How I Got Over My Shopping Addiction

by Vered DeLeeuw · 25 comments

Last month I confessed to an addictive behavior: recreational shopping. I actually wasn’t sure if I could classify it as a full-fledged addiction. Then David commented, “I’m glad Vered got out of her ritual of checking the same website for new arrivals daily, but make no mistake, addiction was the perfect word to describe that behavior.” His comment got me thinking that it’s probably time to admit that I was indeed addicted to shopping – and to share how I was able to overcome my addiction.

My “harmless” daily virtual shopping trip had all the characteristics of an addiction. I knew I shouldn’t log on to that site, I struggled with it every single morning, but I did it anyway. And to add insult to injury, I then lied about it – I didn’t exactly share my purchases with my husband!

So how did I start on that path? First of all, I love shopping. Not everyone enjoys shopping, but those of us who do will know what I mean – browsing through merchandise, looking at beautiful items and picking a few that will become yours, bringing them home (or having them shipped), tearing up the wrappers and finding a new place for them. Shopping can be an extremely pleasant experience, especially since I believe humans are hardwired to love shiny new things and feel a sense of security when we surround ourselves with objects.

But shopping can quickly become an addiction, for the same reason that any other addictive behavior becomes an addiction. It is soothing and pleasant and takes your mind off things. The downside, though, is that the pleasure is short-lived and when it tapers off, you want to experience the rush again. Unfortunately, the only way to get the same feeling again is to shop more.

Just like any other addiction, being addicted to shopping is very damaging. It is damaging to your finances, that’s obvious. But it is also damaging to relationships because the addicted person often tends to try and hide her addiction from her partner. And if she doesn’t (or fails), there’s the tension of “how can you spend so much money on things you don’t really need!”

So how did I manage to get over my addiction to shopping? I pretty much stopped cold turkey. Obviously, shopping isn’t something you can just stop doing – but you can absolutely stop a habit of recreational shopping. I basically forced myself to avoid logging onto that website each morning. It wasn’t easy and I went through a withdrawal process where I missed my daily ritual. On the other hand, it was freeing to not feel as if I needed to hide things from my husband anymore. It was also freeing not to have to find a place to store all those new items or send back the ones I didn’t like.

When the monthly credit card statements started to arrive and I saw the financial savings, it felt really good – just as good as buying stuff, if not more so!

I still shop online these days, but it’s not a daily habit anymore. I only log on when I actually need something, and then I make sure I buy that item and avoid browsing for more. Sometimes it’s still a struggle. Some mornings I still think about logging in and browsing. But then I look around me, see my clutter-free home, and remind myself that I actually hate stuff and that *things* will just weigh me down. Things just won’t make me happier.

Do you have a shopping problem too? How do you feel about shopping?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Obi_Sade says:

    I am relate to everything you just said, I an say I have an addiction to shopping. Always scrolling to clothing sites. This is thing is really impacting on my life mentally as well as financially.

  • Sherri says:

    I’m a shopaholic and that scares me it’s just not clothes it’s everything and I just can’t pick one because in my mind how about if I pick the wrong one so I buy them all it makes me sick when I see the credit card and that I put me my husband in debt and he work so hard and I have to hide my addiction from everyone and I try and I try to stop but I always fail but today is a new day I will not fail I just wish there was maybe an online group to help us and if there is one please tell me let me know I could use all the help I’m tired of being in debt

  • great sale says:

    I can relate to almost every story here. I just love shopping and that’s just that! The thrill of looking at a variety of beautiful things from purses to dresses is fun. I feel sorry for men because they dint have much to shop for at the mall, just your standard shirt and pants and socks. Poor things!

    The word “sale” is a major trigger for me to go shopping. I think as women we’re genetically made to shop! We love nice things! I have a bigbig issue with Macy’s because they’re constantly offering great sales on top of their promo codes!! Help!

