If you want to stop shopping, keep reading to learn why you can’t stop buying stuff—and perhaps more importantly, what to do about it.
As I walked through the front door, I took a deep breath and felt a sense of ease wash over me. There’s just something about department stores—don’t you think?
They know what they’re doing when they put the perfume counters near the front. The smell, the lighting, the music … it hits you all at once and it feels like magic.
Or at least, I used to think so.
Things are very different now but for more than a decade, I was a shopaholic. Shoes, handbags, clothes, homewares—you name it! I was in the shops at least five times a week so trust me, I know just how difficult it can be to change your shopping habits.
But the good news is it CAN be done. After years of struggle, I learned how to turn my life around and it all started with understanding the “why” behind my shopping addiction.
Here are four reasons why you can’t stop shopping and what to do about it.
Please note that the following advice is based on my experience as a self-diagnosed shopaholic. I am not a mental health professional and I encourage you to seek out professional advice if you need it.
Why You Can’t Stop Shopping
1. You’re escaping from something.
If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably experienced a “shopper’s high” firsthand. There’s an adrenaline rush, especially when you find a bargain. It feels good … and it’s a great way to escape from your everyday life.
A job you hate, a bad relationship, or a mess waiting for you at home. We all have things we want to avoid and what better way than by shopping?
It’s OK to do it every once in a while but if you genuinely can’t stop shopping, you have to ask yourself if it’s become a coping mechanism. You end up buying a lot of stuff that you don’t need and—perhaps more importantly—you avoid dealing with your problems.
It might protect you from pain in the short term but in the long-term, you could end up wasting years living a life half-lived. I know this firsthand because I used shopping, clutter and busyness to hide from my own problems for longer than I’d like to admit!
Don’t make this mistake any longer than necessary. Stop now because life is too short.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: Next time you feel the urge to shop, pause for a moment and ask yourself what you’re avoiding. This might be enough to keep you out of the shops but even if it doesn’t, it will help you identify any problems in need of addressing.
2. You are surrounded by shoppers.
The other day, Facebook reminded me of a post I shared almost a decade ago. It was a meme that read: “Life is short. Buy the shoes!”
I laughed at first … until I thought about my old shoe collection (100+ pairs!) and all the hard-earned money I’ve wasted. Suddenly it seemed a lot less funny. But still, it was an important reminder.
For most of us, shopping is a big part of our culture. We see our friends and family shopping all the time, and then there’s what we see online (which is often even worse).
From social media influencers showing off “haul” videos to celebrities who never wear the same thing twice … we’re surrounded by people who normalise shopping.
Our own shopping habits seem harmless in comparison, but by who’s standards? Make sure your actions are guided by your own beliefs and not by others.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: Pay attention to what triggers your urge to shop. Is it friends, family or people you see online? If so, what boundaries can you put in place so that your shopping decisions are not influenced by others?
3. You aren’t comfortable with who you are.
This is a big one, my friends.
Every time you shop, you aren’t really buying “stuff”. Instead, you’re buying a story.
Think about it—you don’t really want new mascara, do you? Instead, what you’re really buying is the promise of longer, thicker lashes. You aren’t comfortable with what you see in the mirror so you buy something new, hoping it will make you feel better about yourself.
Now obviously, not everyone who buys mascara has a problem with shopping! But if you genuinely can’t stop buying more, you should definitely ask yourself if a lack of self-worth is fueling your purchases.
I say this with compassion because I struggled with self-acceptance for a long time. I didn’t like who I was so I tried to hide behind designer dresses and stiletto heels … but in the end, all I was left with was an empty bank account and sore feet.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: Before you make a new purchase, look for the story that you’re selling yourself. Is it true—or is it a fantasy?
4. You don’t realise how much you spend and what it’s costing you.
Shopping is something I used to do mindlessly and out of habit. I did it on my lunch break, on my way home from work, and from my laptop in the evenings.
I did it so often that it wasn’t a special event anymore. I wasn’t aware of how often I shopped and even scarier, I didn’t know how much I was spending. I could pay my bills at the end of the month and in my mind, that was good enough.
But was it really? Looking back, I know now that I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on things I can’t even remember buying.
That’s a lot of money for anyone but it’s even more painful when I think about what that money represents:
- Hours of my life wasted in unfulfilling jobs
- Missed opportunities (trips and experiences I couldn’t afford)
- Environmental waste (“stuff” costs more than just money)
Plus there’s a human cost. I claim to be a compassionate person but who could I have helped with that money?
$20 spent on cheap t-shirts … or $20 donated to the local foodbank?
Ultimately, these decisions are personal but the real question is what are your purchases costing YOU. If you can’t stop shopping then odds are, you don’t know how to answer this question.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: When you’re tempted to buy something, look at the price and ask what’s the true cost? How many hours of your life would you be trading for your purchase? Are there any other hidden costs to consider? See if this influences your decision making.
How To Stop Shopping
So to recap:
- If you want to stop shopping, it helps to understand why you’re shopping in the first place.
- Do you use shopping as a way of escaping painful situations? Acknowledge it and make alternative plans for dealing with your emotions.
- Set boundaries. What triggers you to shop, and how can you avoid these triggers in the future.
- Beware the stories you tell yourself. When we don’t feel good about ourselves, it’s easy to imagine a new dress or a fancy handbag will change things.
- Pay attention to the true cost of your purchases. You are trading away your time, money, and energy. Make sure it’s worth it.
Is your biggest shopping challenge clicking “add to cart”? Check out this helpful post on how to stop online shopping.
If you enjoyed this post, then I invite you to learn more about my journey from shopaholic to minimalist. It has changed my life in so many ways and I will always be grateful.
You can also check out these blog posts for more tips, stories and inspiration to stop shopping:
- How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear
- How to Be Happy With What You Have + Stop Wanting More
- How Minimalism Helped Me Become Debt Free
- How to be a Minimalist: 5 Things Not to Do + What to Do Instead
What are your biggest challenges when it comes to shopping? Do you have any advice for someone trying to stop? Let us know in the comments!