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Put Down the Credit Card: How to Stop Compulsive Spending

Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Cutting up Creditcard

Do your credit cards constantly call your name? Do you always leave the store with five extra items you don't really need? Do you wonder, as you buy that seventh new cashmere sweater, if perhaps you have a shopping problem?

If you suspect you have a compulsive spending habit, you don't have to let it take over your finances. Even if you've already built up sizeable debt, you can still break your bad habits and begin to build a new life with some simple changes.

Remember that even if you declare bankruptcy, the debt is just a symptom of your problem. Follow these tips to get out of your shopaholic spending patterns and develop responsible financial habits for your future.

Identify Your Condition

Before you can begin treating your shopping problem, you need to recognize you have one. Ask yourself some questions to get to know how shopping makes you feel, and determine whether or not you have a true problem.

Do You Shop When You're Unhappy?

When you feel anxious, worried, depressed, or angry do you shop to get a sense of release?

Do You Get a Rush of Joy After a New Purchase?

Does buying new things, whether they're clothes, grocery items, or furniture, give you a rush of temporary happiness and euphoria?

Do You Feel Guilty After Shopping?

Despite those initial joyful feelings, do you feel guilty and anxious after a shopping splurge?

Do You Hide Purchases from Family and Friends?

When the credit card bill comes, do you grab it before your spouse can see it? When your best friend asks if you bought another new handbag, do you change the subject and deflect the question?

Do You Own Many Things You Haven't Even Opened?

Is your closet full of clothes with the tags still on? Does your house have multiple appliances or decorations still in their boxes?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have a shopping problem. However, before you resign yourself to a life of pretty clothes and poverty, try taking some simple steps to overcome your bad habits.

Change Your Habits

To shed your shopping problem, you have to change your habits. This will take time and effort. Think of it as a continual process and focus on just one day at a time.

Identify Your Triggers

What makes you shop? Take some time and think about what makes you feel that urge to run to the store. Your triggers can be anything from a bad day to a negative interaction with a friend. Maybe you want to pull out the credit cards every time you feel unproductive at work or get some feedback you don't like.

Figure out what triggers that itch so you can watch out for it in the future.

Identify Bad Environments

Once you know your triggers, figure out where you encounter them. Write down your daily routines and identify when you meet a trigger. Note where you are, what time it is, what you're doing, and who you're with. Write down how you feel and what you want to do.

Once you know the places you tend to encounter your triggers, you can work on changing these environments. For example, if you find you want to go on a spending spree after every visit with a certain sibling, parent or friend, you can work on limiting those interactions until you have more control over your spending habits.

Change Your Bad Habits

You can't always change the environments that make you want to shop. If work makes you want to whip out your wallet, you can't just not go. However, you can gradually change your reaction to triggers within these environments.

When you're in a bad environment, recognize when you feel the urge to shop and replace it with a healthy alternative. Instead of dropping by the mall, take a walk, go for a run, eat a healthy snack, or talk to a friend. Fill the shopping void with positive experiences instead.

Avoid Online Shopping

Once you've started to change your habits, avoid tempting places that could pull you back in. Malls and stores may seem obvious, but don't forget about shopping websites. As smartphones, tablets, and computers have become more present in our lives, it's easy to make purchases while you're walking down the street.

Ban yourself from online shopping. Don't store credit card numbers in online accounts and don't install shopping apps on your phone. Online shopping doesn't feel the same as making a purchase in a store, so it's easier to forget you're spending money you need to keep.

Get Help

Look for support groups and community resources that deal with your condition in your area, consult a professional or enlist the help of friends and family while you work to overcome your shopping problem. Designate a buddy you can call when you think you might slip into old habits and have them talk you down.

Compulsive spending might seem like an impossible obstacle. However, you can reclaim your finances and your life with just a few small steps and a focus on taking it one day at a time.

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