6 Signs You’re a Shopaholic
Who doesn’t love a good sale? But when bargain-hunting, coupon clipping, or mastering the deal becomes the objective, you and your budget are likely headed for big trouble. Have you heard yourself say, “But it was such a deal!” Hmm.
If you’re spending money on credit, it’s not a deal. If you’re buying something you don’t need, it’s not a deal. If it takes you three weeks, three months, or never to put what you bought to use, it’s not a deal.
Many of us can’t resist a bargain. Shopping is such a part of our lives that our language now includes a word for people who shop compulsively: shopaholic. It seems that the Buying Bug has become a social disease. So how do you know if you’ve been bitten? Here are five clues:
1. Spending makes you feel rich. You like showing off that you’ve got money to spend. As counterintuitive as it may seem, some people become chronic spenders out of a fear of poverty. It’s a can be a self-esteem thing too. If you have a trophy kitchen but you’re not cooking, take it as a sign.
2. You have ALL the toys. You may not be in the red, but your closet is jammed to the rafters with stuff. Chronic spending is often unconscious spending, so you may not even know you’re doing it. Take a look around. Do you seem to have a version of every popular trend?
3. A $5,000 credit limit means you have $5,000 to spend. Not to put too fine a point on it, but your credit limit is not actually money in your pocket. If your credit card balance runs close to your credit limit every month, consider yourself a chronic spender.
4. Shopping makes you happy. I hate to burst your bubble, but shopping isn’t going to make up for a crappy childhood. Nor will it cure an unhappy career, a disintegrating relationship or anything else that ails you emotionally. If you’re buying to feel better or out of a sense of entitlement, you’re spending for the wrong reasons.
5. Your favorite phrase is “Oh, why not?” All of us fall prey to impulse shopping from time to time. The problem for people who can’t curb their desire for immediate gratification is that they’re not prioritizing. They’ve lost (or never had) the ability to figure out if they can do without, so, but for a whopping salary, they’re a centimeter away from destitution.
6. Your theme song is “Don’t worry, be happy.” You don’t like to think about money. So you don’t. You never bother to check your receipts. You don’t keep a running balance of what you’ve spent. You just go blissfully along, running up a new credit card balance. Even if you pay it off faithfully, you’re luckier than you are smart.
If you think you might be out of control, try the following:
Figure out your buying patterns. Take an inventory of what you own. If you have 30 pairs of jeans, only five of which you wear regularly, avoid the jeans rack.
Quell the urge. Postpone buying what you think you want for 24 hours.
Cut back. If you always buy two or three, buy only one.
Simplify. Buy only the basic necessities such as food and transportation and keep track of every penny you spend.
Quit cold turkey. Freeze your credit cards in a bucket of water and pay for everything with cold, hard cash. No cheating with a debit card!
My friend Natasha keeps a list of the things she needs and wants. If she finds a bargain, she looks at her list to see where it is (she’s keeps her list in priority sequence) and if it’s at or near the top, and she has the cash on hand, she buys. If not, she walks away. Natasha is accomplishing a whole bunch of things with that list: she’s keeping herself on track looking only at things she knows she needs or wants. She’s prioritizing. And she’s only spending money she has available.
In a culture that worships shopping, it’s only natural that the “bargain” be the Holy Grail. But if you find yourself compulsively shopping, it’s time to change religions.