pause and ask yourself, “Why am I buying this?” If the answer falls under one of the above 3 categories, then take a deep breath, gather up your willpower, and walk away.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s easy to tell someone to just walk away, but doing it in the moment is not so easy (boy do I know that!). Keep reading for tips on how to do that…
2. Stop! Put that credit card away!
Ok, imagine you’re in a store. You’re arms are filled with super awesome items that were NOT on your list. What do you do? Buy them, go home, and wallow in the guilt that comes after you realize you don’t need any of this stuff and that you are a weak, weak person for giving in to temptation? NO!
Set up a system that will help you motivate yourself in that moment to take a step back and walk away:
- Tell yourself that you will walk away now, but that you have permission to come back and buy it tomorrow or the day after if you can’t stop thinking about it. When I do this, most of the time I forget by the next day (sadly, I don’t do this often enough though).
- Remember to ask yourself why you are buying this. I put an actual post-it note on my credit card. The note can say, “Why am I buying this?” It can have a motivational phrase written on it, or if you are trying to pay off debt you could write your debt amount on it… whatever you think will motivate you the most to not make the purchase.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Return Things
So, the tips above didn’t work and now you find yourself at home with something you realize you don’t need, but you’re too embarrassed to go back and return it. What do you do?
Get over it! Returning things is no big deal. Go to the store and say you want to return it. They’ll ask you why, and you’ll say that you changed your mind. That’s it! Do you need to explain that you can’t afford it, or that in a moment of weakness the evil shopaholic living inside you took over your body and bought this item against your will? No Way! People change their minds all the time. It’s easy to feel like others are judging us because we are judging ourselves, but we need to take a step back and see the situation the way it really is. The people working in the store don’t care if you change your mind. They only ask why you’re returning an item in case there’s something wrong with it.
4. Avoid Temptation
The best way to avoid making impulse purchases is to keep yourself away from temptation. Don’t go in the store. Don’t go to that website. This advice only goes so far though, because eventually we will need to go into some stores or onto some websites to buy the things that we actually do need. What I do is try to limit the number of purchases I make. When I start to get low on things I need, I put it on a running shopping list I keep on my phone. I don’t run to the store just because my shampoo is getting low. I put it on the list so I’ll remember to buy it the next time I’m at the store. Then, I try to wait as long as I can before I actually go to the store. When there’s something on my list that I desperately need and can’t wait another day for, then I go.
For clothing items, it can be helpful to do a clothing inventory at the beginning of each season to make sure you have enough of the items you need for that season. You can write a list of what you need to replace, like maybe a pair of jeans, 3 tops, and 2 dresses, or whatever. Then try to go on 1 shopping trip per season to get whatever clothing or accessory items you need.
Every time you enter a store or shop on a website, you have the opportunity to impulse buy and overspend. Even if you can’t resist making an impulse buy or two, if you limit the number of times you do that, you will still be saving more money than you would have otherwise if you were not limiting your shopping trips.
5. Track Your Spending
If you’ve never tracked how much you actually spend, start doing it now. It’s extremely revealing and usually very surprising. Most of us spend way more than we realize. For the next 2 or 3 months, write down the amount of everything you purchase and what it is, or what store you made the purchase at. I recommend doing this on a calendar because it helps you see trends of when you are making more purchases. For example, do you spend more on the weekend, or during the week?
6. Create a Budget
Once you’ve been tracking your spending for a couple months, you can create a budget. You can look at where your money is currently going and in what areas you can reduce spending. If you’ve never created a budget before, it can seem scary and intimidating, but it’s actually really easy. It just takes a little thought.
So fellow shopaholics, do you think these tips will help you? Do you have any tips to add? Please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!