I am not an oniomaniac, but I know a few, and I know several more people that might not be full fledged oniomaniacs, but still struggle with oniomania-like tendencies.
What is this strange new word I keep using? “Oniomania is the technical term for the compulsive desire to shop, more commonly referred to as compulsive shopping, shopping addiction, shopaholism, compulsive buying, or CBD” (Wikipedia).
Ooohhh, shop-a-holics! We all know a shop-a-holic and I’m going to guess that most of us have our days when we struggle with compulsive shopping. I mean really, who doesn’t have an addiction to the Target Dollar Spot?
It can be really hard to keep a budget tight when there are so many really awesome, super important, handy things to buy! And look at these adorable little clothes for my kids, no one can fault me for buying my child clothes! Oohh, this would look beautiful decorating my living room walls…And don’t even get me started on how easy it is to just click, click, click online to fill the never actually full virtual shopping cart.
For these days, or seasons, when we all struggle with shopaholism, I thought I’d put together a little list of handy ways to combat our addictive shopping struggles.
1. Find a new hobby
This can be hard because many hobbies can lead to compulsive shopping (I need these adorable new running shorts…I can’t possibly crochet this adorable baby hat with any of the yarn in my current stash…or books, I need more books to read!). However, for many people, shopping itself becomes the hobby, and becomes a very expensive hobby. You can head out to your local library and borrow books. You don’t need the latest gear to workout, your closet is probably sufficiently stocked, even if it’s last year’s styles.
I think many shopaholics run into problems because they are often in the stores. But by finding other ways to fill your time and limiting your shopping trips to only when absolutely necessary (groceries twice a month for instance), you can limit the temptation to spend, spend, spend. And this goes for online shopping to. “Surfing the internet” can be dangerous if you compulsively add neat things to your shopping carts, so just don’t do it. Block websites if you have to, head outside and take a walk, plant some flowers, bake some cookies, or take your kids to the park.
2. Lower your stress levels
For some people, shopping serves as a way to wind down and de-stress during difficult times. This can be dangerous because compulsive
shopping can destroy a budget and lead to more stress, it becomes a never ending cycle. If you find yourself wandering the aisles to calm your nerves, it’s time to find a new solution. Head to an exercise class and sweat it out, grab a journal and write out all of your thoughts and worries, or close yourself in a quiet place and pray.
3. Plan your shopping trips ahead of time
Everyone has to shop sometimes, you will actually need new clothes once in a while and you will need to buy groceries on a regular basis. If you know that you are prone to overspending at the store, or if you know your current mood is one that will wander the aisles filling your cart, then take some extra time to specifically plan your trip. Make a detailed list that only includes the essential items that you need and stick to the list. If you know that you are more likely to overspend in one store over another, then shop at the store that doesn’t tempt you as much. Or better yet, send your husband, teenager, or good friend with a list if you really need to avoid temptation altogether.
4. Shop only discount stores, garage sales, and consignments stores
Shopping and buying nice things isn’t a terrible thing all the time. And it does feel rewarding to have buy something new on occasion when the budget allows. To help keep the budget manageable, try to do most of your shopping at places where you know that you can get a deal. Learn to challenge yourself to find the lowest prices and the best quality. Make saving money while spending money a game. If you have to shop, you might as well shop wisely.
5. Search for deals, coupons, and sales
This is much like the point above. If you are going to allow yourself to shop, then make sure that you are spending your money wisely. When shopping online, always check a site like RetailMeNot to look for a promo code before you check out. You should also sign up for Ebates so you can get money back when you buy online. Even when shopping in a store, do a quick Google search or scan through the coupons and ads in your Sunday paper to figure out which stores are currently holding good sales on the items you need. Sure, you could browse the stores themselves looking for a good deal, but the less time you spend in the store, the less likely you are to be tempted to overspend.
6. Budget well
If you know that you are a compulsive spender, then a budget is vitally important. Give yourself permission to spend! It’s just like with weight loss, deprivation diets rarely work. Life works better in moderation. Plan ahead and grant yourself a specific amount of money each month and then pull it out of the bank in cash. When the cash is gone, your shopping is done.
