Monday, December 03, 2007

10 Easy Steps to STOP Shopping Addiction and Compulsive Spending (Shopaholism)


Do you own every gadget known to man (or woman)? Does your closet contain lots of shoes or clothes that you almost never wear? Are you feeling lost without credit cards? Do you come home with things you didn't specifically go to buy? Do you use shopping as a quick fix for the blues? Do you spend more than you can afford? Are neighborhood malls and Internet shopping sites possess a mesmerizing magnetic appeal for you?

If you answered yes to several questions above, you are probably shopping as a recreational activity. You have a condition called Oniomania. It is also known as shopping addiction or shopaholism, is the compulsive desire to shop. People who shop or spend compulsively get a feeling of being "high" from the experience. This translates into endorphins and dopamine, natural receptor sites in the brain, getting turned on, creating a "good feeling" and reinforcing the desire to shop or spend.

Credit cards facilitate the spending of money as well as mail orders via catalogues or the Internet. In America, shopping is embedded in our culture; so often, the impulsiveness comes out as shopping addiction or compulsive spending. Shopping addiction and compulsive spending can put a strain on both your finances and your relationships. In other words, shopping addicts buy more than they need and spend more money than they can afford, in an effort to make themselves feel better. It can wreak havoc on a person's life, family, and finances.

Here are the 10 simple steps to stop the cycle of shopping addiction and compulsive spending:

1. Identify a “need” from a “want.” Learn to recognize wants from needs, and practice controlling your impulses to spend your money on things you don't really need, and you'll be able to change your spending habits and end up far ahead financially. Before buying anything, ask yourself if it is a need or a want. If it is a want, let go of the item.

A need is something you have to buy, such as groceries. It may also be a new pair of shoes to wear to the office if your present pair is no longer in good condition. A want, on the other hand, is something you just desire but can do without. Examples are a new CD or DVD, a nice-looking hand bag when you have a dozen other hand bags at home, and a cellphone that’s loaded with so many features.

2. If you know you have a problem, try to avoid discount warehouses, malls and shopping districts. Avoid going to the mall if you don’t have to buy something you absolutely need. Even if you have to get a ride from the mall on the way home from work, don’t go inside the mall. Go around the perimeter of the mall instead to get to the bus stop. If you need to go to the bank, go to one that’s not located in the mall. Do the same for other establishments you patronize for other services (e.g., clothes alteration, key duplication, etc.). If you have to meet friends, pick venues that are far from the nearest mall. Avoid temptation.

3. Do not be sucked in by “good deals.” Avoid the sales unless absolutely necessary. Even if your favorite shop is on sale, don’t go there “just to look.” Make your shopping purposeful: think beforehand what you need to buy, make the purchase, then leave.

4. Set a spending budget and stick to it. List down your monthly income, set aside at least 10 percent for savings, then list down all your regular expenses (transportation, food, etc.). Make sure you set aside money for your regular expenses first before even thinking of going to the mall. Be disciplined.

5. When buying gifts; ask, find out whether your friend or loveones have a registry or wish list, or simply inquire what they'd like. This will help you to not only get the gift they really want; it will also help you to zero in on what you need to buy. Your gift won't be original, or a big surprise, but it will not be the one that gathers dust afterward, either.

6. Start writing things down. Tally your actual expenses every month. This will help you determine where your money goes. You can see too how much you can save on some items and where you’ve spent more than you should. It’s also wise to write down your financial goals so you stay focused on what’s important.

7. Carry a shopping list. Try to plan your shopping. If you’re going to shop for groceries, make a list before going to the supermarket. Then stick to your list. Don’t buy anything else. Remember: If it’s not on your list, then you don’t need it. Try leaving your credit cards at home. Pay with cash, check, or a debit card.

8. Find healthy alternatives. Make yourself busy with other activities. Take a walk or exercise when the urge to shop comes on. After work, go home straight then just relax by reading a book or educational TV shows. In this way, you won’t have to unwind in the mall after a long day’s work.

9. Seek support. Ask a friend or family member to keep you accountable. You need someone’s help to make sure you’re taking steps to curb your impulse buying. If you must go shopping at a place that’s especially tempting for you, bring along a trusted friend who knows how much you’re struggling, and ask your friend to help you stick to your shopping list when shopping.

10. Give yourself a simple reward but don’t over indulge. If you have followed these tips after a month or two, reward yourself with something to make you feel good. It doesn’t have to be expensive (remember: you have a budget to follow!). It can be as simple as a trip to the spa or a movie date with a good friend. It doesn’t even have to be a purchase at the nearest mall.

Remember that shopping addiction or compulsive spending can be stopped or minimize. The despair can be ended through successful treatment and people can be restored to normal life. As with other addictions, success follows an honest admission of the problem and the seeking of help from others.

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