How To Deal With A Shopping Addiction?

Confessions Of A Shopaholic………………………….My name is Erika and this is my story.

Maybe I Should Be Called a Shopaholic Online?

You know, I’m not really sure when I came to terms with being a “shopaholic,” but after looking back at the last few years of my life, it’s easy to diagnose myself now that I have taken a step back and fully understand how the addiction was affecting me.

I have to admit…I think the world of online shopping was a catalyst in sparking this addiction. For some reason, when I buy anything online, it doesn’t really feel like spending money. When I’m at the store, I can touch different fabrics and really feel the quality of what I am spending my money on. Since I can see and touch things physically, it makes me not want to spend my hard-earned money even more since I have to pass over my card or cash. The actual ACT of shopping is still not something I partake in as often as I shop online.

Why is Online Shopping So Enticing?

For one, everything online just looks so perfect. The lighting is just right, the item is shown in that perfect angle, and look…your size is available now with free shipping! You don’t have to deal with driving to the mall to find parking, dealing with salespeople, and waiting in line to try on clothes and then waiting in line to pay for said clothes. Who could resist that?

Psychologically, I was treating shopping like a hobby. It was my thing to do when I was bored and I was bored a lot in college, especially during those late nights when I was supposed to be studying. Instead, I was buying tons of shoes with designer fashion names on my minimum wage salary. How is that even possible you ask?

A Credit Card is Like Free Money. Wrong!

I had just opened my first credit card during college, and the concept of credit basically meant that I could spend as much as I wanted, as long as I didn’t max out my credit card. It was like free money since I was able to spend money before I even got paid. You all hear horror stories about how shopaholics max out their credit cards, but for me… I was actually paying MORE than the minimum payment – what could I be doing wrong?

I had no idea just how much I was paying in interest. Those $100 shoes were way more expensive than I thought. After I graduated and started my first full-time job, you would think that I would have had the sense to pay off my credit card. Every time I saw the balance get lower, it was like an invitation for me to start spending more. My thoughts were, “If I am making payments towards my credit card, I can keep shopping since the balance is not getting any higher!”

Boy was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

After an oblivious five months of shopping, I amassed way too many shipping boxes, and the UPS, USPS and FedEx guys knew me by name. It got to the point where family and friends were noticing that I had something new every time they saw me. Instant gratification took over my life. I was ignorant to it all and finally I realized I had nothing in savings and I paid way too much in interest. This was when I knew I had to get my shopaholic ways under control.

How I Dealt with the Shopping Addiction

I started reading personal finance blogs and was wondering how on earth people my age and younger had accumulated so much in savings and investments. I started to feel motivated and became obsessed with trying to build up my savings as quickly as possible. I made spreadsheets and calculated just how much I had paid in interest. In total, I spent over $20,000 on CRAP. Designer Clothes, shoes, purses, make-up, and accessories that I didn’t even care about were all symbols of this embarrassing addiction.

I decided that enough was enough and I finally told myself that I needed to start working towards my future and my goals. I started to track my expenses on paper and I played around with a budget to see where I could cut my spending. Each paycheck, I didn’t pay myself first and I didn’t fund an emergency savings fund. I decided I would pay back all of my consumer debt first and then I would focus on saving.

Each time I got paid, I put almost 80% towards debt. I kept telling myself that I just had to keep paying the bank back, because this is really their money. It’s not mine yet until all the debt is paid off. To speed up the process, I sold almost all of my designer bags and even sold clothes and shoes on Ebay. After I paid off the remainder of my credit card debt, I knew that in order to keep up the momentum, I needed to strive towards larger savings goals.

After only a few months, I was able to fund my down-payment fund for my own place as well as a travel fund and a gift fund.

Keeping a Shopping Addiction under Control

Even though my finances look like they are in order, I still struggle with my shopaholic tendencies. I’ll go through phases and sometimes I get the urge to buy a lot of stuff. During these times, I’ll crack and drop $100 or $200 on a bunch of crap I don’t need. Usually in a few days that same guilt creeps up on me and I’ll go running to the store just to get rid of all the stuff I bought and get that money back into my account as quickly as possible. If you are in the same situation, don’t feel like giving up… just keep working at it! I’m sure we can all do this together if we are all open about it. I wish there were more people like me so we could connect and share stories as well as different ways to cope with shopping addictions!

Since getting my finances in order, I was also motivated to get back into a really intense gym routine in addition to studying for a huge test that I was completely intimidated with for a year. I put the same motivation towards this test and ended up applying to and getting accepted to law school. And I truly believe that getting out of debt and handling my finances contributed to how much I have accomplished.

Once you take control of your finances, you suddenly feel capable of anything life throws at you. I am no longer a Shopaholic like I used to be, I’m a saver.

Today’s Guest Post By:

Hello CBB readers! My name is Erika and I run the blog From Shopping to Saving, where I talk about coping with my shopping addiction, as well as a myriad of other personal finance topics, work, education, and life.

