If you think you might have a shopping addiction or you have trouble resisting those online impulse purchases, you’re not alone. A whopping 89 percent of Americans have given into impulse shopping, spending an average of $81.75 per session.
Even though I’ve been trying to be more mindful with my shopping habits and be content with less, sometimes I still feel the urge to buy things I don’t need. This is normal.
Sometimes we want to spend money on unneccesary things and that’s okay. We’re human. But it’s when we continue to succumb to the temptation of impulse shopping, that’s when our spending can start to spiral out of control. This can lead to compulsive shopping, which is the frequent preoccupation with buying things we don’t need.
A shopping addiction can be expensive and time-consuming. It’s a hobby that drains your bank account, eats up countless hours of your time and leaves you feeling never truly satisfied. In fact, many compulsive buyers often feel much worse after shopping. Today I’m sharing 8 tried and true ways to overcome a retail therapy addiction:
1. Avoid the temptation.
2. Try the 30-Day Shopping Challenge.
3. Let go of items that no longer serve you.
4. Build a capsule wardrobe (for free).
5. Address the root cause of your shopping addiction.
6. Try the no new clothing challenge.
7. Identify and manage your spending triggers.
8. Figure out what you truly value in life.
What’s the difference between impulsive and compulsive shopping?
Impulsive and compulsive buying are terms that often get confused for each other. On the surface, they may seem similar, but they are very different in their cause, outcome and frequency.
Impulsive shopping is defined as the sudden urge to make an unplanned purchase. It’s very common and nearly everyone has made an impulse purchase at some point in their life.
For example: You’re in the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner. You see that your favorite ice cream is on sale. Even though it’s not on your shopping list, you suddenly get the urge to buy it.
Buying the ice cream was unplanned. As soon as you saw it in the store, you’ve succumbed to an urge in the moment, then purchased the ice cream.
On the other hand, compulsive shopping is planning to shop in order to relieve (at least temporarily) an uncomfortable tension. For these individuals, shopping can also be used as a way to escape negative feelings, such as anxiety, depression, anger, self-critical thoughts or boredom.
Compulsive shoppers continue this repetition of behavior despite its adverse consequences, such as accumulating credit card debt, rocky relationships due to shopping too much, or feelings of guilt due to overspending. Many compulsive shoppers also find themselves excessively preoccupied with shopping (or just thinking about going shopping) and their poor impulse control when it comes to shopping.
While impulsive and compulsive shopping are separate problems, today I’m sharing some tips from my book, Freedom From Shopping, that you can try to help overcome both.
Psychology of a Shopaholic
✓ Euphoria – This is the initial feeling many compulsive buyers experience while shopping. It’s like they are in the “zone” and sometimes exhibit manic-like behavior. They move with purpose and feel a “high” when shopping.
✓ Regret – Shopaholics initially feel happy while they’re shopping, but this positive emotion is short-lived. After they’ve returned home with bags full of things they didn’t need, many compulsive buyers feel regret for spending too much money.
✓ Anxiety – Many shopaholics feel anxious about having to tell their partner, friends, or family member that they’ve overspent again. Sometimes compulsive buyers hide their purchases from their partner because they worry how their partner will react.
✓ Overwhelm / Guilt – Many shopaholics feel overwhelmed when they open their closet. Their wardrobe is constantly growing, yet they feel like they have nothing to wear. They feel guilty about previous purchases, which may cause them to buy more items.
While a shopping addiction might sound harmless, it can take a toll on your finances and mental well-being. Obviously overspending can lead to debt, but it can also hurt your personal relationships or career.
It’s important to recognize the signs of a shopping addiction early so you can learn how to shopping shopping online and develop better spending habits going forward.
- I bought no new clothing for a year. This is what I learned.
- 5 ways to stop impulse buying and save money
- 10 tricks to kick your shopping habit
My Shopping Addiction Story: How it Started
It started out innocently enough (like all addictions tend to do, right?) I got my first office job after graduating from college, which meant I needed to transition from wearing leggings to class into a more appropriate outfit for the office.
My wardrobe needed a huge overhaul, which involved me spending money (I didn’t yet have) in order to have enough appropriate outfits for my first week of work.
Because “work clothing” tends to be more expensive than leggings and sneakers, including extra fees like dry cleaning, I would shop the sales to save money. Finding a good deal was like a “high” for me. That’s why I signed up to receive email alerts from all my favorite retailers so I would never miss a sale.
While this might have sounded like a good idea, this FOMO (fear of missing out) started my shopping addiction. It was the thrill of the hunt (looking for sales) and buying items just because they were on sale.
