Although it might sound like a made-up addiction, for several years shopping truly was my outlet. I wasn’t alone; 5.8% of Americans suffer from a bad spending addiction.
Although I didn’t have it quite as bad as others, I did find it difficult to control my bad spending habits.
I turned to shopping if I was having a bad day. I also used shopping as a reward or a way of celebrating a major achievement. Pretty much anything that happened could count as an excuse to go shopping. I needed a new outfit for every event (big or small) and I spent my free time browsing new arrivals online.
For three years, I worked in a setting which was far from ideal for a person who was not so responsible with her money when it came to shopping habits. As a manager of a women’s boutique, I was surrounded by beautiful clothing every day.
Although I was never required to spend my money on the merchandise, it was also never discouraged. Your career is supposed to be a source of income not a negative influence that enables your bad spending habits. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my job and the women that I worked with! It was a wonderful experience and I would never take it back. I would gladly take back the thousands of dollars that I racked up on my credit card in the years after I graduated college. (oops!)
Want free money?
I recently came across the results of a survey that revealed more than 50% of Americans spend less than $50 on a new pair of shoes. “WHAT?!” I thought to myself. That seems impossible. I have dozens of shoes in my closet right now and most of them cost me $100 or more (even with my employee discount). That’s when I remembered, I am not your average shopper.
This year, I left the retail world for a desk job where I’m not constantly surrounded by clothes and pretty things I want to buy. I’ve created my own version of shopping-rehab and I’m working on controlling my desire to buy, buy, buy. I am proud to say that I am slowly knocking down the outstanding amount on my credit card bill and I have learned a few tips and tricks to stop myself from impulse buying and shopping addiction.
Slow Your Roll
The most important step was to slow my roll. I have to admit, this was one good habit I was learning in the retail world. As a general rule, most retail employees are not allowed to buy an item as soon as it arrives in the store. The customer gets the first chance to purchase and then, a few weeks later, the employee can have their go at the merchandise. This actually helped me to stop impulse buying and spend time deciding if I actually want that gorgeous off the shoulder dress or if I just have the urge to buy.
Since then, I’ve learned to take it a step further: is this something I actually need? If it is, I take my time doing research to see if I can find the item at a discount. (For online shopping, I’ve learned that the Rakuten app can help me find deals and discounts.)
I’ve also learned to automatically put money from my paycheck into a savings account and towards paying off my credit card. Every time my direct deposit comes through, I automatically push money into those two accounts. This way, it doesn’t look like I have as much cash available for spending in the moment.
My third trick (and probably the most obvious) was to leave that credit card at home. I no longer add money on my card, instead, I am working towards paying it off. I’m surprised at how much weight is lifted off my shoulders each time I make a payment. It actually feels better than shopping does (I can’t believe I am saying that!).
Finally, I removed myself from the situation which was unhealthy for my bank account. Whether it’s the company you keep, the job you hold, or the lifestyle you are living, there are often changes you can make to reduce your spending. I knew that I didn’t have the self-control to stop myself from shopping while I was working, so I learned to stay away from the stores and spend my time exercising, hanging out with my loved ones, or working at my new job (which I’m loving).
Although I’m still not perfect in my spending habits, I’ve learned that in the long run I most likely won’t end up wearing half of the clothes that I buy spur of the moment anyway. The feeling I get when I check my bank account and see the number dwindling on my credit card bill feels ten thousand times better than the overwhelming stress I would feel when I saw the credit card balance continually rising.
Author: Jessie Butner
All of us have a story to tell about personal finance, and I created the Meet Millennials series so that anyone can share their story with money. Talking about money has been considered taboo in the past but we are here to change that.