7. Learn to shop your own house
You probably don’t need many of the things you feel that you can’t live without. Do you find yourself constantly making trips to the grocery store for that one missing ingredient? There is probably something else in your pantry or fridge that you could use as a substitute. And if you really spend some time sorting through your closet, you’ll probably find new and creative ways to use the clothes you already have and you might find a few pieces that you’ve completely forgotten about. Put yourself on a spending freeze for a week or a month and see what you can find within your own house to meet the “needs” that you think you have.
8. Leave your wallet at home
You can’t spend money if you don’t have any to spend, and that includes the plastic money. Tuck your ID in your car or your back pocket and go about your day without your wallet. No coffee stop at the gas station on the way in to work, no quick runs to the store on your lunch hour, no grocery store dash on the commute home. Make it impossible to shop and you won’t do it.
9. Buy generic
We’ve talked a lot about the grocery stores, but when I’m talking buy generic, I don’t just mean on your food. Do you really need to buy that designer bag or could you settle for a cute department store bag that works just as well? I know those jeans are just adorable, but there are hundreds of clothing lines that make jeans, I bet you can find and adorable cut in a more affordable brand too.
10. Shop off season/after holidays
Once you get through your first kid (or at least the first year of parenting), it’s pretty easy to predict children’s clothing sizes and seasons so you can buy in advance. We know that our kids (and ourselves) will need clothes each year, so plan ahead and shop the clearance racks toward the end of each season. Now would be a great time to start shopping for next summer because stores are putting out the fall and back to school clothes and clearance-ing the summer outfits. You can also extend this to holidays, buying all of your holiday decorations and supplies the days after the holiday when everything is marked to 75% off.
11. Follow the 30 day rule
When you find yourself “needing” to buy something, give yourself 30 days before you do anything. This can be anything from a new pair of shoes, to a new purse, to a new car. Write down what you want to buy on a post-it note and if you know the price, include that. Hang your note on your fridge or somewhere visible and ponder the decision for an entire month. If at the end of the month you still really want to buy the item, then go ahead and buy it. But if your interest has waned and it’s no longer something that you feel you must have, then pat yourself on the back for controlling your impulsive shopping.
12. Delete your credit card numbers from online stores
As I said before it is so easy to just click away online and be rewarded with big, lovely boxes on your doorstep in a couple of days. Online shopping is extremely dangerous for impulsive shoppers. If you struggle with buying more online than you bargain for, make life more difficult for yourself and delete your stored credit card numbers from every shopping site you visit. By not allowing these sites to keep your number, you physically have to dig out your credit card and type in the number with each and every purchase giving your brain just a little more time to catch up to your impulsive cart additions.
13. Repair instead of replace
You don’t actually need to buy a new washing machine just because your current one broke. You might have an extra couple pairs of pants to add to your rotation if you would just break out the needle and thread and sew on a button. And you don’t necessarily need to replace your iPhone with a cracked screen when you can buy a replacement screen for $30. Stop spending money on replacing everything and brainstorm ways to keep using what you have, or maybe going without it altogether.
14. Host a fashion swap with your friends
Everyone gets tired of their clothes and accessories. Your kids will always grow out of at least some of their clothes before they ruin them. Gather a group of ladies together, bring your bags and boxes of no longer valuable to your family stuff and let the swapping begin. As they always say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
15. Always use your rewards cards
Sign up for email coupons, text alerts, and rewards cards. You have to be careful that these daily reminders don’t tempt you to shop, but go in with the understanding that you will need to buy things once in a while. When you do, make sure that you use all available options to keep the price down.
Spending money is an unavoidable fact of life. Someday their might be completely self-sufficient communes to escape to where you’ll never have to worry about buying things again (just bartering and trading maybe), but for now, we have to come up with ways to limit the temptations to spend uncontrollably on all the shiny new things we see in the stores. Balancing the necessity of shopping with money savings can be tough, but turn your spending habits into a savings challenge to find new and creative ways to limit yourself and still meet your family’s needs.