Identifying if you are a shopaholic and 11 ways to curtail impulse spending

“yaar bore ho raha hun… chal shopping ko chaltey hain…” (I am bored… let’s go shopping)

“Dosto salary aagai hai… chalo time to shop” (friends, I got the salary, let’s go shopping)

“oh my heart is sad today… shopping will make it better”(I am feeling low, shopping will heal)

Exam khatam… pass ho gaya… she said yes… bought new bike… engagement ho gai… sister ki shadi hai… pahli salary mili…. Weekend hai…. bonus mila… mummy aai… saasuji gai …. Any occasion… chalein shopping? (exams over, got good grades, got a girlfriend now, bought new bike, got engaged, sister’s wedding fixed, got first salary, it’s a weekend, got bonus or a raise, mom arrived, mom-in-law went … be it any occasion, let’s just go shopping)

Are you of this nature? My serious submission – you need help.

Shop

Why am I poking nose in something which you love the most

See I am a financial planner and whatever comes in way of your financial well-being needs to be addressed. It has been found that majority people lose track of their monthly budget just because they increase their shopping bills. The first starting of a debt trap is often the shopping habits. Shopping addiction is directly proportional to making impulsive and non-planned buying decisions. Many people know this but they cannot resist themselves. The addiction is so much in the blood that they always prefer to live in a mode of denial. Well let’s confront this today, as it pains when I see my friends transferring investment funds to settle credit cards or investing not at all or ignoring their long term plans.

How do I know that I am an impulse buyer or shopaholic?

It’s all in the behavior…

Does shopping give you a high? You feel momentarily happy after you shop? The word “sale” makes you glowing? Or you maintain a “yearly sale tracker” and you exactly know when “robber stop” or “decentral” or “wife style” will have their 70% off days!!!

Your credit card statement shows that you visit malls daily/weekly. Your wardrobe is full of cloths with buying tag still attached. You even dump a few shopping bags to avoid being caught by your spouse. For you entertainments mean visiting a nearby mall and check your regular counters for discounts. You even track when the display is being changed by the shopping outlet. These typical behaviors convey that you have developed an addiction to shopping and you are taking impulsive buying decisions.

How to be a Smart Shopper & drop the habit of Impulse Buying

There are few steps to follow. Some of these are strict and others require that you take assistance also. Hence a plan and determination is required to put these measures to use:

1)      Pay by cash, no credit card to be used. In case you are tempted to use credit card leave it at home or hand it over to a responsible person.

2)      Make a list of purchases and then only step out to shop. Make a rule that buying will be done when you need a replacement. So buy only when your TV is beyond repairs or you are really short of dresses in your wardrobe.

3)      Do not get lured, tempt and track sales or discounts. This does not mean that you will not shop during sale season. If you are getting three things for the price of one and all three will be utilized, it makes sense to shop. But important is that you put the bought things to use.

4)      Do not develop costly hobbies for example collecting handbags, watches, shoes, phones etc.. Let people from Bollywood and celebrities to have privilege of having these addictions.

5)      Make a 30 day think-before-purchase rule. If anything has wooed you completely and you wish to buy, give a break of 30 days. Think if it is really useful. It should be a need and not a want. And if a want it should be justified on usage parameter. It is not necessary to keep a 30 day gap, as you may use your own 10 days, a fortnight, a weekend think-before-purchase rule. The essential is that you follow this rule.

6)      Fix an amount for shopping. Each month fix an amount on shopping. Make sure that you will overboard this limit. If you do so, you should pay a penalty, for example investing a certain amount. Read: Budget for savings and not spending

7)      Formulate ways to stop the “urge to shop”. For example do not go to malls. Instead shop at roadsides shops or going to window shops when the stores have closed for the day. Leave your wallet at home. Do not watch shopping channels. Do not surf shopping websites. Deactivate from mailing list of e-catalogues and online stores. Mute TV during commercial break and talk to family members till your favorite soap is back on air.  Send someone else to shop. Simple tricks save a lot.

8)      Make a rule that “store is not a hangout”. Whatever mood you are in, but store or shopping is not the idea or place to vent out your emotions. So shopping is to be done when you are in a neutral and sound mind and not influenced by emotions like achievement, success, failure, break up, lost or found.

