Overcome Your Shopping Addiction
It used to be that we would spend our time and money trying to amass resources. But prices have gone down and shopping has never been easier or more omnipresent. It’s too easy to shop when we feel bored, anxious, happy, or sad. Previous generations had to do without, but we don’t have to. We have the freedom to buy whatever we want on credit and have it delivered to our doors.
Instead, we have to create our own restraints – the only way to attain happiness is by saying no to the things that are too easy. Here’s how to overcome our shopping addictions.
A New Definition of Shopping Addiction
Typically, shopping addiction is when you start financially suffering from your habits. But I’d like to create a new definition – shopping addiction is when you shop as a hobby.
Wait, shopping as a hobby? Isn’t that normal? I mean, it’s common, but should it be?
Many people troll dating websites when they’re married. Many people eat when they’re not hungry. And most of us buy stuff even as we declutter.
That’s weird. We spend all this time doing stuff we literally don’t need to do and shouldn’t do because it harms our lives and our relationships. We’re all so busy – why do we waste our time?
If we define shopping addiction as when it becomes a financial problem, people can get into a lot of trouble. Things are so cheap now. However much Jeff Bezos shops, he will never qualify as having a shopping addiction, and there’s something wrong with that. It’s like saying, cocaine addiction is only a problem when you overdose. The habit is the problem, not the degree.
It’s the same for shopping when you don’t need to buy anything. We have a clutter crisis. We have so few friends and hobbies. People are constantly stressed. Shopping has become our addiction of choice.
1. Fulfill What You’re Really Missing
When we want something new, we might actually be missing something. We might want
Sometimes you want something new, sometimes you want something else. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty. So it is that sometimes when you think you want something new, you’re really feeding the wrong itch. I read Bare: A 7-Week Program to Transform Your Body, Get More Energy, Feel Amazing, and Become the Bravest, Most Unstoppable Version of You about identifying the right itch.
Usually, we are so crazy busy that we settle for rubbing calamine lotion all over (this metaphor is out of control). But you need to find the cause of the itch to eradicate it.
Personally, I often shop to feel smart or special. So much of personal finance is about rewarding “smart shopping” as if the more you smart shop, the closer to unique genius you are. Of course, stores want you to believe this so you’ll continue shopping. But you don’t get smarter or more special by getting “great deals” on stuff you don’t need.
Perhaps you are drawn to an ad with smiling faces because you need more camaderie. Maybe you want a new outfit because you want more attention. Your desire for a chocolate cake might mean you need more decadence. If you try to scratch this itch with shopping, it’s no wonder that you’ll never feel satisfied. But if you identify your root needs, your wallet is still full, your house is still decluttered, and you feel less itchy. (ok I’ll stop this metaphor now).
2. Try a New Experience
Sometimes you can scratch the itch for creativity by just getting out of your own perspective. You are so used to seeing beautiful images on Instagram. Maybe you need to change your viewpoint.
If you want beauty in your life, you can go on a walking tour of beautiful architecture in your city. If you just want new stuff, borrow from the library. Listen to new music. There’s nothing wrong with wanting novelty in our lives, but we don’t need to get that novelty from a store.
3. Put Things in Your Cart (but Don’t Checkout)
This isn’t a quite perfect result, because you’re still shopping even though you’re not spending money. My favorite thing to do, and doesn’t even only necessarily scratch the itch for new books.
Note that this isn’t about getting something new immediately – because you won’t get anything new immediately. But it’s even better because you get the anticipation of getting something new.
4. Use Your Old Stuff in a New Way
I got my first doll when I was 10. She came dressed in a purple evening gown, which I found highly impractical. Having grown up on The Sound of Music, of course my first idea was to fashion her new play and work clothes out of my old clothes (we didn’t have drapes in our house). Later, my friend would tell me this was incredibly sad and that most parents purchase ready-made outfits for their daughters. But until I learned this, I thought this was how you were supposed to play with dolls.
In any case, I associate making new clothes with play. And you can too! Make something new from your old stuff. If you “need” new clothes because you’ve slimmed down, consider putting in a few safety pins, sew some nips and tucks, or some self-hemming tape to alter your clothes yourself.
Even if you have no tailoring experience, if you’re buying new clothes, you’re basically relegating your old clothes to the donation pile anyway, meaning that you have a bunch of free fabric for experimentation. If it doesn’t work out perfectly, it’s a wash. If it works, then free new clothes!
Conclusion – Overcome Your Shopping Addiction
I read this book Feed, 15 years ago. It was written before online shopping was a complete mainstay of life but I distinctly remember the fictional dystopian future where the internet was implanted into everyone’s brain and no one could escape the incessant barrage of ads and corporate messaging. There was a scene where one character’s depression was manifested just by ordering an endless array of pants.
I fear that this universe has already come to fruition. But it’s not irreversible. We need to say no to more pants. We need to say yes to going outside, breaking away from the feed, and creating rather than consuming.