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Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB was born and raised in the United Kingdom who then moved to Canada where he is a permanent resident. He recently became a father to a very busy toddler who allows him to be a kid at heart. He bought his first house at the age of 21 after University and his second at the age of 24. Both Mr.CBB and his wife are Debt and Mortgage Free and they did it all in under 5 years using a Budget. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where he shares their financial experiences with his readers and hopes to learn about theirs. Welcome to CBB!
Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB

Comments

  1. Vivien Fellegi says:

    Hi Erika:
    I’m writing an article on shopping addiction for the Toronto Star.
    Could I talk to you about your experience in the next couple of days?
    Thanks,
    Vivien

  2. Christine Weadick says:

    My hubby’s weakness online is the bargain bin on the Chapters site…..For $2.00 or what-ever it was at the time… it’s such a great deal!!!!!! Then he would be trying to get the total up to the point where we don’t have to pay shipping which used to be $39.00. I think the last time I ordered online there it was down to $25.00. Still…. Usually what would happen is he would ask me if there was any books I wanted, to get the total up.I hit my wish list then. When the books came in he would hand them to me to put upstairs “for Christmas, his birthday” or what ever holiday was on the way. So far I think I’ve got about a 3 year supply up there. Last time he handed me the new order of books to put upstairs “for Christmas” I asked him …What year??? He called me a Smart-Ass….. I n store his weakness would be tools… Canadian Tire is across the street from us………way too close. Don’t ask what the basement looks like……. Yes we have had repeats because Guess Who couldn’t find something down there. As for me I tend to get chocolate…. and I can get 3 days out of a larger bar, but you can’t usually get chocolate online……

    • WOW 3 years seriously? Ah well at least it’s not much work on your part for gifts I guess. I tend to think buying books is a waste of money unless it is dirt cheap or something you can’t get at the library for free. Most people read a book once or twice then it collects dust. Cheers Mr.CBB

  3. Thanks for reading everyone =) I hope it helped you realize that you are NOT alone!

    • There’s always someone on this earth either in the same boat as us, better off then us or worse off then us… we can all learn from someone. Thanks again for taking the time out of your schedule for my fans! Cheers MR.CBB

  4. Carol McLean says:

    Very informative and entertaining! 🙂

  5. Followed CBB on twitter (@SummersSusan), pinterest(Pinterestedo), and facebook

  6. I used to have a shopping problem as well, it was pretty bad. And I would always try to hide it from my boyfriend. I’d pretend that I didnt buy anything new, and I always had it, just ‘found’ it.
    I changed my tune quick when I realized how much money I was wasting. Geesh, wish I would of realized sooner, on the fast track to success though now

    • Hi Jaineem,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s amazing how we can look back and think about what we could have or should have done. I try not to but I’m victim to it as well. Keep strong and move forward. It was a blog just like this one that helped me learn more about what I am passionate about today and that’s becoming debt free and saving for the present and future. Don’t give up and don’t stop learning… and you will never have to hide anything again. What changed your mind, or made you stop?

  7. Christina Coghill says:

    Great post, glad I’m not the only one!

  8. catherine Porter says:

    awesome, story! It is so easy to just say ah, its okay, its not that much, then 100 times later it is! I’m a savvy shopper now, with my coupons in hand. It takes alot of displine but so rewarding in the end!

    • Yes until the credit card bill comes in and we go .. wow! We had our CC bill come in last night for over $700 and although we knew it was coming it was amazing to see that there really wasn’t that many shops. If I’ve said once I’ll say it again, budget and document everything.. and you will not overspend! Cheers and thanks for your comment Catherine. MR.CBB

  9. mycanuckbuck says:

    Erika – you have my sympathy! I am not bad at online shopping, but Mr. Canuck Buck loves to buy CDs and it’s definitely become a major weakness for him. He had a goal to buy no CDs this year..that didn’t last very long.

  10. Great post Erika! I used to be horrendous for amazon book shopping. And I would hate to return things through the mail so it never helped that I would go “hey this person liked this author and they like the same other author…so I’ll buy it” and then would hate the book so much.

  11. Luckily I’ve never been too crazy about online shopping. I hate not being able to hold things or try it on!

  12. Joanna Cheevers says:

    It is so true how easy it is now to spend money. With internet shopping it is as simple as a click away. Within seconds you can find any item imaginable all while sitting on the couch in your pj’s. I can see how it could be so easy to get out of hand. Just like with anything, it is having the self control to limit yourself and say no, ask yourself if it is something you need or something you want. This post is a great example of how easily it can get out of control, but it also gives hope to those who are in trouble that it is possible to change your ways. Thanks Erika for sharing your story.

    • You’re so right Joanna. It took me a long time to admit to it because I was so distracted by what I wanted next. No one can keep buying and buying just to keep themselves happy. At a certain point, you’ll be surrounded by so many “things” you bought that you’ll just be filled with regret after looking at the amount you spent. Really hard to deal with.

  13. Great story! I really identified with how you will give in and spend money on a bunch of stuff, then feel guilty and return it. I do that all the time!!!!!!!!!!! I am working hard to curb my spending on clothes 🙂

  14. Wendy Ann says:

    What an enspiring story. I have never had the money to spend large amounts on items but have learned that you can be a shopaholic even when you are poorer. It doesn’t matter the amount you spend but that you are spending money on things you really don’t need. Also the money you are spending is keeping you from saving. I must admit that sometimes I have difficulty when going into a dollar store (I know this is not the same as you talk about in your story) and wanting to keep spending because things were cheap and there are a lot of “cool” things in a dollar store. Unfortunately, spending money whether a dollar or a hundred dollars on things you don’t really need can become a problem. I have learned that spending money, even a little, can give you a good feeling especially when things around you are mostly negative. I am working on a the new budget, saving money for the first time and I avoid the dollar store as much as possible. When I do go it is with a list and a resolve to only buy what is on the list.
    Thanks for sharing this great story.

    • Good for you Wendy! It’s true and what I’ve said all along about spending less than you earn and understanding needs vs wants. I’m happy you are putting a budget together and want to start saving… good for you. Thanks for your comment Wendy! Mr.CBB

      • I’m so glad you can relate Wendy! I find that it is really hard to talk about this to others, and you certainly don’t know who else struggles with “addictions” like these. I’m glad you are taking the right steps to putting a budget together!

  15. michele miller says:

    great blog i have definitely been in that situation before and i agree it is something i always have to work on. so easy to get sucked in to just buy without thinking of the $

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