Are we all shopaholics? It’s true – in America, we love to shop. For things we need and some, we don’t. In 2016, we spent over $4.8 trillion on retail purchases. In light of the upcoming shopping extravaganza that is Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday we’re looking at shopping behaviors and how we might all be turning into shopaholics.
#1. We are Constantly Connected to our Phones
Therefore we are always being marketed to. Go ahead, swipe through your Instagram feed right now. See any sponsored posts? Even our favorite celebrities are constantly pushing products on us. We are consistently being told to buy things that we don’t need. This, paired with the harsh fact that the average person spends 11 hours a day staring at some kind of screen, is deeply disturbing.
Here’s what to do. Shut it down. Seriously, put your phone down (or better yet turn it off). Not forever but just for long enough to breathe in a moment of no-one-can-connect-to-me-right-now. Isn’t that freeing? Soon enough you’ll be going to the grocery store or for a walk around the park without staring at your phone.
“According to David Greenfield, a clinical psychiatrist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, smartphones are the gadget people most often find themselves addicted to. They go everywhere, so they’re always screaming for attention.”1
– David Greenfield, Center for Internet and Technology Addiction
#2. We Want What We Want and We Want It Now
In the age of Amazon Prime, Postmates, and Door Dash we are a part of an “instantaneous” culture. These days, if we need (or want) something, it’s as easy as clicking “buy now” and within minutes we have what we want. It’s an amazing advancement that has made life so much easier but for people with a compulsive shopping habit, it can lead to dangerous consequences. Things like not having the money to pay bills on time or, worse yet, massive debt.
So, what is the solution?
Psychologist, Bonny Forrest, suggests paying in cash so you can better track how much you’re spending; avoid storing credit card information online so that you have to think a bit more about your purchase, taking a friend with you when you shop, and she also suggests waiting 24 hours before buying something you don’t necessarily need.
“We will never be satisfied with what we have if what we have isn’t in alignment with our values, how we want to show up and ultimately, how we want to feel.”
– Rebecca Jacobs, Darling Magazine
#3. We Use Shopping as a Pastime
Back in the day, we shopped according to what we really needed.
Now we use shopping as a hobby or pastime. Bored? Go window shopping. Sad? Buy something, get over it. Happy? Treat yourself. Just as we do with alcohol there is always a reason or occasion to “celebrate.” It’s these unhealthy behaviors that are turning us all into shopaholics.
The next time you’re feeling a certain kind of way, stop – don’t shop. Dig deeper. April Lane Benson, a New York-based Psychologist and author of “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop” encourages her clients to ask themselves a few important questions before they make a purchase.
1. Why am I here?
2. How do I feel?
3. Do I need this?
4. What if I wait?
5. How will I pay for it?
6. Where will I put it?
“Compulsive buying is an uncontrollable desire to shop which results in spending large amounts of time and money on the activity. Generally a person who buys compulsively gets the urge to shop in response to negative emotions (not to be confused with occasional “retail therapy”) and often has problems with relationships and finances as a result of their shopping behavior.”2
– Mental Health America
#4. We Always Stock Up – Just in Case
For most people, especially families, shopping at membership warehouses like Costco or Sam’s Club can be an effective way to stay on budget and save a ton of money. However, it can get out of control – fast. We live in this fear of scarcity, so we stock up “just in case.” Some people believe it to be a side effect of post-recession spending where we stockpile things we feel we might one day not have access to.
We’ve all been sucked into buying more than we need. Our favorite stores and companies make sure of it. If you shop at Costco or Sam’s Club – go in with a plan. Only buy what you need and what makes sense for you and your family. Depending on the size of your family, some items might make more sense than others. Be mindful and stick to your list.
“Hunting and gathering is in our DNA. Collecting is a side effect, and it’s becoming an antiquated form of survival in most of the modern world.”
– Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists
#5. We Buy Things to Impress Others
In America, having nice things is the ultimate proof of success and happiness. It’s what the American Dream was built on. We are stuck in this mentality of “I will be happy when I ______” (get my dream car, buy my first home, go on a luxury vacation).
What to do: stop worrying about status. Don’t make your whole life about impressing small minds. Be the bigger person. Your future self will thank you.
“When you buy big houses, cars, and “stuff” to impress your friends, it’s really just an illusion. The fact is, friends that need impressing are fickle people anyway. No matter how much you spend or what you buy, you’ll never make everyone happy.”
-Holly Johnson, The Simple Dollar
In conclusion, stuff doesn’t make us truly happy. People make us happy. Love makes us happy. That’s all we really want in this life, right?
Treatment for Shopaholics
If you’re shopping too much, you’re not alone. While shopping addiction is not technically a medical condition, it affects 5.8 percent of Americans in their lifetime. Here we’ve rounded up some recommended reading and alternative resources for shopaholics: