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How to Take Charge of Your Shopping Addiction

An important element to living a simpler and freer life with less clutter and more quality time, is learning to buy less stuff that you don't actually need. For some, this is a big ask. After reading today's guest post by Kristy Ramirez, I realise just how close I too have come to meeting some of the criteria for a shopping addiction.  In my case, Bunnings Warehouse hardware is my downfall. I would have to admit to purchasing a few "oh-that'll-come-in-handy" items which now lay idle in my tool shed, still in their original packaging and will probably never be used.  I suspect there's at least a little bit of shopping addiction in all of us.  But how much is too much?  Kristy has the answers.

There is a medical name for people with a shopping addiction – it’s called a compulsive disorder or Oniomania. Compulsive shopping and spending is a very common thing, and unfortunately it happens more with women.

Women who ‘shop till they drop’ and when the credit card bills come in – well, the guilt flows. It might make them feel better while they are getting all of those pretty things, but after getting home, most people feel worse than the high they get from shopping.

Compulsive shopping has been used to try to cure depression, anxiety, loneliness and when a self-esteem boost is in order. Does it really help all of these emotional problems? Yes, you might feel better about yourself walking into work with a new outfit, purse or shoes – but does that feeling last?

Not hardly. A study that followed a small group of people trying to cure their addiction, called RESOLVE – was formed to help create ‘mindfulness’ training and to stop the addiction.

In this mindfulness study, people were encouraged to think ‘in the moment’ and to experience whatever is happening right now, and not judge the feelings, good or bad, but rather accept the feelings. It was proven by the people studied, who, by the way were compulsive shoppers, that if practiced consistently it reduced depression, anxiety and increased the feelings of well being. Most of the compulsive shopping ceased and the addicts were able to live more normal and balanced lives.

Ultimately compulsive shopping can be curbed and eliminated if mindfulness is practiced on a regular basis as well as the guilt and emotional turmoil that come with this dilemma.

So, when you think about compulsive shopping – not only does it create a serious debt problem, it doesn’t hide or remove depression, or anxiety – it brings on severe depression, anxiety and strains relationships. Retail therapy is only a band-aid for deeper problems and it not only adds to them, and intensifies the original problems, it adds new ones.

Best to get off the retail cycle and get yourself un-addicted before your world really starts to fall apart. But how you ask? First, you need to determine how much of a shopaholic you are - here are some clues:

1. Do you go shopping when you’re feeling down and blue?
2. Do you shop for a pick-me-up when feeling out of sorts?
3. Do you get a rush when you buy things?
4. Do you have racks of clothing and shoes with tags still attached?
5. Are you buying things you don’t need just for a rush?
6. Do you go on shopping binges, even after the holidays?
7. Hiding purchases from your family.

If you answered yes to at least one or two of the above, you’re probably on your way or are already a shopaholic. Depending on how deep in debt you are, you might want to seek professional counseling or join a self-help group. But if you think there is still hope, and you want to get back on track, here are some preventative measures you can take right now:

1. Stop using the credit cards completely and cut them up
2. When you have to shop, make a list and don’t sway from that list
3. Avoid discount stores and warehouses
4. Pay for everything with cash or debit card
5. Only window shop after the store is closed
6. Take a walk or talk to a friend when you feel the ‘urge’ to shop

If all else fails, call the Debtors Anonymous support group or another local (Australian) group.

The point is that your life is short, and living it to the fullest without overwhelming debt, guilt, and all of the other emotions entangled in a compulsive behavior – is essential to a good quality life.

Kristy Ramirez is a debt free, frugal mom who currently writes for Life Insurance Finder Australia where she helps people answer questions such “What is Total Permanent Disability Insurance?”

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