So, it is December, which means we have already had two shopping events: Black Friday and Cyber Monday/week. Yay, right? So, now we are approaching many holidays. On this blog, it isn’t just Christmas that exists in December. Please remember and be respectful of others who may not celebrate the same Holiday as you do. One thing that holidays bring, regardless, is shopping.
This time of the year may sound great. You can get those you love something, or yourself. It can also be harmful. People buy things not just because it pleases other people but because it pleases themselves. Shopping helps fill a deep hole within us, making it hard to stop. It is that temporary release of dopamine, that bit of adrenaline we get from buying something. It is exhilarating and makes us go until there is nothing left to buy, a.k.a. no money. Or until guilt or shame set in. Then you spiral, and you spiral, and you start it all again. If shopping can make you happy, can’t shopping because of shopping guilt make you happy? Is the cycle endless? It can seem that way.
Shopping can be an addiction like any other impulse (cutting, drinking, smoking, drugs…) but can be significantly worse around the holidays. The holidays offer deals on all your favorite shopping items. How do you know it is an impulse? Do you need that $500 T.V. you just bought on a whim, knowing you already have three T.V.s at home and nowhere to put this new one? Oh, the latest box set of whatever that’s in your cart or the dog food when you don’t have a dog. Yeah, that’s an impulse. I am not talking about the cutesy “my wife brought home another puppy” you see on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. (However, this is also an impulse buy). I am talking about you just got that T.V. and dog food home, and your significant other walks up as the smile drops into a frown, and you can practically feel the steam coming from their ears and nose.
“Sandra, we don’t even have a dog! Just because you bring dog food doesn’t mean we can get a dog. We can barely put food on the table for the two of us. And what the hell are we going to do with another T.V.? We still have to pay rent! What were you thinking?”
Impulses of any kind need to be remedied and treated. This blog will cover ways to do it around the holidays. I am doing the holidays, when the big deals come out, all the savings, the coupons, the must-haves. Yeah. We need to put those down and go back home. No, don’t go to the clearance section. Home. Go home.
Going home isn’t as easy as you thought, so now what? That clearance sign is still looming over you. Since we try to develop coping mechanisms on this blog, let me tell you some that may help you. And not on the list, but one you should carve into and onto your head is: MAKE SURE BILLS ARE PAID, FOOD IS ON THE TABLE, AND A ROOF IS OVER YOUR (AND DEPENDANTS-KIDS) HEADS!!!
Ten commandments for Impulse Buying:
1. Go for a walk/run
- Exercise can get your mind off stressful things that can cause you to go shopping immediately. If you are walking/running a mile, chances are you are not thinking about how much you really need those Mary Janes or Doc Martin, but how hard it is to breathe when your chest feels like it is on fire and you need water.
2. Watch a movie with a friend
- If you feel the urge to shop, it is time to send for a friend. Stay in and watch a movie on the T.V. together. It can distract you when you are having fun doing something else. Even have a sleepover, a spa night, or karaoke. Go to a college game (football, basketball, soccer, wrestling, and so on). The possibilities are endless, and you can do them as adults too.
3. Find other hobbies
- Find other things you love or need to do and prioritize them over shopping.
- Take a relaxing bath.
- Listen to music
- Read a book or two
- Do house chores
- Watch a show or movie
- Go swimming
- Go dancing
- Write a list: anytime you need something, write it down and return to it later. Remove any unnecessary items on your list when you come back.
4. Make a budget/Stick to the goal
- Only bring cash with you in the amount of your set budget.
- If you have a list of four pizzas, Coke, shampoo, and conditioner, then that is what you get. Nothing else. Stick to the list. It comes out of that budget if you have $45 to spend and need a meal for tonight. That $45 includes taxes, by the way.
5. See a deal? Wait.
- If you see something you want or something on sale, wait 3-6 days before going back and buying this item. This can take away from that rush and see if you wish to that item. Is it just the high of the deal, or is it something within you can say you are happy you purchased? That you have the money to buy it?
6. Don’t bring your emotions with you
- If you are shopping, you want to do it from a positive space, not a negative one. If you go in without an emotional trigger, this is less of a chance you will feel the impulse to buy other things. Don’t shop when you are depressed, angry, morning, manic, or in any other uncontrolled state. Remember to stick to the list.
7. Stick to the list!
- You know the list we keep talking about? STICK TO IT. Make a small list and bring a cash amount only big enough to cover the list. It should only have items you need to get. And you should only think about what is down Aisle 5 if it’s on your list.
- Bring a friend (not a shopping buddy) who can remind you until you get into the habit that those White Fudge Oreos that come around once a year are unnecessary, no matter how much you (or I) argue they are.
