It’s no secret that our country has a spending problem: both our government and citizens.
“Compulsive shopping is becoming a global problem,” says Terrence Daryl Shulman, founder and director of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending & Hoarding. “There are statistics that estimate that anywhere between 6-10% of Americans have a chronic shopping problem.”
While it’s hard to guide lawmakers on Capitol Hill on how to curb their spending, there are some triggers that lead consumers to overspend. Whether it’s out of boredom or to relieve some stress, over spending can be stopped. Here’s how:
Trigger 1: You’re Bored
It’s easier than ever to hop online when we are bored—from no matter where we are—and find distractions. For some that means checking emails, perusing social media, getting news updates, and watching videos. Others shop.
According to Andrea Bonior, author of The Friendship Fix, boredom or feeling stagnant is a common trigger for compulsive shoppers.
“The idea is, ‘if I buy this, I’ll get some excitement’ or ‘maybe a whole new wardrobe will improve the quality of my life,’” says Bonior. While people get an initial high from buying a new pair of shoes, Bonior warns the feeling doesn’t last long. To combat the need to shop when bored, experts say people need to identify that is a trigger and be ready to fill their downtime with other activities.
Trigger 2: You Feel Like You Lack Control
For many people, feeling out of control can lead to anxiety and to help regain control they turn to spending, according to Kit Yarrow, author of the upcoming book Decoding the New Consumer Mind.
“Stress is part of all change and so even positive things like having a baby or getting married can cause people to want to shop more to feel like the uncertain future is more under control, “she says. “This also happens when people are working out a tough problem--they sometimes get an absent-minded sense of relief from shopping.”
She suggests people try other activities like taking a walk, chatting with a friend or organizing a closet to regain some control.
“The key is to feel proactive and in control. I especially like organizing and sorting because that same empowering brain action of making choices is involved.”
Trigger 3: You’re From a Family of Shoppers
For many compulsive shoppers, the need to purchase items is rooted in their family history, claims Shulman.
Family issues like unresolved losses or trauma or growing up in a family where over shopping was normal or where “deprivation of material or emotional nurturing was present” can lead to overspending tendencies, he says.
For compulsive shoppers who have issues with their upbringing, it may be a good idea to avoid stores, online shopping and late-night infomercial watching at all costs, at least in the early stages of treating this condition, he says.
“We also need a good support system of friends, family members and recovery buddies to talk to and stay accountable to. We also need healthier activities to fill the void that will be left from stopping shopping.”
Trigger 4: Insecurity
The idea of having to “keep up with the Joneses” resonates with too many people in this country and drains our budgets.
According to Bonior, the insecurity can materialize in different ways. For some, it’s all about having what their friends have while others fear missing out on a deal. “Whatever the reason they are trying to fill that deficit,” says Bonior.
One way to prevent that trigger from turning into a binge shopping spree is to set spending limits. Only having cash on hand can prevent overspending along with freezing credit cards to fight the urge to use them.
“Sometimes the first step is just being able to look at the bills and see the reality of the situation,” says Bonior. “It’s very hard to break the cycle unless you have a reality check.”