For many people shopping is just an enjoyable and innocent pastime. However, for others it can be an emotional process with negative and serious outcomes.
How often have you heard the phrase ‘retail therapy?’ and how many times have you applied it to your own life when you’ve been feeling a tad down? Yup thought so! Most of us do it from time to time and so long as we’re not getting into debt over it then there’s no reason we shouldn’t cheer ourselves up with a little purchase! The problem arises when shopping is a constant pick-me-up or means to avoid dealing with emotional issues.
The truth of the matter is, that if you have problems in your life that are getting you down no amount of Jimmy Choos are going to solve them permanently – I know: a problem which can’t be solved by Jimmy Choos is a surprising enough revelation. In fact spending and avoidance of reality is only to going to cause your problems to escalate.
I spoke with April Lane Benson, author of ‘To Buy or Not to Buy,’ a book which aims to tackle overspending. April says there are signs to look for to know your spending is getting out of control. When the consequences of your stint at the mall affect not only your finances but also your relationships and work life you know you’ve got a problem. Often times we will be in denial about the extent of our spending just as we are in denial about the existence of any larger problem causing us to overspend in the first place.
April advises asking yourself the following questions in order to determine whether you have a problem with shopping:
- Have you tried to stop but not been able to?
- Do you feel guilty or ashamed about your purchases?
- Do you often hide what you have bought?
- Do you shop to fix the blues?
- Would your life be richer if you were shopping less?
If you answered yes to most of these questions April recommends that the first step to overcoming this problem is awareness. Once we face the facts and comprehend the negative consequences it is having on our life we can begin to tackle the issue. She says to really consider the role shopping is playing in our life and ask ourselves why we are doing it – is it to feel better? To feel in control? Or avoid something else?
April has seen many people overcome their emotional spending and she states that often this is due to having someone in their life make them aware that effective help is available. If you know someone who is overspending to avoid his or her problems You can be their shopping support buddy – an advocate to help. April advises sticking by that person and simply stating what you see. When they spend a lot at one time on needless items point this out. Being honest with them is going to be a hugely important part of helping them overcome their problems.
April also recommends keeping track of your purchases by writing them down as you spend and then evaluating these items on a necessity scale. This will force you to assess how much money you spend on frivolous items you could do without and how much you could be saving.
Of course retail therapy can be perfectly healthy for many people but it’s important to be aware of the seriousness of this issue also, as too often the addiction to shopping and overspending is trivialized and thought of as the smiled upon addiction in our society.