Are You Addicted to Shopping? 5 Tips To Stop

Are You Addicted to Shopping? 5 Tips To Stop

Do you shop for entertainment “because baby I’m worth it”??? Does it cause stress later? Scientifically speaking leisure shopping triggers a brain high. Here are some tips to manage it and a strategy to stay on budget and still have fun shopping.

The average consumer is at the mercy of modern marketing tactics. Savvy marketers have worked hard to create a culture where shopping is a legitimate and common pastime. Purchasing an item you need is a chore, but browsing through endless isles of shoes, shirts or power tools can be pretty fun. Modern stores use tricks to boost sales like “special deals”, rewards programs, credit programs, and even engineered scents. Shopping malls would not exist if people were simply going out to purchase necessities. Malls are a place to hang out with friends and family. They are designed to keep you there as long as possible so you spend more.


The Shopping Double Whammy

Excessive shopping for entertainment is destructive to your financial health for two reasons:

  • When you spend money unnecessarily and mindlessly it puts stress on your budget and forces you to cut back or skip things you would normally consider top priority (savings goals, debt reduction).
  • You complain about needing a bigger house or car because your stuff doesn’t fit. I once overheard “we need to get a bigger SUV so we can fit all the stuff we buy” - yikes!

Despite these negatives, people do it all the time. It’s not just because “baby I’m worth it”. It is because our brains are wired to enjoy the process of shopping. In fact…


Shopping Makes You Feel High:

  • There is scientific consensus among psychologists and behavioral economists that shopping impacts neurotransmitters and dopamine in the brain, providing a kind of high.
  • When you see things you want to buy, your brain gets excited.
  • When you buy something you really wanted or at a great price because of a sale it triggers reward centers in the brain.
  • Afterwards you may feel a sense of guilt. Thankfully most stores have pretty reasonable return policies.
  • To get that same ‘high’ you may need to do it more next time around.
  • When items are on sale there is a fear of losing out on a good deal. We tend to feel losses twice as acutely as gains.


How to Stop Shopping for Entertainment

People shop for entertainment in degrees, but most people do some sort of shopping for entertainment. Whether or not it is a problem depends on how much you’re spending, how much stuff you’re acquiring and how often you shop for entertainment. If you find yourself shopping for entertainment and want to stop, here are some strategies:

  1. Institute a shopping ban. This is the most restrictive but, for some people, also the most effective way to stop shopping—go totally cold-turkey and set a time frame in which you’re not allowed to buy any items at all, or any items in a specific category, like clothing or cosmetics.
  2. Give yourself a strict budget. If you’re not ready to stop shopping entirely, give yourself a monthly shopping allowance. This can ensure that even if you’re still shopping, you’re not spending more than you can afford.
  3. Wait 72 hours before making any purchases. If you actually need (or, for that matter, really, really want something), you can buy it after waiting 72 hours. This will eliminate a lot of impulse purchases while still giving you the flexibility to make essential purchases. Even if you don’t need the item, if you still want it after thinking about it for 72 hours there’s a much greater chance that you’ll actually use the item than if you buy it on a whim.
  4. Never pay retail! Always price compare on the internet (good thing to do during the 72 hour waiting period).
  5. Understand the concept of utility and maximize utility instead of going for instant gratification.


How to Shop for Fun and Not Go Broke:

One of my most frugal friend shops for entertainment. He’s the kind of guy who can tell you exactly how many cents he saves per bottle by brewing his own beer (about $0.46 per 12 oz bottle is his cost), he knows his net worth to the dollar, and he tracks his budget religiously.

Still he shops for entertainment. It is a form of relaxation for him. He has a system to keep him out of trouble. He goes to garage sales and thrift stores only. He wanders around grabbing up any item he is curious about or thinks is cool. Before leaving he puts most of the items back and takes home just one or two genuinely cool finds.

If this is how you shop for entertainment, it’s probably not ruining your chances at financial success—his total bill for most shopping excursions doesn’t crack two figures. Unfortunately, most people who shop for entertainment spend a lot more money and acquire a lot more things—which then have to be crammed into closets and kitchens and basements.


Shopping for entertainment is not always a bad thing, if it’s done in moderation. Like anything that impacts pleasure centers in the brain, if allowed to run wild it can be self destructive on many levels.

The post Are You Addicted to Shopping? 5 Tips To Stop is part of a series on personal finances and financial literacy published at Wealth Meta. This entry was posted in Budgeting
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