Break the Urge to Shop

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It’s no mystery that many of us love to shop. Many times we feel like we crave shopping. We crave the feeling of owning something new, shiny and fresh. Everything seems to look better hanging on the rack or sitting in a display case at the store. We like the feeling of new clothes, a new style, new technology, toys, vehicles, kitchen gadgets or whatever.

There are many reasons why we shop for new things. We shop because we’re changing our style and we need new clothes, accessories, etc. We shop to cope with fear, hurt, self-loathing, anger, stress, and more. We shop to ignore responsibility. We shop to heal. We shop to make ourselves look better, richer, prettier or smarter. There are probably a million other reasons why people shop that hide the essential reason behind shopping: to fill a legitimate need or replace something that is now unusable in some way. If you’ve ever been a teenage boy or raised teenage boys, you can attest to how many pairs of shoes you buy every year as the shoe size rapidly increases. Shirts wear out, notebooks fill up, furniture and electronics break. Shopping is necessary to replace these items.

Shopping is not therapy. It won’t solve your problems. It can’t make your life better by itself. It won’t ease the pain or make responsibilities go away.

How do we break this urge to endlessly shop for the latest and greatest thing? There are a few simple things we can do to overcome a shopping habit.

  1. First, with any bad habit you want to break, you have to see and admit that you have a problem. Notice how often you go shopping, examine your thoughts and feelings when you feel the urge to go shopping. Do you really need to go? Is there something you need that will truly add value to your life or replace something that you regularly use? Notice your answers and justifications to these questions.
  2. Do something else. There are tons of free (or at least cheaper) things you can do besides shop that will help you with your struggles. Shopping, when used (or abused) as therapy, only creates more problems, more stress, more debt, more responsibilities. The only thing you gain when you go shopping is a lighter wallet. Instead, go for a walk, enjoy dinner with some friends, drive through a forest or the mountains, watch a sunset/sunrise, plan a picnic, exercise, paint a picture, write a poem, declutter your home, call your mom. There are a million things you could do besides spend money on stuff you don’t need.
  3. Don’t believe the lies. You’ll lie to yourself. Ads will lie to you. Your friends, the store clerks, the magazines, the television and the Internet might even lie to you. Don’t believe the lie that you have to shop for, buy and own the best, latest, most expensive, in season, flashiest products to be happy. Marketers are paid big money to make you believe this and other lies about shopping. Don’t fall for them.
  4. Have a list and stick to it. This has changed the way my wife and I shop. When we go to the store we get what’s on the list. We leave ourselves a little wiggle room, but if we go into the store to get some fruits and veggies we don’t come out with DVDs, a new couch and some car accessories. We stick to our list and we stay in the section that pertains to our list. Stores are designed to make you walk through the entire store before you can leave. Go to IKEA or Bed, Bath and Beyond and you’ll see what I mean. They want you to buy extra things by forcing you to walk down every aisle. If you make a plan before you go, you will be more likely to stick to it.
  5. Don’t shop without a purpose. I love farmer’s markets, and similar types of outdoor shopping experiences. I think it’s a fun and interesting atmosphere. However, if I go without a plan to look for something specific or not buy anything, I usually find something that I want but don’t need. The same thing happens online and at the mall. There are so many choices and shiny new things that it’s almost inevitable that I’ll find something to drool over. Have a purpose with your shopping trips. If you’re looking for a new couch, go to the furniture store and only look at the couches. Don’t browse mattresses, chairs and dining room tables. If you’re grocery shopping, you have no business in the electronics section.
  6. Fulfill your needs first. This one seems easy, but you wouldn’t believe how many people have a gigantic TV, new car, nice clothes, etc. but can’t afford to pay the water bill every month. You need water, food, shelter, underwear, shirts, pants, socks, shoes, a few toiletries and a handful of other things to survive comfortably. Everything else is a convenience of modern society. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t imagine working and going to college without a computer, the internet, a car, clean clothes, air conditioning, and hundreds of other modern conveniences. But I think we cross the line when convenience turns into luxury and luxury and convenience become commonplace necessities. Yes, there’s a supermarket and clothing store in every town across America, but that doesn’t mean our homes and closets need to contain every item they sell.

Fighting the urge to shop can be difficult at times. But don’t worry! There’s hope and happiness on the other side. You can still shop, go shopping and enjoy shopping. But the joy will be in fulfilling your needs and absolutely appreciating and loving each item you own. If you learn to treasure each item you own, you will be able to overcome the urge to shop and instead be happy with the things you already own.

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