    I don’t have a need I’m trying to fill or void in my life. I just like song because it’s fun, and I love pampering myself. I read a book called the “Five Love Languages” and my love language is “receiving gifts.” Shopping to me is like me buying a present for myself. It’s like Christmas! I recently bought a Michael Kors purse and it was on sale at…. Macy’s! Unwrapping the packing was like receiving a gift!!

    I always tell myself I won’t shop at the malls where I know it will be tempting to spend. The problem is online shopping!! It’s so convenient.God, help me.

    I recognize that it can be a problem if I continue like this. That’s the first step in “recovering!” Lol recognizing there’s a problem. I plan to quit shopping this long weekend as a trial test…. wish me luck!!!

    PS It will be challenging not to shop this weekend because of the Memorial Day Sales. God help me! 🙂

  • L.A says:

    Everyone’s comments here have helped a lot. I have a shopping addiction and actually get anxious when a few days have gone by and I haven’t added some new piece to my closet. It’s pathetic. Mostly due to the fact that I work from home and am constantly “plugged in”.
    I find myself in the lulls during the work day just browsing pages and pages of clothes, shoes, bags, even home decor. I get paid and every month that goes by I think it’s going to be different and never works. I’m back to buying anything on my wish list (which never seems complete)
    If a budget doesn’t work, cash only doesn’t work, and I’ve cut up credit cards but still am 30 without any savings and only consumer debt…. Am I doomed? I want to change but really need help. Please. I’m moving in with my partner next month and don’t want him to see how often the UPS truck comes around :s I want this cycle to end

    • Zee says:

      L.A. I know how you feel…the never ending wish list, breaking my budget etc.
      What I did in the new year that is working for me is that I publicly declared on social media and to my close friends and colleagues that I was on a 3 month shopping hiatus (no clothes, accessories, shoes). I also unsubscribed from the emails I received from my favourite shopping sites and got busy with other stuff…taking a night course, training for a 10K run. It seems to be working. I don’t have temptation ‘in my face’ and I am too busy to go to the mall. I hope that it sticks and hope that my one story can help you and others think of ways to shift away from the ‘shopping habit’. Best wishes!

  • stephanie says:

    I too found your article by searching “I have a Shopping Addiction and How do I stop”. Something is missing in my life, I dont know what it is, so I use shopping as a form of therapy. I realize some people smoke and thats an addiction. I justify it to myself that saying well if my BF buys smokes 7 days a week and that equates to 60$ then I should be able to go shopping on that amount. Unfortuantely, it is not a smart way too think, but it is rather logical and fair(if we are both wasting money on our addictions). I know I need to stop, not in debt because of it knock on wood. But I am not saving either.
    I was a single mother for 3 years prior to meeting BF, maybe that has something to do with it, im 27 work as a receptionist while I go to university. Perhaps buying nice things(which admittedly I get a good price on) is my way of saying, “See single Mothers can buy this too”. I know its weird.
    Just my reasoning.
    Anyways, Good Luck to all you Shoppers! Hopefully we will be just Shoppers and not Addicters!

  • Shana says:

    It finally dawned on me today that I have a shopping addition, well, primarily an addiction to shopping for food and eating out. I realized that Its hard for me to go a day without wanting to buy something at the grocery store or order some type of food, snack or beverage. It’s a weird impulse. I feel anxious because I’m always thinking about food or what my next meal or snack will be. I’m not an overweight person and I don’t feel like I have a food addiction but It’s more that I just like food. I like visiting and supporting new restaurants and local eateries/bakeries. I’m not spending time at McDonalds, Olive Garden types (no disrespect) and fast food joints. I’m eating from the Whole Foods bar (expensive) and local organic/more gourmet, non-chain eateries or buying and cooking relatively healthy meals. I always feel satisfied after the purchase but the feeling doesn’t last. I also get mad at myself when I go to the grocery store and spend $100 on a variety of food that I need to cook, but then (because of my addiction) end up eating out at least once or twice a day. Sometimes I end up wasting some of the fresh veggies that I’ve bought, because I decide not to cook and eat out instead. I’ve tried meal planning and cooking for the week with planned snacks, etc. and still I always get the urge to go get something more, be it a brownie from the local sweet shop or “oh I feel like Indian tonight” so I go get an Indian dish. AND there’s access to whatever food you want at anytime…so the easy access makes it worse. I don’t know what to do, but I need to do something. I can’t keep spending money on excessive urges to buy food.

