Who doesn’t love good sale? But when bargain hunting, coupon clipping, or shopping as a hobby becomes the objective, you and your budget are likely headed for big trouble. Have you heard yourself say, “But it was such a good deal!”? Hmm.
If you’re spending money on credit that you’re not paying off in full when the bill comes in, it’s not a deal. If you’re buying something you don’t need, it’s not a deal. If it takes you three weeks, three months, or never to put or use what you bought, it’s not a deal.
Folks just can’t resist a bargain. Shopping is such a part of our lives that our language now includes a word for people who shop compulsively: shopaholic. The Buying Bug has become a social disease. So how do you know if you’ve been bitten? Here are six signs you’re a shopaholic:
1. Spending Makes You Feel Rich
You like showing off that you’ve got money to spend. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, some people become chronic spenders out of a fear of poverty. It can be a self-esteem thing too. If you have a trophy kitchen, but you aren’t cooking, take it as a sign.
2. You Have All The Toys
Your closet is jammed to the rafters with stuff. Chronic spending is often unconscious spending, so you may not even know you’re doing it. Take a look around. Do you seem to have a version of every popular trend? Count your stuff. How many of any one thing do you really need?
3. A $5,000 Credit Limit Means You Have $5,000 To Spend
Your credit limit is not actually money in your pocket. If your credit card balance runs close to your credit limit every month, consider yourself a chronic spender. And if you’re only paying the interest on the line, you’re asking for trouble.
4. Shopping Makes You Happy
I hate to burst your bubble, but shopping isn’t going to make up for a crappy childhood. Nor will it cure an unhappy career, a disintegrating relationship, or anything else that ails you emotionally. If you’re buying to feel better (or out of a sense of entitlement), you’re spending for the wrong reasons.
5. Your Favourite Phrase is “Oh, Why Not?”
All of us fall prey to impulse shopping. The problem for people who can’t curb their desire for immediate gratification is that they’re not prioritizing. They’ve lost (or never had) the ability to figure out if they can do without. Their laissez-faire attitude means they’re a centimeter away from destitution.
6. Your Theme Song is “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
You don’t like to think about money, so you don’t. You never bother to check your receipts. You don’t keep a running balance of what you’ve spend. You don’t have a spending journal. You just go along blissfully, running up new credit card balances.
Do any of these sound familiar?
If you think you might be out of control, try the following:
- Figure out your buying patterns. Take an inventory of what you own. If you have 30 pairs of jeans, only five of which you wear regularly, avoid the jeans rack.
- Quell the urge. Postpone buying what you think you want for 24 hours.
- Cut back. If you always buy two or three, buy only one.
- Simplify. Buy only the basic necessities such as food and transportation and keep track of every penny you spend.
- Quit cold turkey. Freeze your credit cards in a bucket of water and pay for everything in cold, hard cash. No cheating with a debit card!
My friend, Tash, has a list of the things she needs and wants. If she finds a bargain, and she looks at her list to see where it is. The list is kept in priority sequence, and if what she found is at the top, and she has the cash on hand, she buys. If not, she walks away. Tash is accomplishing a whole bunch of things with that list: she’s keeping herself on track looking only at the things she knows she needs or wants. Shes prioritizing. And she’s only spending money she has available.
In a culture that worships shopping, it’s only natural that the “bargain” be the Holy Grail. But if you find yourself compulsively shopping, it’s time to change religions.