I justified my purchases by telling myself things like:
• “I worked hard — I deserve this!”
• “I can’t wear the same thing each week, so I need to buy more outfits for my wardrobe.”
• “This is such a good deal — I could always use more clothes for work.”
The daily deal sites were my biggest weakness. Every morning when the new flash sales would begin, I was online ready to buy. This was great for my haute taste on a bargain budget. I bought so much stuff that many of the items sat in my closet with the price tag still attached. It was a big waste of money!
Every single week I was buying new shoes, clothing, or accessories. I would justify my purcahses as an investment in my wardrobe. Dress for the job you want, right?
Why does shopping make you happy?
Even if you’re not sure if you have a shopping addiction, it’s easy to get addicted to how our brain feels while shopping. When shopping, our brain releases endorphins and dopamine which makes us feel good. Over time, these feelings can become addictive.
That’s why many people love “retail therapy” because it can be a quick way to boost your mood. But these good feelings are usually short-lived and can lead to feelings of regret, anxiety, or guilt due to overspending.
Do you want to stop buying clothes and regain control over shopping?
In this free guide, I share six secrets to help you maximize your current wardrobe without feeling the need to buy more stuff.
Are you ready to get started? You can grab my free guide below!
Is being a shopaholic truly an addiction?
For me, I started to notice that I felt “out of sorts” on days when I didn’t shop online. It’s like I missed my shopping fix, and it didn’t feel quite right.
Then there was a time when the Canadian dollar was on par with the US dollar, and that’s when my shopping addiction got out of control. I would make multiple trips to the USA exclusively to shop.
I was spending thousands of dollars on designer shoes and handbags because I was able to get them on sale in the US (and the Canadian dollar was doing great).
Many of the items I purchased were on impulse and without thinking. While I initially felt a rush of excitement when buying something, it quickly turned into feelings of guilt afterwards. I wasn’t able to control my emotions.
This is when I knew I had a shopping problem.
What are the signs of a shopping addiction?
✓ You have many items in your closet with the tags still attached
✓ You try to hide your shopping purchases from family or friends
✓ You’re spending more than you can afford
✓ You’re harming relationships due to shopping too much
✓ You shop as a reaction to feeling depressed or angry
✓ You’re shopping as a way to feel less guilty about a previous purchase
✓ You’re constantly buying and returning things
✓ You buy items you don’t need just because it’s on sale
Read Next: 10 common signs of a shopping addiction
Deciding to quit my job and go back to school was ultimately was forced me to confront my online shopping addiction. It made me want to break my addiction to shopping online so I could save enough money to pay for graduate school.
I’ll be honest with you, my journey towards saving money was tough. It felt like a constant battle trying to stick to my budget while learning how to manage my spending triggers. But over time, my willpower got better.
It’s been over five years since I quit my job. I graduated University with no debt. I started this site and now make a full-time income from this tiny blog. I’m earning more money than I ever have in my life. But instead of shopping online or browsing the mall, I’m saving and spending my money wisely.
Below are the same budgeting worksheets I used to help me stop living paycheck to paycheck, shop more with intention, and save my first $100,000 in my mid-twenties. If you’re interested, you can learn more about my Budget Planner here.
Are you interested in starting a blog? Blogging can be a great creative outlet. I started this blog as a hobby. I didn’t know anything about blogging, but now I make a earn a full-time living through my blog. If you want to learn how to start your own blog, here’s an in-depth tutorial. Plus, you’ll get a FREE domain name when you sign up today!
For my fellow Canadians, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start a successful blog in Canada.
There was no overnight change or “eureka” moment on my journey to overcoming my shopping addiction. It took me a couple of years to understand my “shopping triggers” and what my true values and priorities were in life.
Sometimes I still feel the urge to spend money impulsively, especially when I’m stressed. I don’t know if those feelings will completely disappear (at least for me), but I’ve learned how to respond to these urges in a healthier way.
With all that said, here are 8 ways on how to overcome a shopping addiction!
1. Unsubscribe from all retailer emails
If you find yourself being tempted to spend money every time a sales email pops up in your inbox, then it’s time to click “unsubscribe”. I recommend unsubscribing from ALL retailer emails to avoid the urge to impulse spend. This also means delelting shopping apps off your phone.
Initially when I started unsubscribing to retailer emails, I stayed on the mailing list for a few select stores. This was a big mistake though, because I still felt tempted to spend money whenever I received an email. If you’re serious about overcoming a shopping addiction, then you need to unsubscribe from all retailers.
Worried that you’ll miss shopping online?