  • indio says:

    I despise shopping. Even going to the supermarket is a chore to me. I don’t like crowds, rude people, waiting in line for open registers, having to sort through messy racks of clothes to find the right size, traffic, looking for parking space, paying for parking, etc. Fortunately, I work from home so I don’t have to wear work clothes everyday. When I travel for work, I wear the same suit and switch up the blouse or pants/skirt but I won’t wear a different suit each day because I don’t want to spend my time dealing with dry cleaners. I have so many other things I enjoy doing with my time that shopping serves no useful purpose for me. I would rather go to the beach, park, library, on a hike, visit friends, volunteer at school, even haul wood chips than go to a store.
    My addictions are reading the news, books, hobbies and all the content that is online. When my internet was down for 30 hours, I gave my house a deep cleaning. That’s my version of retail therapy.

  • lala says:

    I don’t consider myself a shopaholic, but i do shop when I get bored even though I have tons of things to do while being in grad school. I am almost 30 and I have felt the need for my career and my professional life to dress better which meant replacing a new wardrobe. I am also single and looking for a serious relationship, so I want to look my best.

    I am going to quit cold turkey starting tomorrow. I have tons of great items. I spent $350 so far this month and it is only the 4th of April! Eeep!! This is a reality check for me. I can save this money and take a trip or buy my mom an excellent Mother’s Day gift.

    I think my shopping habit lies in the fact when I was younger I was poor and didn’t have a lot of clothes. My clothes back then were a pure capsule wardrobe before it was trendy. People also made fun of me for not having a lot of clothes and it made me feel bad about myself and for the longest time I was ashamed that I was poor. Now I use it as an experience to do better and to better the people around me. Clothes don’t make you a better person, being a better person comes from within. Now that I can afford nice clothes on my own as I have a really good paying job, I feel like I am making up for lost time. If I spend all of my money, I will be poor!

    Overconsumption stops today!!! I used to be such a minimalist and I rejected materialism due to my humanitarian and empathetic beliefs, I don’t know what happened.

  • Jon says:

    Shopping can definitely have a detrimental effect on not only your pocketbook but also your state of mind. I grew up poor and so when I go shopping I am able to enjoy the little things in life. I think we have to be content with the small things or else we’ll find ourselves scrambling on the treadmill of consumption. Good post!

  • Rose says:

    It is still something I struggle with. Rather than cutting off completely, I’m trying to gradually lower my “flinch point” for the prices of different articles of clothing.

    When I was a student I would flinch when a top was more than 15 bucks or a dress was more than 30. When I started working and putting together a work wardrobe I appreciated the fit and quality of more expensive pieces and got into the habit of picking up shoes, dresses, bags, and trousers in the $80 to $100 range. It could be worse, but it still adds up.

    Now I’m usually able to leave something on the rack if it’s more than $50, and I’ve realized that having too many clothes can be overwhelming. I did some purging recently and I’m pretty happy with my wardrobe now so it’s getting easier to say no.

  • Juan says:

    It is a sort of hard thing eh? I mean we are blessed to live in a world where there is such a large variety of items, and yet this can be our undoing. In a way i think it would be easier if we lived in society where we didn’t have 10 different types of olive oil available to purchase but alas, we are forced to deal with a shopping addiction headon.

  • Patty says:

    It is the marketing. It is our society and economics. These are worthy adversaries. They tell us we will look better, have better relationships, people will look to others and say aren’t they happier, healthier and better than I am, therefore if I buy the same things that they have I too will have that in my life.

