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Recovery and Rebuilding After a Shopping Addiction

Shopping addiction, also called—oniomania—affects 5% of the world population. Some people may experience it at one point in their lives or may struggle with it for decades.

Constant exposure to social media, 24/7 accessibility to online shopping, and short-term financing options available at checkout (Afterpay, Affirm, etc.) make it increasingly more enticing and easy for people to make compulsive purchases that start to add up.

Shopping is essential to the survival of our capitalist and consumer-driven societies; we may view our shopping habits as normal and even as an acceptable way of going through life.

But not realize that a lot of our shopping habits are compulsive. And if left unchecked can be detrimental to our emotional health and our financial stability. 

Spending Loop

As a 22-year-old, going to school full-time and working as a part-time waitress, I managed to rack up $10,000 worth of credit card debt in a matter of months.

My depression and anxiety led to me making purchases online (clothes, shoes, makeup) to feel better about myself, but the guilt and stress from spending money I didn’t have only fueled my depression and anxiety.

Which only fueled my need to shop more—it became an endless loop.

colorful shopping bags displayed at the feet of a shopper

It all came to a jarring halt when I maxed out all my credit cards and no creditor would provide more credit to me.

The moment when I added up the debt and realized I had no idea how to pay it back—let alone keep spending—was the moment I saw my reckless online shopping for what it was: an addiction that was seriously damaging all aspects of my life.

Road to Recovery

Dealing with debt and a shopping addiction is challenging, yet it is possible to overcome.

Accept You Have a Problem 

How do you figure out if you have a problem or addiction to shopping? If you’re asking yourself this question, it probably means there probably is a problem.

If you find yourself buying things you don’t necessarily need, spending above your means, and shopping for a sense of pleasure then yes, it probably is an issue you should address.

The difference between a problem and a full-blown shopping addiction is when it begins to seriously affect your mental health, your finances, and your relationships. This is when more drastic measures need to be taken to overcome this compulsion.

Address The Root Cause

The best way to solve a problem is by pinpointing what is causing the problem—at its core.

You must answer the question: why do I shop compulsively?

The best way to answer this question is through deep self-reflection most effectively guided through some form of therapy.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Hartney, shopping addictions can stem from these major internal root issues among affected individuals.  

1. Self-Fantasy -When you create a fantasy-self in your mind. This idealized self is created through buying certain clothes, makeup, workout items, etc. This is a form of escaping reality.

2. Seeking Approval – People addicted to shopping have a higher tendency to be easily influenced by others and yearn for their approval.

This approval comes from the actual act of shopping (interacting with salespeople) and from displaying purchases (wearing new clothes, sporting new gadgets) for others.

3. Impulse Control – The need to purchase stuff can be overwhelming and overpowering for shopaholics, while it may seem ironic, shopping gives these individuals a sense of control over their environment. 

Take Action

After understating the problem, it becomes easier to put a stop to it.

There are so many tactics and approaches you can take; but here are 5 tangible tips and tricks that helped me curb my impulses and stop shopping recklessly. 

1. Put Social Media on Pause

I found that a lot of my need for approval stemmed from being exposed to social media constantly and feeling the need to purchase each new popping trend.

Taking a social media break will reduce temptations by you not seeing new ads and trends all day. 

2. Cut Off Card Access

Make it difficult for yourself to make a purchase. For example, I cut up all of my cards and gave the information of one of the cards to my mom in case I needed to use it for an absolute emergency

I also erased my payment information on all my devices, and I cut off access to online banking. I  paid in cash for everything for a while so that I couldn’t spend what I didn’t have on shopping. 

3. Block Access to Shopping Sites

There are so many add-ons you can add to your browser to restrict access to the websites (Like Blocksite) you want to avoid.

I blocked all my favorite and most addictive shopping sites to curb the temptation. 

4. Find a Community of Support

Sometimes we can’t do it alone; a therapist can be your support or a friend who understands what you’re going through and can help keep you accountable.

Look for online forums (like the subreddit for online shopping addiction) and sites that act as a community of people overcoming shopping addictions to help you on your journey.

Re-Gain Financial Stability

It doesn’t matter the debt you accrued or how big the financial damage was, there’s always a way to pick up the pieces and gain financial stability. 

  1. Contact your credit card companies to set up a payment plan to pay off your debt. Sometimes companies are willing to work with you so you end up paying less. The trick is to call and be honest about your situation.
  1. Create a plan to consolidate your debt and pay it off. Apps like Debt Payoff Planner are great ways to get started if you have no idea what you’re doing. And sites like Money Management International, offer debt relief counseling as well as other debt repayment programs that can help anybody get back on track financially.
  1. Start saving money again. A new form of satisfaction can now come from taking care of your money and saving it. Mint is a great platform to help you create and follow your budget and help you start saving. Start looking into savings vehicles to get serious about saving your money.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Tirelessly looking for the next thing to buy, spending your hard-earned money on material things, and constantly feeling guilt and buyer’s remorse is no way to live a healthy and happy life.

I still have to check myself when I’m feeling depressed so I deal with it in healthy ways and not revert to bad shopping habits.

Seeing my problem for what it was and getting out of debt was difficult. Still, it was possible to start over.

I’m proud to say I’m now debt-free, buying only what serves me, and hitting my savings goals each month.

Next: It’s Time to Start Saving For Your Future: 9 Tips to Help You

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