9 Ways To Break Your Shopping Addiction

If you compulsively shop, shop to cheer yourself up, experience regret after spending money you don’t have, run up high credit card bills, and generally behave like a freshman college student at your first beer blast, then… well, we don’t want to go all Dr. Phil on you, but you might have a little bit of a problem. Sharon Epperson, author of “The Big Payoff,” offers 9 tips on how to curb your addiction.

  • Know what you have
  • Carry a shopping list (note: we accidentally typed “bag” instead of “list”—seriously—which we think raises some alarms about our own tendencies)
  • Put items that you want to buy on “hold”
  • Don’t be a sucker for sales
  • Bring cash, leave the plastic at home
  • Track what you spend
  • Cut up your credit cards
  • Pay off credit card debt
  • Seek financial advice

Personally, we think the latter half of the list falls into the “tired financial advice” category. But we like suggestions that trick the more immature parts of your brain, like putting things you like on “hold,” which can really help you curb impulse spending.

We have a couple of other suggestions, which might sound stupid but have worked for us in the past. The first is to pick up the object and look at it from all angles, and imagine as completely as you can what it would be like to own it. If you’re like us, and quickly lose interest in shiny new objects once they’re no longer shiny or new, this often helps take the sheen off the latest gadget. (It’s how we were able to walk out of the Apple store empty handed several times.)

The second is to walk away from your computer whenever you’re about to purchase something online, and give yourself the same “cooling off period” you would before sending out an angry email to your boss. Usually after a half hour or so, you realize you don’t really need all those volumes of “The Goon” from Amazon by tomorrow morning after all.

“Shopping addict? 9 tips to kick the habit” [MSNBC]


Edit Your Comment

  1. EtherealStrife says:

    I use a cc to track what I spend, and then pay it off every month. Much easier than working out the math myself, and no stress over bringing enough cash. And if my wallet is stolen, I’m a call / email away from being worry free.

    Yes, I’m lazy.

  2. ElizabethD says:

    My own addition to the list:

    Unsubscribe yourself from ALL e-mail notifications of online sales, coupons, specials, new products. It has taken me a week or so to do this methodically as soon as a new e-mail comes in from one of my favorite venders, but I just grit my teeth, unsubscribe, and find that I don’t miss those promos at all. Out of sight, out of mind: When I’m not lured to think I “need” something, I generally won’t think to seek purchases out.

  3. ahwannabe says:

    Tip #10:

  4. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    What happened to all the comments on this post that were here this morning?

  5. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:


  6. kentuckienne says:

    I use a variation of the rule I use for CDs: do I like at least three songs on a given disc? If so, I can buy it. And this can easily be app

  7. kentuckienne says:

    I use a variation of the rule I use for CDs: do I know and like at least three songs on a given disc? If so, it’s a legitimate purchase. And this can easily be applied to other things in my life — can I think of at least three items already in my closet that will match this shirt/pair of shoes/handbag? Will I have at least three occasions to wear this fancy dress? Will I want to read this book at least three times? When I do buy something, I’m fairly confident it’s something I can use and appreciate, rather than an impulse purchase that’ll just gather dust.

  8. ahwannabe says:

    Tip #10: Lose your job, spend the next five years living hand to mouth, scraping up just enough for food and rent. You will never look at shopping the same way again.

  9. I like “know what you have.” I finally got my home office “supply closet” organized and I haven’t had to buy office supplies in MONTHS because, hey, now I can find all the crap I already own enough of to last six to ten years!

    I used to shop “recreationally” a lot (not compulsively or above my budget, but definitely buying useless crap for fun because I was bored), and one thing that helped me kick that habit was catalogs. I love looking through catalogs and being like, “ooooooh, pretty” but it always seems like way too much work to actually buy anything. After a while it occurred to me I wasn’t shopping for fun anymore and I realized I get the window-shopping joy from the catalogs, but without the ease of impulse purchase. I doubt it’s a universally useful tip, but it definitely helped trick my personal brain into not buying things.

  10. not_seth_brundle says:

    A while ago I was trying on clothes during a sale. As always, I kept the stuff I wanted separate from the stuff I didn’t in the fitting room. But when I left I took the “no” pile and left the “yes” pile in the fitting room. By the time I realized it at the register, all the clothes had been put back in the store. So I was left trying to remember what items were in my “yes” pile so that I could find them again and buy them.

    I realized that this is a great way to buy only stuff that you really like. I only remembered 3-4 items from my large “yes” pile, but because those items stood out in my mind I figured I really wanted them. Anything I couldn’t think of I probably didn’t want to begin with.

    So, try stuff on, then leave it at the store. A couple hours or days later, go back for the things that really left an impression.

  11. Trackback says:

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  12. SadSam says:

    I love the hold advice – especially easy for on-line shoppint. I currently have all sorts of stuff sitting in my Amazon.com cart that I think I want/need. I leave the stuff there for months, watch the prices go up and down, and if I have not picked up the book from the library or decided I really don’t need that CD from ABC artist I finally buy it.

  13. groupie says:

    @not_seth_brundle: Great idea!

  14. spinachdip says:

    My daughter is my biggest deterrent against impulse buys.

    I used to be a pretty irresponsible spender, but now, every I think of every non-essential purchase as potentially taking money from the baby’s needs, if god forbid, I get hurt or lose my job and health insurance, etc. Plus, I don’t have the time for idle shopping or Amazon.com browsing any more.

    Not that I recommend impregnating the next woman you see, but it helps to have a concrete objective for where your money should go, and something to occupy your time so you’re not out shopping in the first place.

  15. infopubs says:

    I find it helps to carry the item around the store for at least 15 minutes. That usually fills my need to “own” the object. If it is possible to wear it in the store (purses, hats, etc.) then I do that. Sometimes the newness wears off and I can leave it behind with a feeling of satisfaction. (I’m the kind of dork who can happily wear a pair of sunglasses with the tag dangling from the nose bridge inside a store for 15 minutes.)

    Obviously this won’t work with large items like furniture or major appliances, but I don’t impulse-buy those.

  16. Mary says:

    The thing I spend the most money on, even when I was poor and in debt up to my ears, was movies and books.

    I worked at a bookstore, so I got a discount on books and just would buy stuff because it was on sale. But eventually I moved on to working full time at the bookstore, got a library card, and found out about Paperbackswap.com.

    So my new rule: I don’t buy a book or a movie until I’ve read/seen it at least once. Most of the time I put it aside and think “Well, that was good, what’s next?” If I went “Wow, I loved that, that was so good!” then I start thinking about buying it.

    On sale. Or used. Or with a coupon. Never full price.