A bad day leads to a few hours browsing through online sales after work. Purchasing a gift for a friend turns from stopping at one shop to perusing through four. Seeing a coworker sporting something new turns into an overwhelming desire to whip out your credit card. If this sounds familiar, you might have a spending addiction.
According to Psychology Today, spending addiction (otherwise known as Oniomania) is characterized by the impulsive and often uncontrollable need to buy things. It can lead to immense feelings of guilt or shame when spending gets out of control or turns into something that must be hidden from friends and family.
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Research from the University of Bergen found women to be more prone to spending addiction, as well as those considered to be more extroverted or anxious. (If you’re wondering whether your shopping behavior is problematic, take a look at the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale.)
If you’re married or in a relationship, a spending addiction can also put a huge strain on the relationship. According to a survey by Money Magazine, 70% of couples fight about money and 46% of those fights are about “frivolous” purchases!
Freezing credit cards and sticking to cash might provide temporary financial relief, but creating lasting change requires deeper digging. Here are six proactive ways to kick a spending addiction to the curb.
Determine Your “Why”
Addiction of any kind is a way of coping with something bigger. Maybe spending helps temporarily raise your confidence. By understanding the payoff, you receive from the behavior (i.e., confidence), you can more easily determine the “why” (i.e., low self-esteem). This can help bring awareness to the bigger issues.
Learn Your Triggers
Triggers come in many different forms. You could have an impulse to spend when you’re in a certain setting or with specific people. It also could be triggered by discord in your relationship or stress at work. Think back to when you tend to spend and you’ll begin to spot some patterns. Try to set up your environment to reduce those triggers.
As Melissa Chu writes in How to Set Up Your Environment to Better Achieve Your Goals, “our environment dictates what we choose to do, as opposed to what we want to do. If you have choices around you that are distracting or lead to undesirable outcomes, then it becomes harder to make the right choices.”
Determine Your Priorities
Focusing all your energy on what you shouldn’t be spending money on is like creating a diet centered around all the things you shouldn’t be eating. Willpower can only last for so long. Instead, flip it around and decide what priorities should be at the center of your spending plan. This will be your new guiding light.
Replace Bad Habits with Better Ones
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, says replacing unhealthy routines with healthy ones can help quiet overwhelming urges. This might mean going for a walk when the urge to do some online shopping strikes or starting a new weekend hobby that curbs the desire to go to the mall.
Redefine What It Means to Treat Yourself
Treating yourself after a stressful day isn’t inherently bad. However, rest and reprieve shouldn’t negatively affect your financial life or create shame and guilt. If a spending addiction was created in part by the idea that you “deserve to treat yourself,” it’s time to rethink how you can do this. Maybe it’s calling a friend, watching your favorite movie or just giving yourself permission to do nothing for a night.
Check In Often
Bad habits happen on autopilot. That’s why it’s so important to remain alert and aware of your feelings and how they are affecting your behavior. This creates a system of checks and balances that can curb a spending addiction before it balloons out of control.
Are you ready to transform your spending addiction and create a more mindful approach to life? Sign up for the Simple Living Challenge to improve the balance and freedom in your finances and beyond.