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Spending Spree or Shopping Addiction: Lack of Control Can Devastate Finances

Has your shopping gotten out of control? Have you spent more than you earn month after month, even in the face of a challenging recession? Are you spending money you know you really don’t have? Have you been shopping or spending money as a result of feeling angry, depressed, anxious or even lonely? Are you always buying items or food on credit rather than with cash? Do you send a lot of time juggling accounts or bills to accommodate poor spending decisions? Have you been hiding your purchases and sneaking them in when no one is looking? If you can relate to any of these behaviors and are willing to admit, even if only to yourself, that you really like shopping and spending money instead of saving, investing and managing money, then you might be classified as a “shopaholic.”

According to Donald Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, “Like addictions, it basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulses.” These individuals like shopping so much that they are willing to sacrifice relationships, living standards and credit just to buy what they want when they want it, much like other addicts.

Taking control of this addiction requires the individual to take personal responsibility and then make a firm commitment to budget and plan accordingly. To break the shopping addiction — whether it is buying clothing, houses, groceries or toys for your children — I recommend lessening the impact by:

  • Admitting that you are a compulsive spender, which is half the battle;
  • Let someone else keep your checkbook and hold credit cards to keep you accountable;
  • Shop with someone who knows your weakness and will question the validity of purchases;
  • Substitute the time spent shopping with more meaningful activities that do not cost money;
  • Plan all purchases on a quarterly basis to make sure you are staying within budget;
  • Find the closest Debtors Anonymous, which is a 12-step program that will be important for ongoing maintenance and support; and
  • Get credit counseling to ensure that you understand credit, budgeting and financial literacy.

Valerie Samuel

All behavior can be adjusted, and compulsive shopping is also treatable if you recognize that something must change and then work hard to implement the steps to treat it. This is America, the land where shopping on credit — even for groceries — is a part of our culture, but recognizing that this is not the best way of shopping is when change starts. Good luck on your journey to a new beginning!

Valerie Samuel is a business and finance Expert and author with more than 20 years experience in business development and banking. She offers a variety of management services to corporations, universities, nonprofits and individuals, including individual and group coaching. Email your questions or participate in this forum by submitting inquiries to [email protected] or calling (212) 292.5127 or visit her website www.valeriesamuel.com for more information.