Don’t say yes to the dress

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Don’t say yes to the dress

As much as I try to resist, I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. In my defense, I only watch them when they're on television, and I'm feeling particularly sloth-like. During one of these particular occasions, I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic, which follows protagonist Rebecca, whose shopping addiction is so severe that at one point, she freezes her credit cards in a block of ice to curtail her spending. Her shopping addiction not only leads to disastrous amounts of debt, but also threatens her career and relationships. Of course, since this is a romantic comedy, everything is nicely fixed by the end of the movie. However, in real life, shopping addictions aren't as easy to overcome. It can take years to repair the damage to your credit.

Sometimes the hardest part is admitting that you might have a problem. Read on for some symptoms that may alert you of a possible shopping addiction.

Spending over your budget

One red flag to watch out for is spending more money than you can afford and not recognizing the boundaries of a budget. You might be easily tempted by items that you don't actually need, or shop for hours when you planned to buy just one thing. People with a shopping addiction will rationalize these sorts of purchases by arguing that the items were on sale or that they might need them later.

Racking up debt

Spending over your budget can cause some serious debt that'll be hard to pay off in a timely manner. If you can't stop shopping, you'll continue to dig yourself deeper into debt, which will make your wallet sad, and your credit health even sadder.

Shopping compulsively

Compulsive shopping can be an attempt to fill an emotional void caused by loneliness, lack of control, lack of self-confidence or an argument with a loved one. Rather than confronting these feelings head-on, a person with a shopping addiction may run toward the bright lights of shopping malls or head straight to their favorite online retailer in search of retail therapy. Shopaholics can get a kind of high from these shopping sprees, so they think they are feeling better. These good feelings will in turn reinforce this unhealthy behavior, so the shopaholic will continue shopping whenever they feel bad.

Masking your spending habits

After a retail therapy session, shopaholics may feel guilty and hide their purchases or lie about their spending habits. They won't answer honestly about how much they're shopping or how much they are actually spending. If you look in their closets, you'll probably see that they've tried to hide lots of unused merchandise.

Overcoming your addiction

If you think you might have a shopping addiction, don't fret--you can do something about it. Here are some remedies to consider:

  • Emotional shoppers might want to find a new activity to turn to. If you're having a bad day, consider going for a run. Running produces endorphins, which may help elevate your mood so you don't have to shop to feel better.
  • Make a shopping list for what you actually need, then only take enough cash with you for those items. This will help prevent impulse buys.
  • Using your credit card more often than your debit card or cash makes it easier to lose track of spending, so it might be a good idea to leave your credit cards at home once in a while.
  • If something does catch your eye while you're out, go home and think about it for a few weeks and decide if it's really worth it. When you're able to control your spending, an indulgent purchase won't have the same consequences.
  • Track your purchases to see where your money is being funneled each month. You can use Credit Karma's My Spending Page to monitor your transactions, see which categories you're spending the most money on and view your net cash flow.

Bottom line

Remember, materials don't usually lead to happiness. If you're simply shopping to shop, you might want to stop. It may be hard, but once you begin changing your shopping habits, your finances and credit health will thank you. And who knows, your life might start feeling less like a drama and more like a romantic comedy.

About the author: is a Member Support Specialist at Credit Karma. She spends her free time reading, devouring desserts and talking to her slightly deaf cat, Pusho. When she's not doing those things, she is dreaming about doing them.

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