Three people I know very well do a LOT of shopping. They each have vastly different buying habits, but the one thing they all have in common is that they all consider shopping to be a recreational activity, or something they do when they’re bored. Buying something new makes them feel better, they say… at least for a while.

Person #1 often announces that she is in “a shopping mood,” heads for her minivan, and goes from store to store searching for things she can buy. She has a large amount of what she considers to be disposable income, and she likes to talk about price not being important to her. Apparently what she buys isn’t that important to her either, because she often buys items she never uses. She doesn’t seem to realize that despite their huge incomes, her constant spending is the reason she and her husband never have any money left over at the end of the month, and why they often find it difficult to pay all their monthly bills. They have accumulated a tremendous amount of debt and keep adding to it all the time.


At the edge of the woods near our house… this is a stone wall we need to rebuild

Person #2 prides herself on her frugal nature. She lives a life of denial and often talks about how she has to settle for second best because she can’t afford the items she really wants. She scrimps and saves and does without and is constantly feeling frustrated and deprived because her husband’s salary forces her to be so frugal. She talks a lot about money and how she has to buy used because she can’t afford to buy new. She’s very proud that she does most of her shopping at thrift shops and yard sales. She checks out all the yard sales and secondhand stores in her area on a twice-weekly basis and is constantly buying SOMETHING. Although the price of each purchase is small, such frequent buying adds up to some very large amounts that are not in her budget. She too is using shopping as a way of making herself feel better, but it doesn’t seem to be working for her, either.

Person #3 often jokes about her compulsive shopping habit. She periodically goes on almost uncontrollable shopping sprees in which she hits all the high-priced stores in her area and spends huge amounts of money. By the time she arrives home, she is usually already regretting her purchases, and almost always returns EVERYTHING she bought the very next day. The few items she can’t return, she rarely looks at again. She knows that she uses shopping to try to fill a void in her life, and she is aware that it really doesn’t help, but she seems unable to stop.

That’s why it’s so important to know why you buy. If you find yourself shopping out of boredom or because you’re thinking something new (or secondhand new) will make you feel better… instead of shopping because you have an actual need (or a legitimate want) for the item… take a few minutes and try to work out what is causing these feelings. Maybe you buy things out of habit, or because circumstances in your life are making you feel discontented.

The most important thing is to become aware of your feelings and your situation. Once you are able to figure out why YOU feel the need to shop… and what parts of your life feel empty or make you feel bored or unhappy… you will have a better idea of what you can do to change those feelings. There won’t be a “one size fits all” answer, but I can almost guarantee that the answer that works for you won’t involve shopping!

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Comments

Hadias

Using shopping as a means to fill a void can certainly run a person into debt. I have a friend who says that she wants to get out of debt but jokes about how much money she just spent at the department stores.

She says that she has to have the things that she buys. I think that shopping can become an addiction just like drugs. The end results can ruin a family.

Thevail

I do the same thing with the thrift shops, or I used to anyway. Part of it is that after a certain point the “bargain hunt” mentality becomes a habit.

It’s exciting to get a nearly new YSL jacket for $5, but if you already have 4 suit jackets.. and you actually only work from home.. it’s still a terrible waste of money.

It took years to figure that out.

M.L.

I love that you included the example of lady #2. I have long thought that this was odd and wonder why people don’t see the obvious (to me) contradiction in it.

Rob

I think the whole idea of “shopping” is ridiculous. I hate stores, the massive come-ons and the intense pressure to buy crap. When I decide I need something, I tend to either shop online and have it delivered for free or take the shortest path into the store to get the thing I want and then out.

Bookstores are an exception, I’ll admit, as is Costco because the stock is odd and changeable at Costco and occasionally you find a bunch of something you’ve been waiting to find for a decent price.

Helen

Oh this one hurts!! :) Thankyou!

CitznKate

This is a good post. I am currently in process of clearing away excess possessions. I am donating most of the items to charities that will use them to help the needy or offer them for sale in thrift shops.

Although I will look at a thrift shop or second-hand store first before buying a needed item in new condition, I have learned to resist the urge to buy something at a thrift shop even though I do not need it, just because the price is low. I have started the practice of asking myself, “Would someone else appreciate and use this item more than I?” This is tremendously helpful.

When we have homes filled with possessions we do not need or enjoy, it is clutter and it causes stress. People who deal with stress not by clearing away the clutter, but by going out and buying more stuff, just increase their stress levels, and it becomes a vicious cycle. It does not matter how much or how little one has paid for something if it is not needed and is just clutter.

Blessings,
Kate