Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.
- Many times we don’t have control of our revenues: we are stuck with low paying jobs, we get laid off, we could be working irregular hours, etc.
- Many times we cannot control our expenses either. Many expenses are unpredictable such as emergency house or car repairs, medical bills, etc.
As difficult as it may be to control revenue and expenses, for most people who have a regular job, revenue and expenses become fairly predictable. Unfortunately a great deal of North Americans have a hard time making this equation work. They have a chronic habit of spending more than they earn and thus they get into financial difficulty.
We are constantly bombarded, every day of our lives, with advertisements and promotions. Images, text, and audio reinforce a buying behavior and give us the sensation that in order to feel good about ourselves, we have to buy the latest gadget, the latest fashion, a new car, a bigger house. Our emotions are being played like a violin by professional marketers that have learned to manipulate our buying behavior. Buying to our limit has become part of our consumerist society.
All of us (me included) have become victims of the professional marketer. We buy things that we don’t need, or want, in order to feel better. Going a bit further, many people shop in order to numb deeper emotional issues.
Many people shop because they want to give a gift to themselves for the many hours spent working. Many shop because they are bored, and many shop because they are depressed and use shopping as one more stimulant to fight depression. Shopping can easily become as addictive as using drugs, gambling, or overeating. The few people who are fortunate enough to have the economic means can easily live their life without confronting their problem, but most people don’t have the economic means and one day they get a rude awakening when all their credit cards have reached their limits.
The major reasons for addictive shopping are depression, loneliness, anger, a sense of entitlement after working long hours, or maybe addicted shoppers are searching for social validation through purchasing. I want to buy a Mac because I wanna be cool; I want to get a Gucci bag because I wanna be perceived as having good taste; I want to get a Mercedes (me) because I wanna be perceived as successful.
Yes, shopping may save you from boredom and depression from time to time, and yes, when you accomplish something, it is nice to reward yourself with a little gift but when it gets out of control it will leave you with an empty feeling and in a despairing financial situation.
How to control a shopping addiction and how to reduce debt
- Being a shopaholic is a symptom of deeper emotional issues. The best thing to do is to address the root of the problem by seeking therapy, reading self help books or searching community support (try Debtors Anonymous).
- Replace your shopping habit with some kind of constructive activity; exercises, yoga, a book club, dance classes, etc.
- Every store will try to give you a free credit card. Just say “NO!”
- If you have more than one credit card, destroy all of them except one.
- For the one credit card that you keep, reduce the spending limit to the minimum. You can always raise it back if you need it.
- Don’t go to the shopping mall unless you actually need something. Shopping malls are not places to fight boredom.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it.
Here are some comment by friends who helped me with the research:
“OK I admit when I am sad for example (not depressed), just regular sad or upset, shopping can cheer me up, and yes sometimes I buy something and then regret I spent so much money” –Anonymous
“I have been a big spender for years and now I am changing my ways. It’s like a disease for me. I used to go shopping to avoid loneliness and maybe depression (I am not sure). But for me it was because society standards were affecting me. In my twenties, I faced a lot of failure (jobs). I was paying my bills and not having too much left after that.
I started to read a new book, yesterday (Frugal Isn’t Cheap) and for spenders like me the author says : ” Financial exaggeration is usually just a thin disguise for insecurity, emptiness and self-doubt. ” That’s exactly how I felt.” –Anonymous.