Debt has many causes, each one as detrimental as the others. It is important for financial stability to pinpoint the cause of spending. In doing so, a consumer is able to take proactive steps to eliminate or control the emotional shopping impulse that is threatening their financial health.
What is emotional shopping?
Emotional shopping is the impulsive reaction to emotional changes that results in shopping for items that the person does not need and many times cannot afford. Have you ever felt depressed or lost and just the thought of shopping cheered you up? Perhaps you find yourself purchasing luxuries, which you are sure you cannot be without, only to get home, come down off the shopping rush and then regret sets in. However, now it is compounded with the realization that you spent money that you really could not afford.
Do you find that even in your happiest moods, you want to reward yourself by purchasing yourself a luxury item? You shop and shop adding to your joy however in the end there is still that nagging gut feeling that you have done something wrong. What you are experiencing is the guilty and insecurity of spending money that you know you should not be spending.
You do the same when you are angry, when you feel lonely and so on. Anytime you are going through a strong emotional fluctuation, if your first reaction is to go on a shopping expenditure, there is a real chance that you are an emotional shopper.
If this describes you, you are heading towards big trouble if you are not in it already. The shopping habit described here is like a nervous habit – similar to a compulsive eating disorder. There are steps to take to reign in the out of control emotional spending.
1. Recognize that you are having a big problem here. It is important that in your mind you accept that this is a problem or you will not take proper measures with the required diligence. You must also realize that unless you do, you could very well be setting yourself up for financial failure. The entrapment of debt is a tight grip from which it is difficult to escape.
2. Pay attention to your self-esteem. Most people who find themselves engaged in emotional spending have very low self-esteem. For some reason, they feel that shopping gives them value and confirm their worthiness. In most cases, these people love to give expensive gifts to their friends even when they cannot afford it, feel that they are in competition with their neighbors and overextend their finances for the purposes of “keeping up appearances.” Read books on how to raise your self-esteem as well as looking up resources online that can help you overcome any lingering self-esteem issues.
3. Have a list of alternatives standing on hand. Make a list with things that give you pleasure. The only pre-requisite to the things you write on this list is that it should NOT cost ANY money. When you feel the restless, edgy buildup that leads to compulsive shopping, review your list, and choose an alternative activity. Some examples are watching a movie, chatting by computer or phone with friends, volunteering to work with children, animals or the elderly, gardening, writing a letter, writing poetry, and so on. The activity should be interactive and engaging so that your mental focus shifts away from shopping.
4. Have a monthly “necessities shopping list.” Designate a day out of the week where you indulge in the experience of shopping for your home. Learn to appreciate shopping for the necessities to loosen the need to shop for luxuries. Declare that day as your ‘happy day” until you outgrow the necessity for emotional shopping.
5. Have a monthly/ bi- yearly / yearly, “I wish I could buy list.” Making a list is a great option because it allows back referencing and lets you review your desires over time. Judge what you wrote. The list is to be composed of items that you would like to buy but know you cannot realistically afford. It could be a camera, a dress, and a car – whatever. Use this list as a guide. It will show you all the frivolous items that you could have spent your money on and in turn prove to you that you did not in fact “need” the item. This list will also serve as a reminder of the things that you will be able to splurge on, once you get your financial stability back on track.
The devastating habit of emotional shopping is a common affliction for many consumers. In a world that bombards us with advertisements, special offers and images of people to whom we are supposed to aspire to spend like, it is no wonder that debt has become a very real problem. While we cannot control the world, we can control the influence the world has on our mental well- being and financial health.