How to Curb Your Online Shopping Addiction
Online shopping is easier than ever these days. Targeted and sponsored ads know exactly what we want and where and when we want it; handing over our money is easier (and less tangible) than ever; And we can even do it from the comfort of our own couch. No wonder many of us have even become addicted to online shopping.
Whether we call it a shopping addiction, pathological buying, compulsive shopping, or oniomania, behavioural scientists put this irresistible desire to online shop on par with other addictions such as gambling or cybersex.
And, as with these addictions, online shopping addiction is merely a symptom of a deeper problem. So, here is an 11-step plan to curb your online shopping addiction and take back control of your finances and your life now.
Recognize there is an issueYou know what they say...the first step is recognizing there’s a problem — and for a reason. At the heart of an online shopping addiction is a denial or willing blindness that you may be buying more (and spending more) than you need (or have).
Do you recognize yourself in any of these?
- You spend too much time thinking about or doing online shopping
- Feel anxious you’ll miss a deal
- You frequently exceed your budget, buy impulsively (without planning), and spend on things you don’t really need
- Have rising (credit card) debt and are living beyond your means
- Feel guilty about your purchases
- Argue about your purchases
- Hide your purchases (maybe even have a secret credit card for your purchases)
- Are running out of space for your purchases
- Feel anxious when you’re not able to buy online
- Feel like you can’t stop
Facing this is not easy and may make you feel anxious and guilty, but let that guilt go. Nobody is perfect and each of us has areas we need to work on. Recognize that you are learning from your mistakes, are showing courage and taking steps to course-correct going forward.
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Put the stoppers onDon’t make online shopping any more seamless and less intentional than it already is. Spending on plastic makes shopping feel like it’s without consequence. Spending that’s as simple as the click of a button, where you barely see the monetary transaction (and where you hand over your hard-earned money), can feel even less real. This step has been made easy and nearly invisible for a reason. So, go through all your favourite online stores and remove all your stored credit card information. This one will require an ironclad will to not get sidetracked by all the pretty things. You can do this.
Remove all your saved and pre-loaded credit card information. Do it quickly and without distractions. Think: Band aid.
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Put the (right) blinders onYou may have willingly ignored your big little secret. But now it’s time to ignore the right set of things, because here’s another big little secret: Advertising works. And it works really well — even if we’d like to think of ourselves as evolved and sophisticated creatures.
There are a tonne of free and paid apps and web browser extensions that will block ads so you aren’t tempted to make a snap purchase and get sucked back into the vortex. Look for one that works for your browser and device.
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Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribeSimilarly, eliminate all the additional ways advertisers have inroads to your attention. Notices of sales and promotions are effective tactics to pull your attention away from your goals, so go through your inbox and unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. In this case, what you don’t know can’t hurt you. And can only help you reach your long-term financial goals faster.
Take stock and declutterBy this point, you’ve likely accumulated enough “things” — things you likely don’t even realize you (still) have. Decluttering and purging is not only therapeutic for the soul and for the mind, it can help remind you of all the things you already own (and don’t need to buy more of). It also helps you intentionally shift your focus away from materialism and consumerism and towards reconnecting to your core values; relationships and experiences over an endless clutter of things. When you purge yourself of “stuff” you make room for new experiences. It can be liberating and an effective way to enjoy that sense of control you crave with endless purchases anyway.
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Make yourself waitIf you find yourself in a position where you adding things to your digital cart, put your order on hold. By that we mean closing the browser before you go through the final step. Some research shows adding things virtually may be satisfying enough of an experience for some, and you don’t have the drawback of experiencing guilt of actually spending money. Similarly, the more time and distance you put between yourself and your loaded digital cart, the more time you’ll have to temper your impulse decisions to buy. In that time, go for a walk and / or call a trusted ally who may help put things in perspective (do you really need another pair of sunglasses?).
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Seek other ways to stay busyTo that point, how else and more productively can you be spending your time in a way that truly adds to your life and your experience? Shift your focus away from buying more to doing more. Go for a walk and explore your surroundings. Take a free online class. Check out the library. Visit a neighbour. As the popular mantra goes, “collect moments, not things.”
Stay accountableOne of the most effective ways to stick to your goal is to tell others about it. So share your goals with others around you and seek develop a buddy system. This keeps you accountable for your actions, and (hopefully) brings you the aforementioned allies that will help keep you on the straight and narrow when (not if) temptation comes a-knockin’.
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Track your spendingSimilarly, by tracking your spending and keeping a money journal, you are forced to face and be mindful of just how much you are spending. There are also apps, like Mint, that can help you do this digitally, but even a good old notebook does the trick.
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Save for what you really wantSpend some time really thinking about what you want to save towards. Is it a downpayment for a house? A trip abroad? A pet? Create a vision board for yourself and put it in a highly visible place to remind you of your long-term goals. You may even decide to transfer the money you would have spent on your online purchases in a fund specially set up for this goal. Saving may not provide the immediate thrill of instant gratification, but don’t worry. You’re building towards something more substantial and more meaningful.
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Seek supportIf these strategies aren’t enough, it may be time to seek help from a professional who can help you come up with additional strategies to take control of your spending. Behavioural therapy is a good place to start. Remember, you aren’t the first or the last person to face this issue and resources exist to help you get out of this.