How To

Resisting The Urge to Splurge

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Avis Cardella, a model and fashion editor, lived a high-fashion life — sponsored by credit cards that she couldn’t afford to pay off. Her addiction started out innocently enough, scouring the sales racks at Macy’s and the discount department stores, but quickly progressed to full-blown shopping sprees at what she calls the three B’s: Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s and Bergdorf Goodman, and at designer stores in New York, Germany and Paris. As Cardella’s personal life unraveled, her shopping addiction threw her deeply in debt to the point where she had to borrow cash from family and friends, only to spend it on yet another pair of black trousers instead of her monthly rent. 

Cardella tells the story of her shopping addiction — and how she recovered from it and paid off her debts — in her book Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict.  Here are Cardella’s seven tips on resisting the urge to splurge:

Putting your credit card in a block of ice may be one way to tackle the demon called impulse shopping, but it’s hardly a long-term strategy. Besides, most of us have more than one credit card to contend with and that could potentially take up to a lot of freezer space.

But what do you do when faced with an uncontrollable desire to acquire?  How do you cope with a marketplace that increasingly offers non-stop options to buy?

Having been a compulsive shopper for over a decade, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to ponder these questions, and while writing my memoir that chronicled this addiction, I had the chance to speak with several experts, and fellow shoppers, on the subject.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned about coping with impulse purchasing:

Leave Those Cards At Home

Although we’ve been encouraged to “never leave home without it,” there are moments when this advice may best remain unheeded. Most days, leaving the credit cards at home isn’t an inconvenience and carrying a debit card will suffice.

Remaining aware of how much you are really spending with a credit card also helps to encourage cautious consumption. A friend recently told me that if she continued to only make the minimum monthly payments on all her credit cards she wouldn’t have them paid off until she was 105! 

Know What You Came For

If shopping is going to be part of your day and you are packing plastic, it’s a good idea to know what you are shopping for and keep that in mind throughout your trip.  Planned purchases help to keep the mind focused and can keep you from lingering in shops and giving in to impulses out of boredom and listlessness.

Sleep On It

Internet shopping and the easy appeal of one-click purchases seem to make impulsive buying more difficult to sidestep than ever. If you frequently find yourself just one keystroke away from unnecessary buys, setting the “sleep on it” rule can help. Allowing yourself to step away from the computer and reassess if the item still holds as much appeal after a good night’s rest is one way to curb the urge.

Distract Yourself

There was a time when I had become so accustomed to thinking of shopping as entertainment that I had forgotten that other activities could be enjoyable. When I began to rethink what place shopping had in my life, I discovered that indulging in other activities, sometimes something as simple as long walks in the park or cooking a meal, helped take the edge off my almost Pavlovian-reflex desire to go shopping.

The Friend Factor

Shopping with friends can be a double-edged sword. If you have shopping buddies who are also inclined to overindulge it may be a good idea to steer clear for a while. On the other hand, shopping buddies who are supportive and aware of your struggles with impulse buying can provide the voice of reason that we sometimes refuse to listen to in ourselves.

Look In Your Closet

Women in particular often have a tendency to be drawn to repeats of what they already own. One example is our interminable purchasing of either a classic black sweater or black pair of pants. I know from experience that even with a dozen pairs of black trousers in my closet I frequently found myself succumbing to the siren call of yet another pair. One of the best strategies to cope with this impulse purchase was to look in my closet to be reminded of what I already owned. Chances are I would find I had something so similar that the new item would lose its appeal, or I would simply be shamed into not indulging 0n something so obviously unnecessary.

Look Into Your Soul

Tactics and tricks are one thing and may help for a while (some did for me) but what I inevitably realized was that I needed to cope with the emotional reasons for my impulsive purchasing before truly getting it under control. Why was I consumed with the desire to consume? Even if you are not addicted to shopping, but often find yourself shopping when you are sad, lonely or angry, taking a look at the emotional triggers that prompt impulse purchases is a good first step to setting yourself free from them.

Avis Cardella is the author of Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict.

Note: our giveaway for Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict has now ended and the winners have been notified via email. Thanks to everyone who participated!