Shopping addiction is one of the trickiest habits to break, particularly for parents. Kids need many things, and it’s not like we can stop buying. We’re constantly confronted by temptation. If you’re a spendaholic, here’s my recovery plan to break the overspending habit.
* Use the Socratic Method. Socrates said, “Know thyself.” That’s crucial for learning money management. Explore your spending habits. We’re each different–things I overspend on won’t be the same as what you splurge on. Don’t make excuses–just be mindful of your own patterns and use that knowledge to curb spending.
* Identify personal money traps. In dieting, one strategy is to be mindful of temptation sources. That works for shopaholics, too. Maybe you overspend on clothing, toys, holidays, vehicles or entertainment. You can’t avoid those completely but knowing your triggers helps.
* Limit shopping. Cut back on the number and length of shopping trips. Shop only in a few departments per visit.
* Limit funding sources. When you go shopping, take only one form of payment with you. Leave checkbook or (preferably) credit card at home. Choose the payment form that earns the most and costs the least to use.
* Arm yourself against impulse buying. Consider each purchase carefully. If you’re feeling rushed, step back. If possible, don’t buy until you’ve shopped around. At checkout, ask yourself if you really need each item. Don’t be afraid to have an item removed.
* Shop with children. No, I haven’t lost my mind. Kids are terrible shoppers and therefore make the best interventions for shopaholic parents. They get fussy and make it difficult to concentrate. To placate kids, parents will curtail shopping. And breaking the cycle is just what a spendthrift needs.
* Treat credit like a stray dog. Be wary. Credit spending can go either way: it can help you or hurt you. You may be able to take advantage of low-interest repayment options and reward programs. But if you’re financing things you don’t need, buying too much (even of necessities) or spending compulsively, avoid credit like a rabid dog. Buy-now-pay-later is a powerful aphrodisiac for shopaholics.
* Be conservative (even paranoid) about finances. When we bought our home, the bank offered to lend us 60 percent above what we borrowed, based on income. Many people encouraged us to borrow at the top end. But income fluctuates: jobs can be lost; health problems crop up. We borrowed less on the chance that something unforeseen might impact what we could afford.
As with any recovery program, remember to reward yourself in healthy ways. And always take it one day at a time!