    It is BS. I don’t care what xyz is buying, I don’t need a tweet about it, or a facebook page devoted to it. I do need a good haircut, clothes that are clean and classic looking, I need to eat less and walk more. What I did is stop going to malls. I also stop going to yarn stores every weekend (my addiction) I hit the library, do grocery shopping, get dvds from the library, and it is working for me. It is hard, very hard, but you now know that there is a problem and it is time to work on it. That makes you far smarter than a lot of people out there and you are extraordinary because you are actually taking steps to stop a bad behavior.

    Good to you both.

    • KM says:

      I used to buy a lot of yarn too. I stopped when I realized that it will probably take me a lifetime to use it all up, especially since I have no time for knitting these days at all. But it’s so hard when you see this beautiful yarn and imagine all the things could make with it.

  • Jingwing says:

    I am also addicted but I need to go out and touch the merchandise. In order to stop, I have placed myself in a self imposed rehab by staying indoors and away from stores whenever I have any spare time. I try to only go out with groups of friends who will frown on my excess spending. It has been working so far but I am tired of being indoors. I guess I have to wait until I get past the cold sweats phase before I test myself by window shopping. I used to be so cheap… I don’t know what happened to me! I am hoping to be functional by the winter. Wish me luck!

  • Melanie says:

    I realised i had an online shopping addiction recently. 🙁
    Can’t believe i never noticed until now, which i should have.
    In one year i up to almost 8000 points on the yesstyles website. >>;;
    But i decided to put a stop to it! Because it was getting out of hand. No matter how much money i put on my cards, it never goes down because i kept spending.

    I cancelled all my online shopping accounts (and contacted the owner/ website people to cancel the ones i could not manually) and cut up and cancelled all my credit cards, as that was what i used them for, and after i have paid them off, will have the bank remove it from my account.

    It’s scary to think. But i decided that that is one thing i want to change about myself.

  • Christopher M Smith says:

    My girlfriend counted the other day i have 50 pairs of jeans, all designer and two full drawers of underwear. Again all designer. I have enough workout clothing that I can workout for 30 days in a row and wear a different combination everyday.

    I don’t need 50 pairs of jeans, the workout gear and all that underwear. i

  • Zee says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. Your story is also my story. Today I am going to unsubscribe from all of the on line shopping sites I am currently subscribed to. I will start a shopping fund by putting some money away from each paycheque and only use that to make purchases (or cash). I will faithfully make monthly payments on my credit card and eliminate the debt.

  • WorkingGirl says:

    I found this when searching “how to stop my shopping addiction”. I get paid on Friday’s. After this weekend I already had to transfer money from my savings to my checking to make it to this coming Friday (next pay day). This happens every week…
    For me it’s not only shopping but events and things that take up my time and keep me busy. This week alone I had to pay for 2 church growth groups, gymnastics and soccer (for my daughter). I, of course, had to go out and buy her all the needed gear so she could be the best dressed and look like she was the most ready. I also went fall shopping for myself and my daughter. I feel SO good wearing something new… I made my boyfriend take me by the mall to buy a new outfit for his birthday party because I just couldn’t show up in the dress I had on and feel comfortable. Maybe that is when I should have googled for solutions, but it wasn’t.
    I always feel like I need something else. If I made a list today, bought it all this week, I’d have another list made up before the cashier even handed me my receipt! IE: I wanted a particular style coach bag, I found it for a steal of a price. I thought I would be content and satisfied, yet here I am thinking “man, this is too casual, I need to get another one”… this is not OK! I am a single mom (no child support what so ever) and can’t keep going this way.
    My plan is to go home (when I get a free minute between my busy schedule!) and make up something like 15 outfits each for my daughter and I. I would imagine off of those 15 outfits I will have enough to mix and match into more outfits. I will write down what I need to complete outfits, or staple pieces I feel I need for the season and ONLY go out and buy those items! I’m going to keep up on my laundry so I don’t have to go buy stuff to wear because my clothes are all dirty. (I just washed EVERY PIECE of clothing we have- it took soo many loads and days- that’s how behind I get!) I think I may join the gym if I feel like our current extracurricular activities are not enough to keep me busy enough to stay out of the mall/outlets! I already tried the “cash budget” and I end up swiping my card anyway and dealing with it later. So, I don’t know if I will retry the cash budget or what…
    Wish me luck…

    • heather says:

      You sound just like me!! I am a single mom with three kids. I feel the impulse everyday to buy them something new or buy some random thing for the house. It is ridiculous. I am trying to stop cold turkey as of today.

  • Kcmom says:

    I have slowly developed a shopping habit. Luckily, I’m not in too deep financially, but I am not making any progress paying off my small credit debt. Every time I make a significant payment I ‘reward’ myself by shopping and putting more on my card. It’s become a problem. I feel guilty, it takes up my time, I’m constantly struggling with what to take back; the cycle is pretty much causing me grief. But I’m having trouble stopping. And to top it all off, I’m a bit of a minimalist. I don’t like excess stuff. I continuously take things to goodwill. I’m stuck, and I’m trying to get out.

    I found this article while trying to search for tips to help me stop this. I think a good place to look is to figure out why I am doing it in the first place. First of all, I’m a graphic designer, so pretty things are something that I enjoy. A lot. Second, we moved to a small town several years ago and there is not much to do, other than shop and eat. (At least I’m not overheating. Not ALL the time anyway!) Plus, I now have two kids. Somebody always ‘needs’ something. Especially me, as I think I may be trying to hide my 18 pounds of lingering baby weight by constantly trying to cover it up with something new and pretty. Or maybe something new to put in my house to help distract from the constant mess that is impossible to keep up with when you have two kids. Or something for the kitchen, to help motivate me to juice more or chop more vegetables.

    And, I work from home. With my two kids. I have absolutely no ‘me’ time. I’d love to find an activity to get away every once in a while. But between my lack of time alone and the lack of activities in this town, I revert to shopping. I can take the kids shopping, but I can’t take them to a yoga class (if there was a yoga class to even go to). Spring is just about here, maybe some warm weather will get me out to find a new activity. Maybe a garden with the kids. Looks like I need to buy some gardening tools….

    Overall, I just need to stop. Cold-turkey. I don’t like how it’s consuming me.

  • khatlady says:

    I have a part time job at a clothing store. The first beautiful day of spring and we have the usual crowd in, “just looking”. People have driven in blizzards, thunder storms, tornadoes and just plain nice days, just to see what we have. And I think my life is pathetic.

  • Kim says:

    I am also addicted to shopping, except now i can shop guilt free because i have budgeted a small amount of money to do so. While quitting cold turkey may work for some people, i tried this approach and failed b/c i felt to deprived and would ultimately go on “binge shopping trips” and overspend. The key for me when sticking to a budget is to have balance. Once i budgeted a small amount monthly towards for clothing it has become almost a fun sport for me to peruse thrift and vintage stores to find just one or two special items that i could afford to buy.

  • Kim says:

    I too online shop every day. I try to just look but then always fall into another “I need this’, ‘have to have this”, “can’t live without it” mindset. However, I only buy things I like on sale because I feel like I would not be able to find it cheaper anywhere else. For example, I will watch a pair of shoes everyday until I see it goes on sale then buy it. If I get a 10% off promo code or any code for that matter I will log in and buy whatever and I think is ok because oh its 10% off. I have never been like this until all these xmas sales and I need to stop! All my pay checks are gone even before I get them. It is really sad and I do need to get over it.

    I plan on hiding my PC out of view for awhile so I don’t get online. Also to spot hiding all my new things from my boyfriend. I have stacks and stacks of new shoes I have not even worn and I keep buying, but I hope with the help of other’s support I will get through this!

  • faye says:

    It’s so hard not to buy anything. When I shop I don’t even look at the price. i just buy buy buy even when I know it’s bad I can’t help it. I’m trying so hard not to buy anything right now, I know once I start browsing I will not shopping is so addictive especially when all you have to do is pay by card. maybe I need counselling because I actually can’t stop.i shop for things I don’t need or want even use but because it looks nice I just want it. Someone advise me please

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