If you find yourself shopping online just to pass the time, then consider finding other activities to do instead. Ideally ones that don’t involve spending money. Check out this post for alternative activies you might enjoy: 46 fun things to do at home when you’re bored
Another great way to distract yourself from shopping is to start a side hustle in your spare time. I started this blog as a creative outlet when I was doing the no new clothing challenge. Now I earn a full-time income from this site! It’s pretty amazing how special blogging can be.
If you enjoy writing and sharing stories about your personal life, tutorials, reviews or tips, blogging can be a great hobby that makes money. You can make money through your site with ads, affiliate marketing, or paid sponsorships. If you’re interested, you can check out this in-depth tutorial to get your blog up and running in minutes.
Here are some more creative ideas to make extra money:
- 12 ways to make $500 this month from home
- 10 fun hobbies that make money
- 24 easy ways to make money from your phone
2. Try my 30-day Shop Your Closet challenge
If you want to stop buying clothes, a great place to start is by getting better mileage from what you already have.
If you have an overflowing wardrobe, there’s a good chance that you have lots of stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day in months (or even years). Now is your chance to wear these items. You never know if your least worn clothing will become your new staple items.
Each day (for 30 days) you can follow the different prompts to help you put together new and exciting outfit combinations. The best part is, this challenge is completely free to do. You’ll be using items you already have!
3. Declutter your wardrobe
If you love shopping, chances are your wardrobe is full of items you no longer wear or things that you’ve forgotten you even own.
Feelings of overwhelm, gilt, and regret are all too familiar for those with over-buying habits. It’s hard to pick out an outfit that makes us feel our best when we’re bombarded by these negative emotions. Instead, we tend to feel that our wardrobe is never good enough because our clothing doesn’t align with our values.
Before I decluttered my clothes, I had the misconception that I would need to buy new things to replace everything that I donated or sold. This is simply NOT true! Decluttering forces you to decide what’s actually important to you.
By getting rid of items you no longer wear, need, or love, it gives you a chance to feel good about the items you choose to keep.
Decluttering teaches you how to be more decisive when choosing what to wear each day, and in other areas of your life too. You’ll no longer want to waste time watching movies that don’t interest you or talking to people who bring you down.
Decluttering can be a great way to make extra money by selling your gently used items online or at consignment shops. Decluttering also gives you more space. This doesn’t mean more space to buy new items, but instead it provides you space to breathe, think clearly, and eliminate mental clutter.
Below is a simple step-by-step guide on how to declutter your closet.
Read Next: 6 steps to declutter your wardrobe
4. Set new rules for your wardrobe
Now that you’ve decluttered your closet, it’s time to set new rules for your wardrobe. For example, when I was trying to overcome my shopping addiction, I made a rule to only buy items in neutral colors (black, gray, white, navy, an so on).
This didn’t mean I went out to buy a whole new wardrobe in neutral colors. Instead, if I needed something, such as a new winter coat, I would buy it in a neutral color. By having a closet that focused on neutral colors, it was easier to mix and match items.
By spending less time trying to decide what to wear each day, I was able to be more productive and focus on big picture things, such as school and building my online business.
Having a capsule wardrobe means I feel good about everything I own. It also cuts down the number of little decisions I need to make each day. Now I shop less often and more intentionally.
Below is a simple step-by-step guide on how to build a capsule wardrobe for beginners.
5. Change your environment
I am a firm believer that environment can play a huge role in our lives. Whether it’s our friends, our co-workers, our workplace, or the neighborhood we live in, our environment can influence our behavior.
While we can’t always choose our ideal environment, we do have the power to control some aspects of our surroundings. For example, it doesn’t make sense for an alcoholic to eat at a bar, right? This is why you don’t want to browse the mall if you’re trying to quit your shopping habit.
Determine the root cause of your shopping habit. What drives you to shop? Even though a shopaholic’s habits may appear irrational to an outsider, it’s not. Those with an addiction to shopping believe that they are entirely rational and they are shopping for a reason – usually to fulfill a need.
It’s not easy to self-analyze ourselves, and sometimes we do require professional assistance. However, understanding the psychological need that’s driving the urge to shop can help you overcome your addiction.
For me, I found that my work environment and life stress was driving my buying behavior. I was constantly shopping to fulfill a need, but was never really satisfied.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to completely change my environment: I quit my job, went back to school, and hiked in my spare time. Spending more time outdoors humbled me. I thought less and less about designer fashion and more about obtaining a healthy lifestyle.
6. Do the no new clothing challenge
If you’ve been trying to slowly break your shopping addiction, but are still struggling with your triggers, then you might need to ditch shopping completely.
