How to Overcome Shopping Addiction

A recovering shopaholic explains how she became a responsible spender.

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In a comment on my recent post about shopping addictions, Grace from Virginia said she used to struggle with that problem. "When I was going through a particularly difficult and unhealthy dating relationship, I was into splurging on clothes shopping. A new outfit always makes me feel a little better about myself, but in this case, I was trying to prove to myself and to [him] that I was desirable and beautiful," she wrote. Now, as a happily married woman, she has gotten control over such impulses, and realizes the spending was driven by deeper issues than simply a tendency to waste money.

Since other people—between 2 and 5 out of every 100 consumers—also struggle with shopping addictions, I asked Grace to explain in more detail how she overcame hers.

Her first step was to ask for help from friends. She confessed her problem to them and asked them to remind her not to run to the mall when she felt down. "It actually helped a little! Not only was I now accountable for the new things I bought, but I had shared my weakness with others," she says.

She also made new friends through church who were more focused on good conversation and pursuing life's "simple pleasures" than getting new cute outfits.

She also met her husband, who is very supportive of her struggle. He helps her by giving her an allowance each month for clothing and accessories. Instead of that making her feel childish or weak as it might do to other women, she says she appreciates the fact that it enables her to maintain financial control.

Grace says she still feels vulnerable to her old addiction. When she notices herself falling into destructive patterns of thinking—such as: "You are not pretty enough, you are not thin enough, and that new shirt will make you feel better"—she tries to take a step back.

Grace put together seven additional ideas for other people who may be facing similar challenges:

1) Tell someone you trust about your spending habits. Get detailed and nitty-gritty. Admit how much you have spent shopping in the past six months, how much credit card debt you have, and just how far you have fallen from being a responsible spender.

2) Listen to what is going through your mind when faced with temptation. Ask yourself what lies you may be telling yourself.

3) Find other ways to fill your time. Schedule activities to fill the time that you would usually find yourself shopping—whether it's playing softball, joining a book club, taking cooking classes, or something else.

4) Bring a buddy. When you do shop, don't go alone.

5) Stop and think. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if you will still love the item and not be able to live without it in six months.

6) Set spending goals for yourself. When you find an item that you want but can't afford, save up for it instead of wasting money on frivolous purchases.

7) Find the joy in exercising self-control. The excitement of anticipating a healthy shopping trip is much more rewarding than draining your wallet every week just to get a fix immediately.

Have you overcome a similar struggle? If so, how did you do it?