9)      Shop with someone who is responsible, mature and open to stop and contradict you. Everybody has a partner who is equally important and responsible. Your irrational shopping may be co-damaging your mutual goals. Take that same partner to shop with you.

10)   Be sensitive to the feelings that surface when you do an irresponsible shopping. It is ok if you feel low, insensitive and immature. Honor what you feel, make up your mind that you will not repeat this behavior.

11)   Do not miss the bull’s eye i.e. your financial plans and long term goals. Read: Budgeting – First Step of Financial Planning

We all face this addiction to some extent. Do you have any memory when you felt guilty? Or was there a time when you really made and endeavor to come out of this bad habit and got successful? Kindly share your story in the comments section.

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Amir Faizi March 13, 2013, 12:34 PM

    Great article Hemant but bad for my business or profession as am into retail industry and whenever people shop more and more, better for us. But from the practical point of view, all the points covered by you is very much meaningful and can be applied in day to day life. I have removed credit card from my wallet and for shopping, given charge to my wife as she is better in handling.

    • Hemant Beniwal March 17, 2013, 7:48 AM

      Hi Amir,
      In that case you are lucky (charge to my wife as she is better in handling) – in most of the cases its other way round & that’s the way your retail industry survive on weekdays 😉

  • Anurag March 13, 2013, 2:39 PM

    Thankfully, my spouse and I don’t have any of the symptons you mentioned.

    • Hemant Beniwal March 17, 2013, 7:49 AM

      Hi Anurag,
      That’s great so now you can move to next step – making budget…

  • R March 13, 2013, 3:09 PM

    Hemant

    First line i think is yaar bore ho raha hun..i think you have put m instead of n

  • Dr. kiran khandelwal March 13, 2013, 3:31 PM

    i have been offerred a credit card from various banks plenty of times but have always avoided it for the same reason that u have mentioned above. In my family noone uses a credit card insted either we buy in cash or thru a debit card which keeps u informed what n how much u are spending n where u need to stop.
    Nice article for many of us.

    • Hemant Beniwal March 17, 2013, 8:04 AM

      Hi Dr Kiran,
      Thanks for sharing – credit cards gives us false sense of monetary strength.
      “Credit buying is much like being drunk. The buzz happens immediately and gives you a lift…. The hangover comes the day after.” Joyce Brothers

  • Krishnakumar March 13, 2013, 6:20 PM

    Dear Hemant,
    You are absolutely right in pointing out the major mistakes generally people make while go for an impulsive shoping. The evolution of credit cards made most people spent thirsty. By the way I have got rid of my credit cards long back, which was spareingly used just for curiosity some ten years back.

    Thanks and reagrds.
    Krishnakumar

    • Hemant Beniwal March 17, 2013, 8:07 AM

      Hi Krishna,
      Good one “The evolution of credit cards made most people spent thirsty.”

  • PRASHANTH P.S. March 13, 2013, 10:12 PM

    Nice one.
    There is one more point which i read some where :
    “if you have to shop in some mall for monthly groceries then never shop with empty stomach”. Especially when you are taking kids then remember to feed them and your self well before entering the mall. This will avoid instinctive buying of fancy packed\eye candy junk food stuffs to a greater extent.
    I had tired this myself and it really works.

    • Hemant Beniwal March 17, 2013, 8:21 AM

      Hi Prashanth,
      Yup this works – avoid shopping when you are “sad, hungry & angry” 🙂

  • N.M.R.Shreedhar March 17, 2013, 7:33 PM

    Nice article, Hemant. I would like to add 1 more , though not directly related — If you are having a credit card, ensure that you always pay the bills promptly, make use of the “free credit period” only, don’t carry forward any payments as interst charges are outrageous . regards

  • Manikaran Singal March 18, 2013, 11:47 AM

    Hemant, very nicely written article and a very important point raised. An inability to control spending is the root cause of most personal finance disasters. and Once a person learns how to manage and control the expenses, almost half of financial planning is done.

  • Mobin Shaikh March 30, 2013, 1:25 PM

    Dear Hemant,

    Very important Tips!!!Thank you very much for the same. I liked your Quote’Don’t Shopwhen you are sad,angry and hungry’

    Thanks

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