Going cold turkey isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary if you want to quit your poor spending habits. In this case, I recommend doing the no new clothing challenge for 30 days. The rules are simple: don’t buy any clothing, shoes, or accessories for an entire 30 days (or longer).
The no new clothing challenge is an excellent way to save money, even for non-shopaholics. It forces you to breathe new life into the items you already have, by mixing and matching outfits.
I did the no new clothing challenge for a full year. It was tough, especially in the beginning, but I truly believe it’s the reason I’m no longer addicted to shopping. You can read more about my experience doing the no new clothing challenge here.
7. Learn how to manage your spending triggers
As I already mentioned, your environment can impact your behavior. That’s why it’s important to recognize and learn how to manage your “triggers” which drive you to shop.
I recommend keeping a journal and documenting when you feel compelled to shop. Is it due to boredom, sadness, or anger? Do you feel the urge to shop after you’ve watched a particular television show? Do you want to shop after hanging out with a certain friend or family member?
Recognizing which triggers cause you to shop can help you learn how to manage these triggers. Below are some helpful ways to prevent impulse buying.
Below is a helpful way I use to prevent impulse shopping. I create a Shopping Wish List to delay gratification and help me wait before making a purchase.
View this post on Instagram
I saw a study that said the average person spend $450 per month on impulse buys. That’s just $15 a day or $5,400 a year! ✨ . One strategy for helping me avoid impulse purchases is to use a shopping wish list. This worksheet is included in my new Budget Planner. ❤️ . Here’s how it works ➡️ When you’re tempted to buy something you don’t need, such as a spontaneous impulse purchase, put it on your wish list instead. It forces you to add time between shopping, seeing something you want, and buying the item. ✨ . Wait at least a week and really think about WHY you actually want (or think you need) the item. If you can wait longer than a week, then do it. Chances are, the longer you wait before buying the item, the less desire you’ll have to purchase it. ✨ . I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put something on my wish list, waited a few months, and thought to myself — “WOW! Why did I ever want to buy that?!” 😳 This technique is so simple, but it has truly saved me thousands of dollars over the years. ✨ . If you struggle with emotional spending, like I used to in the past, you’ll love using a shopping wish list. When we see something that we desire to buy, we usually have a emotional reaction. 😍😍😍 It’s exciting to give into instant gratification. It feels good, but only in the moment. 😔 We’re often not thinking about the consequences of spending that money or if we really want / need the item. 🤔 . Using a shopping wish list can help make better decisions and shop with intention. Everything you decide to buy will be well-thought out and prepared for in advance. It’ll make the purchase more precious and exciting. ✨ . But what if it’s on SALE? Remember, just because it’s on sale does not mean you need it. If the item is already on your wish list, then maybe you should buy it. But if it’s NOT on your wish list, then you need to take a moment and ask yourself if you really need it — or are you just wanting to buy it because it’s on sale? 🤍
8. Determine what you value in life
You’d be surprised to learn that most of us don’t know our values, or understand what’s important to us. Instead, we usually focus on what our society and media values. Sounds pretty silly, right?
Doing the no new clothing challenge forced me to replace shopping with something more productive and better for my wallet. That’s when I decided to start this blog. It was the perfect way for me to focus on something positive while I was doing the no new clothing challenge.
If you’re interested in starting a money-making blog, I recommend signing up for my FREE course for beginners below. It’ll show you exactly how to choose a blog niche, set up your blog, write profitable blog posts, and make money online!
It’s important to identify your values, because when our actions and values are aligned, that’s when we feel most content.
Not sure what your personal values are? To get started brainstorming ideas, look back on your life and determine which times you felt really happy and proud of yourself. Choose examples from both your personal life and career.
Then, ask yourself why each experience was memorable? Make a list of values from these peak moments and define what these values mean to you. When your spending habits align with your priorities in life, you’ll begin to feel more satisfied and live with intention.
Introducing: Freedom From Shopping
This e-book will show you exactly how to get better mileage from your wardrobe so you can feel good about your shopping habits, your clothing, your finances, and most importantly — how to feel good about yourself!
I know what it’s like to…
- Feel like you’re always buying new clothes but have nothing to wear.
- Have 50+ tabs open on your browser in search of that next item to buy.
- Get excited about a new purchase, but it ends up sitting in your closet unworn with the price tags still attached.
And I also know what it’s like to…
- Stop the mindless cycle of buy-buy-buy.
- Build a wardrobe that reflects your lifestyle and makes you happy.
- Wake up in the morning feeling excited to get dressed.
- Resist the temptation to make another impulse purchase.
- Live a life free from credit card debt.
It’s all possible with Freedom From Shopping!