We all need a little retail therapy sometimes. A new shirt, shoes, lipstick or bag can perk us up, rejuvenate our wardrobes and refresh our spirits. But what if our spending is getting out of control? What if we are spending more than we can afford on things we don’t need?
Internet shopping has made it easier than ever to spend money without thinking. In the past, an effort had to be made to go to the shops, look at the items on sale and, heaven forbid, actually hand over our hard-earned cash. Internet shopping has made everything available to us, all the time, twenty-four hours a day. One click spending makes it very hard to keep track of how much money we are spending, and sometimes we only realise that it is out of control when we realise we are racking up debt and the banks and the credit card companies start to come knocking.
So, how can you tell if your spending is out of control and what can you do about it? Generally, your spending is considered out of control if:
- You buy things you don’t need.
- You buy things you know you can’t afford.
- You feel guilty about how much you are spending.
- You are hiding how much you spend from others.
- You are fooling yourself about how much you spend.
If you recognise yourself in the above list, it may be time to take a serious look at your spending habits and start to take back control of your outgoings (and your life).
What is it about spending that is so appealing? Spending is associated with a pleasurable activity in the brain and, just like drugs, sex and alcohol, it can become addictive. This is because the pleasure hormone Dopamine is activated and released and, just like drugs, even more is needed to receive the same high. This means we spend more and more to chase that pleasurable feeling and feel worse and worse about ourselves once the brief high has worn off.
So, if you recognise that you are spending more money than you earn on things you don’t need, what can you do about it? If you find yourself with the urge to buy something, the itch to spend, try asking yourself these questions first:
- Do I really need it?
- Have I got one like that already?
- How often will I use/wear it?
- Will I still love it a year from now?
- Can I afford it?
These questions are useful to ask, even if just to take a pause before hitting Add To Basket, but we all know how we can fool ourselves when it comes to chasing the spending high. If you are still wrestling with the urge to splurge, try doing something else instead. Put the kettle on, go for a walk, take a shower – whatever you do, just remove yourself from temptation.
Often, this will be enough to disrupt the process, but if you are still finding yourself yearning after something that you are not sure if you really need, try waiting a week before you buy it. Mindful shopping puts you back in control and is a huge step towards cultivating healthy spending habits. Keep practising!