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Confessions of a Compulsive Shopper

May 3rd, 2007 at 04:57 pm

Hi, my name is Sara, and I am a compulsive shopper. Worse, I am married to another compulsive shopper. As a result, we are $33,000 in debt in about 9 years. The first step in many recovery programs is first admitting you have a problem and Saving Advice has been very helpful to me for this reason. After all, confession is good for the soul.

After years of research and reading, I have reached some conclusions. First, compulsive shopping isn't something that is obvious at first and there are varying degrees. Like almost everything, we fall into different categories:

The "I deserve it" shopper: this shopper feels entitled to anything and everything. May stem from childhood or simply be narcissistic.

The "I NEED it" shopper: this shopper feels they have been denied and can't go on without the latest gadget or life will be greatly improved, just by buying something.

The "But it's on sale" shopper: this shopper has good intentions, but you can't spend money to save money. Doesn't work that way. Buying something you may not use just because it is on sale it counter-productive

The "I work hard and earn plenty of money" shopper: this shopper is in denial and probably doesn't know what their bank balance is. After all, that is what overdraft protection is for, right?

The "I have to have this because everyone else does" shopper: the classic keeping-up-with-the-Joneses syndrome. Trends may come and go, but you will still have the debt.

The "If I buy this, I will feel better about myself" shopper: possibly the most sad, this shopper is trying to fill an emptiness with "stuff". In the end, it doesn't work, and you are left with the credit card debt.

Each of these shoppers has the same thing in common: an internal dialog telling them it is OK to spend money they don't have. That little voice in the back of your head isn't the same voice that controls your bank account and that is a very dangerous thing.

Now, I have never made an impulse purchase that was "big", thus I was able to deny that I was part of the problem. (DH managed to impulse buy a CAR, but we won't go into that) If there is a big purchase to make, I research it to death and know all my options before even shopping for the item. No, the "little" impulses are my downfall. I'm thirsty...go buy a water. I had a bad day....stop at the scrapbook store. I need some time alone....wander around Target putting stuff in the cart. Pretty soon, I have spent hundreds of dollars, a little at a time. In the end, the purchases made it hard to pay the credit card bill at the end of the month, so I just pay the minimum and promise to do better next month. But I never did, and look where it got me.

I have learned to combat these impulses in a couple of ways:

** Always shop with a list and never deviate.
** Know EXACTLY how much money you can spend.
** Carry a calculator, if you need to, to add the things up that are in your cart.
** Give yourself an allowance, separate from your household budget, for those "impulse" purchases you "need". You can't be cured in a day, but you can give yourself limits.

Remember, you are the only one in control of your life and your future. Choose to be responsible with your money and set goals for yourself. If you give yourself boundaries, stick with them. And, finally, find a supportive outlet so that you don't have to do it alone.

(BTW, for those of you wondering...I fall into all of the shopper categories that I described above, it just depends on the day) Smile

10 Responses to “Confessions of a Compulsive Shopper”

  1. JanH Says:

    Great post! I am a "feel better" shopper. And the list of ways to combat it is dead on. It's what I finally learned to do also. You probably have helped someone else see what to do!

  2. Ima saver Says:

    Very interesting post. I am glad that you are doing better. Keep up the good work.

  3. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Yes, good post. It seems to me that compulsive shoppers have the potential to be reformed into compulsive savers.

    I am not at all a big shopper. But something that slows my purchasing down even more is to go shopping with someone else. To me, shopping is not a social thing, but a private thing. I prefer to deliberate about my purchases privately and to buy them without someone else knowing exactly what I bought that day. That is probably a little quirky, too.

  4. fairy74 Says:

    Excellent post. I'm a I deserve it/it's on sale shopper. I am the same way, never made a large impulse purchase but tons of little ones....good tips Smile

  5. T_I_N_A20 Says:

    I never have a allowance... I just spend it whenever I feel like it. Resisting the impulse is hard but I'm working on it.

  6. Emily Says:

    I am a journalist and I work on a national morning tv show in NY. I'm looking for a guest to come on the show to talk about past history (or present history) as a compulsive shopper. If you are interested, please email me asap at


  7. Debbie A Says:

    I am The "But it's on sale" shopper: I am a Ebay shopper. And it has made my addiction worsten since I can buy things on Ebay way cheaper than in the stores. If its Thursday and I get paid the next day, I will spend all of my money knowing that I get paid in the morning. My husband fusses at me. But I figure once the bill are paid ontime, any money left over I should shop with. I do not own 1 credit card so its being paid for and I will not owe anyone later. So what!

  8. Joseph Ferrera Says:

    Hi Sara,

    My name is Joseph and I am producing a new documentary film aimed to raise awareness of compulsive shopping and shopoholism in America.

    Both I and the film's director are recovering compulsive shoppers. I know the feeling of having an uncontrollable urge to shop and consume to fill something within, but only to be left with an emptiness at the end of the day. We seek to bring to light both the psychological and cultural forces that have brought about our epidemic of compulsive shopping. What is it that drives us to fill our lives with "things?"

    We are searching for someone who would feel comfortable in front of a camera, and would like to share with us the motivations behind their shopping.

    If you would like to raise awareness of the issue by sharing your story in our film, we would love it if you could send us some information about yourself - your name, age & general area of residence, as well as some insight into your situation. How does compulsive shopping affect your day-to-day life? Are you stuck in a cycle of shopping to make yourself feel better? Does compulsive shopping hold your life back through debt, or other financial obstacles? Has the ritual of shopping replaced other, more productive or personally beneficial activities you may have previously participated in?

    Please just let me know if you feel you may want to participate.

    Thank you so much and best of luck!

    Joseph Ferrera

  9. Maria Says:

    Hi there,

    I am a current master's journalism student here at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada.
    I am currently working on a story about the upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and I was
    wondering if it would be at all possible for me to talk to an afflicted individual who is suffering from a shopping addiction or/and recovering from one, and who would be able to share their experience with me.

    The interview would have to be conducted via telephone. Please e-mail me at for further details.

    Please let me know if you are able to assist me in my request.

    Thank you very much and I look forward to speaking to you soon.

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