Are you addicted to retail? Is there a compulsive spender in the house?
Also known as shopaholism or compulsive buying, compulsive spending should be taken as seriously as addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or any other habit. Just like other types of addictions, unchecked compulsive buying can drive addicts to lie, steal, cheat, and even commit crimes, such as credit card fraud, to maintain their habits.
If you recognize the signs of being addicted to retail, take them as seriously as you would those of any other addiction. It is not just a phase, and it won’t stop without an intervention. Here are some ways to kick, or help someone else kick, a compulsive buying habit.
1. Avoid Temptation
Know your favorite stores and brands, and stay away from them. This includes not browsing their websites. Recruit friends and family members to hold you accountable and help you resist urges to spend, keeping you in check.
Also, know your spending weaknesses. For example, though I am not a shopping addict, I have a weakness for men’s fashion accessories and comic books. Especially when money is tight, I know to not even walk past the men’s retailers (including the one with the fly silk bow ties) and comic book stores that I could potentially pass en-route to my office in Manhattan.
By the same token, avoid those friends who view shopping as a form of recreation or a social activity. Just as alcoholics can’t hang out in bars with their drinking buddies, you must find other venues to socialize with your friends other than local malls.
2. Plan and Limit Shopping Trips
To control your addiction to retail, you must shop only when absolutely necessary. Shopping trips should be scheduled in advance, as infrequently as possible, and undertaken with the goal of buying only what is absolutely needed.
Shop from a list prepared in advance that’s been reality-checked by someone you trust, and resist the urge to buy anything that’s not on it. Better yet, give the list to someone you can trust to do the shopping for you. Even hiring a professional shopper will be less costly than you potentially giving into your addiction. When you’re addicted to retail, impulse spending is your mortal enemy.
3. Leave Your Credit and Debit Cards at home
Carry only enough cash each day to cover what you’ll actually need to get through the day. Money to get to and from work and for lunch should be all you have in your pockets or purse on most days. Better yet, make lunch at home, and bring it to work. You’ll save money and have less to compulsively spend.
If none of this works—meaning the spending continues or the urge is resisted temporarily, only to give way to a huge binge—you must get help immediately. Seek therapy and check for resources online such as ShopaholicNoMore.com, DebtorsAnonymous.org, and ShopaholicsAnonymous.org.
Being addicted to retail can devastate both your finances and your life. Recognize the signs of compulsive spending and take aggressive action to protect yourself.
Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationship education coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.