NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Are You a Shopaholic?

Are You a Shopaholic?


                Everyone has been a victim to the occasional impulse buy – that accessory that will add the perfect touch of class to your favorite business outfit, the latest kitchen gadget that looks so useful, another piece of wall décor, another hunting vest. But when your purchases shift from impulsive to compulsive, it's the first sign that you might be grappling with a more serious condition: a shopping addiction.

                Researchers estimate that up to 6 percent of Americans are so-called shopaholics. Sixteen percent of online shoppers are compulsive shoppers, according to research performed by the University of Richmond.  In our society, the phrase "shop till you drop" translates as frivolous and fun, but when spending presents a real problem, the glamour fades and, frequently, debt mounts.  Psychologists call it Compulsive Buying Disorder, and it is characterized as an impulse-control issue, just like gambling or binge eating, and has the potential to create a whirlwind of emotional and financial distress.

                Here are some of the telltale signs that someone is becoming a problem shopper.

                - You have many unopened or items with tags still on in your closet.
                - You often purchase things you don't need or didn't plan to buy. You're easily tempted by items that you can do without or are a multiple of something you already own.   You may be purchasing top of the line items at a department store or $1 items at a rummage, the key is “do you need it?”
                - An emotion – whether it is anger, frustration, loneliness or even happiness sparks an urge to shop.  Shopaholics also often suffer from mood disorders, eating disorders, or substance abuse problems.

                -  You experience a rush of excitement when you buy. Shopaholics experience a high or an adrenaline rush from the act of purchasing it. Experts say dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure, is often released in waves as shoppers see a desirable item and consider buying it. This burst of excitement can become addictive.
                -  You try to conceal your shopping habits. If you're hiding shopping bags in another closet or constantly looking over your shoulder for passing co-workers as you shop online, this is a possible sign that you're spending money at the expense of your family, your loved ones, or even your job.
                -  You are shopping beyond your means. You max out credit cards and open new ones in order to keep purchasing things.


                Fortunately, there are some simple ways to help you kick a shopping habit:

  • Find a new activity. Jogging, exercising, listening to music, watching more TV, any of these activities could potentially substitute for shopping and would be a much lighter burden on your wallet.
  • Identify triggers. Take note of what's likely to send you off on a shopping spree.  When the trigger happens, go back to the first idea and substitute another activity.
  • Remove temptation. Try to limit your shopping trips and go only when absolutely necessary. If online shopping is your weakness, resist the urge to surf your favorite stores' sites and even consider keeping your laptop out of reach.
  • Carry only enough cash to buy what you went for. Leave your debit and credit cards at home.
  • Ask for help. If you're still struggling with compulsive spending, don't be afraid to ask for help. You can start by asking a friend or family member to help keep you in check or seeking out money management classes.
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