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!