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Do I Have a Shopping Problem?

Probably not. According to Very Well Mind, only 1 in 20 US adults have a problem with shopping.


What I’ve heard others call a “problem”, is just some guilt around their spending. The word "shopping" in my opinion has become increasingly negative and seen as fueling consumerism, adding to that feeling of guilt for those who enjoy shopping.


There are a lot of blogs out there that give tips on how to "stop your shopping addiction"... but I'm taking a different approach here. I think this is what adds to the guilt, because so many articles teach you how to totally stop and avoid these 'terrible' temptations of shopping. Instead, this post aims to lessen that guilty feeling and be more effective with your shopping.


I want to point out that “shopping” can be interchangeable with many spending activities where one feels they spend too much. This can be relevant among many expense categories, but the one I often get questions about, and there seems to be the most shame around, is shopping.


Shopping can be done for many reasons; expressing yourself, look good / feel good, etc. I don’t think anybody should be shamed for having hobbies or getting joy from certain things that they spend their money on.


Before I go on and assume that nobody has a problem, there is still the 1 in 20 that do have a problem. Compulsive shopping is not recognized as its own mental disorder… but turning to shopping to fulfill another disorder like addictive disorder, OCD, mood regulation or impulse control disorder is a real thing.


If you find yourself unable to control your shopping due to these reasons, you’ll likely need to get further help. Cognitive behavior therapists who specialize in these disorders will likely be well worth the money.


But, if you don’t think you have a problem but instead just feel that pang of guilt every time you buy, whether warranted or not, here are a few tips to set some guidelines and remove some of that guilt.


1. Pay Yourself First


This is sometimes referred to as “reverse budgeting” and something I follow myself! The idea is to save first, as if your savings account is your most important “expense”, so that the rest of your money (your discretionary money) can be spent guilt-free.


This is an oversimplified definition, but it the foundation behind a lot of my planning. There should be a focus on paying yourself in the form of investing, saving, debt payoff, etc. before any discretionary spending. Then, whatever is left can be spent on whatever you want, since you’ve prioritized saving for your future.


This helps to change the narrative of "save as much as you possibly can" to "save a responsible amount for your future, and leaving some of your hard earned money available to enjoy today". Enjoying your money is different to each person, and you shouldn't feel guilty for what brings you that enjoyment.

It’s important to understand where you’re spending your discretionary money. If shopping is important to you, then it makes sense this is a bigger piece of your budget. Just because you spend more than others on clothes, this doesn’t mean that its wrong. But, if you start spending so much that you’re unable to save money, this is likely where you want to make some changes.


My advice is to pay yourself first in the form of automatic transfers before you start spending, and you can feel better about spending the excess money on whatever brings you the most happiness.


2. Be Loyal


The first step I mentioned above is to make sure this isn’t a problem and you’re still able to save money for your future.


Assuming that is the case, I’ve seen others’ success in staying loyal to a certain brand. This is easier said than done, but if there is one brand with good style and sizing for you, it may make sense to stick with them.


Spending more with one company often brings perks or benefits to you, that will ultimately result in discounts or other perks when shopping. It’s the same idea with an airline; loyalty to one airline will help you build points and save money on future trips and flights.


Additionally, like an airline, it may help to get a credit card specific to them, where it helps to purchase on that card for added cash back or more perks. This needs to be considered along with your debt levels and credit score, but I am pointing out that this may bring an additional incentive to being loyal.


Companies love loyal customers and will reward you for being one.


3. Think Ahead (buy out of season)


If you’re looking to buy a winter jacket during the coldest day of the year, I feel confident that you’re not going to get much of a discount.


But, if you think ahead and for example shop towards the end of a season when they are trying to get rid of items, this may help with the cost of these clothes.


I liken this to car shopping; many times (not right now unfortunately), dealerships will need to clear their lot to make room for a new car model. During this time, they may offer discounts or other benefits like interest-free loans to help push that inventory.


It may be worthwhile to find times when the store you like to purchase from is trying to get rid of inventory, and use that to your advantage.


4. Review Your Current Closet


I often recommend my clients review the categories with which they spend their money. The purpose of this is to determine if they are spending most of their money in the categories that bring them the most happiness.


You can do a similar exercise with your clothes by reviewing your current closet.

Take a look at your clothes and determine what you wear, and what you don’t. Some items may have looked great in the store, but never looked good in real life.


In this situation, you can consider either 1) returning it or 2) getting an idea of what you like and don't like, and take that into consideration during your future purchases.


In other words, focus on buying clothes that are the most useful to you and again, bring you the most happiness.


Bonus Tip


Get rid of social media! This has a two fold effect which is:


1. You will no longer compare yourself to others’ fashion

2. You can re-wear clothes, since nobody sees pictures of you wearing the same thing lol!


Final Thoughts


I’m not a big shopper myself; clothes don’t bring that much happiness and I’m comfiest in some gym shorts and a t-shirt out here in AZ.


But, I’ve been hearing a lot of guilt from spending and questions around what we “should” be spending our money on.


Not to oversimplify it, but you should be spending on whatever you want. There shouldn’t be guilt if you’re prioritizing saving and spending your hard-earned money on whatever makes you happy.


Instead of stressing over every purchase, put some guidelines in place that push your financial position forward, and start getting comfortable with spending and enjoying your money today.