Dealing with Shopping Addiction and Emotional Spending

It’s undeniable that making a purchase can give us a momentary rush of happiness. However, for some, this can spiral into a shopping addiction or emotional spending, where the quest for short-lived joy leads to financial turmoil. Here’s a guide to understanding and dealing with these issues.

Shopping addiction and emotional spending are often linked. Shopping addiction, or compulsive buying disorder, involves an excessive preoccupation with shopping and an irresistible urge to buy items, irrespective of need. Emotional spending, on the other hand, occurs when individuals spend money to manage their emotions – be it stress, sadness, or even excitement.

Both behaviors can lead to debt, strained relationships, and neglected responsibilities.

Identifying Triggers

The first step in addressing the problem is recognizing and understanding what triggers the shopping behavior. Triggers may vary from person to person, so it’s important to know what exactly is causing your shopping urges. Here are a few common triggers and ways to reflect upon them:

1. Stress:
For some, shopping may serve as a stress reliever. Think back to times when you have shopped excessively and ask yourself if it followed a particularly stressful situation. Were you looking for a way to feel better, even if momentarily?

Ways to Reflect:

  • Keep a journal and note down when you feel stressed.
  • Write about alternative ways to deal with stress.

2. Loneliness:
Shopping can also be a way to fill a void due to loneliness. The social aspect of shopping, even if it is online, can make one feel connected.

Ways to Reflect:

  • Analyze if your shopping patterns coincide with feelings of loneliness.
  • Consider connecting with a friend or family member instead of shopping.

3. Sales and Discounts:
The allure of a good deal can sometimes be a trigger. This is particularly true for those who derive a sense of achievement from securing a bargain.

Ways to Reflect:

  • Ask yourself if you would have bought the item if it wasn’t on sale.
  • Consider unsubscribing from marketing emails that tempt you with sales.

4. Seeking Identity or Social Status:
Sometimes, shopping is a way for individuals to construct or maintain a certain identity or social status. Designer brands and expensive items can be particularly enticing in this scenario.

Ways to Reflect:

  • Reflect on whether your shopping is an attempt to fit into a certain image or social circle.
  • Think about other ways you can establish your identity that doesn’t involve spending money.

5. Boredom:
Plain and simple boredom can sometimes be the culprit. With online shopping just a click away, it’s easy to browse stores when you have nothing else to do.

Ways to Reflect:

  • Make a list of activities that you can do when you’re bored.
  • Establish a rule for yourself to engage in a different activity before allowing yourself to browse online.

Reflecting on these triggers can be done through self-reflection, journaling, or discussing your habits with someone you trust. Once you understand your triggers, you are in a much stronger position to tackle your shopping addiction or emotional spending head-on.

Setting Boundaries

1. Budgeting: Create a budget and stick to it. Allocate a reasonable amount for discretionary spending, but make sure it’s within your means.

2. Cash, Not Cards: Using cash can make the act of spending more tangible, as you physically see the money leaving your hands. This can sometimes reduce impulsive spending.

3. Cool Down Period: Implement a 48-hour rule, where you wait for 48 hours before making a purchase. Often, the urge to buy something will pass.

Seeking Support

1. Talk to Someone: Sometimes just talking about the problem can be incredibly helpful. Share your struggles with a friend or family member.

2. Professional Help: If shopping addiction is severely impacting your life, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy and counseling can be very effective.

3. Join Support Groups: Knowing that you are not alone in your struggles can be very empowering. Look for local or online support groups.

Replace Shopping with Healthier Alternatives

Find alternative activities that also help to release endorphins and improve mood. Some suggestions include:

  • Exercise: Physical activity is known for releasing endorphins, which improve mood and reduce stress.
  • Creative Outlets: Engage in hobbies such as painting, writing, or playing music.
  • Socializing: Sometimes, emotional spending stems from loneliness. Make plans with friends or family.

As you make progress, it’s important to recognize and celebrate the small wins. Did you stick to your budget this month? Reward yourself with something small (and budgeted), or even better, a non-monetary treat like a walk in the park or a day for self-care.

Overcoming shopping addiction and emotional spending is not easy, and relapses can occur. However, with determination, support, and the right strategies, it’s possible to break the chains and develop a healthier relationship with money and shopping. Remember that the path to overcoming these issues is often not a straight line, and that’s okay. Keep pushing forward.


  • Lily Kensington

    Lily Kensington is a financial psychologist, a proud member of the ANZA Psychological Society, and a passionate advocate for financial wellness. A former high school English teacher and psychology graduate, Lily brings a unique perspective to her writing that blends the intricacies of psychology with the world of finance.Over the past decade, Lily has dedicated her life to helping individuals and couples navigate their emotional relationship with money. Her empathetic and intuitive approach, honed through her counselling practice, breaks down complex financial concepts into relatable and practical advice. Lily's writing often reflects her personal journey as a single mother, providing valuable insights and support for fellow single parents navigating the world of personal finance.In addition to her numerous contributions to wellness and personal development blogs, Lily is the author of the book "The Heart of Money: A Psychological Guide to Financial Wellness."In front of the camera or behind the pen, Lily's mission remains the same: to help others achieve financial peace by understanding the psychology of money.

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