8. Allow yourself room to spend
- Now, I am not completely evil. Do you remember the list of that thing you have been wanting, and you determined it was worth the purchase? Then you can get that item. It can be a reward. You get something small if you haven’t impulse-shopped in a week. In a month, something big. But this isn’t an excuse to go crazy. There is still a budget. You still have to stick to it. Those other commandments don’t disappear because you have been good for a week.
9. Seek professional help
- Few can quit cold turkey. So, taking you off of shopping immediately would have the opposite effect. Ah, yes. The consistent coping mechanism I list. If you feel it is too much, you are spiraling or becoming an issue or need to talk. GET HELP. This isn’t a joke. It may be laughable, and you may say, “Therapy is stupid; it won’t help. I am just shopping. II don’t see what the big deal is.” Once again, it doesn’t matter why you go and what others think. It matters what you do. If you have to explain to someone why it isn’t an addiction or isn’t affecting your life, then the chances are it is probably is. You are the only one who can seek mental help.
- If you have to convince yourself or others around you of your shopping habits, this can be a flag that you need professional help. This isn’t bad or cowardly to ask for help. It is how we heal and grow. We have to overcome our additions and shortcomings, and sometimes the only way we can do that is by going through the obstacles in our lives that prevent us from breaking that cycle and barrier.
10. Stay off social media
- Now, this one may be the one that pisses many off. Social media directs ads based on your previous purchases or browser history. They tailor the ads to you and what you would want. With these ads, there is always something on sale. A must-have item, a thing you didn’t know you needed, an item “just for you.”
- Sure, social media is a way to connect with others worldwide, but if you are not just texting and surfing the web, then chances are you have already found yourself in trouble. That is the thing you need to avoid. Don’t get caught up in a spiderweb of ads.
So, you have been doing great for a couple of months, and without thinking about it, you grab the ultimate collector’s edition of that favorite artist you have been listening to on repeat. Relapses happen but are not an excuse for continued behavior. As I stated earlier, it isn’t easy, and quitting cold turkey rarely works or can itself set a relapse or binge. You can slip up. I would be lying to you if I said that this list would cure you and you won’t have to worry about your impulse shopping again. If you relapse, own up to it and do better. There is perhaps no saying more dangerous than, “since I am here, I might as well get this” with a shopping addict. If you don’t want to change, that is up to you, but you cannot blame someone else for your addiction. You must take responsibility for your actions. Yes, shopping can be an addiction. Hence the impulse to buy something you don’t need or even want. It was just on sale. It is up to you to stop this, with help or without. And as the Holidays edge near, this can be just another excuse for your shopping addiction. If you feel the urge to splurge, let’s go through those commandments again.
But come on. What is so bad about shopping? You could go bankrupt, foreclosure, eviction, 2nd a mortgage, be homeless, starvation, jobless, debt, and so much more. It is never serious until it is. And yes, shopping can get this bad. No matter what, make sure you pay your bills first. It doesn’t matter if the latest gadget comes out. A roof over your head and food on the table are much more important. Gambling your money away could make you end up homeless. Explore the reason for your shopping impulse. Do you need it, or do you want it? Why? Will you use it? Or is it just for the adrenaline rush? Are you an emotional buyer? Are you a celebration splurger? Figure out your trigger(s) to help treat your impulse.
Now I am not telling you, you can never shop. Stay away from the temptation and triggers. This way, when you shop, you are doing so responsibly. There will be frustrating times when you really want something, but you can’t because you have a budget, and believe me, it is a living hell. Find a support group with others. Finding a place to fit in is easy when others go through the same thing. All of this isn’t easy, and having someone who knows what you are going through can help.
Finally, look at apps on your phone or computer for mindfulness. This disconnection from technology can bring you into the here and now. There are many free ones out there, so keep that in mind. Mayo Clinic has a fantastic information page on mindfulness and its exercises. Positive Psychology has a substantial list of mindfulness exercises, from DBT to mindfulness for addiction, anger, depression, and anxiety.
You can also sit in your room by yourself. Play soft music in the background, breathe in for four, and hold, breathe out for seven. Feel something smooth like a stone. Name something in your room that plays on the five senses. Example:
“I can feel the wooden seat beneath my legs, hear the cartoons my kids are watching, see the candy cane tablecloth, smell the sausage and egg biscuit my son had for breakfast, and taste the soda I just sipped.”
Suicide Hotline: 988
Positive Psychology: https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-exercises-techniques-activities/#mindfulness-interventions-techniques-worksheets