Help me develop a healthier attitude to money and spending!
February 3, 2014 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Looking for online resources/support forums for compulsive shopping/spending. Books too!

In a nutshell: I have trouble when it comes to managing money. I spend disproportionately, buying more than I need (I will go to the shop and buy, say, several bottles of shower gel at once, because it comforts me to know I won't run out) or things I can't use (clothes that won't fit because I can imagine the amazing future in which I will be the person in the size X bright purple trousers, not the present when I'm size Y and have nothing to wear them with). I have duplicates of almost everything, and yet I still can't walk away from acquiring more - because it's on sale and I might never be able to find it again/at that price, because I am convinced I need it, because saving up for a holiday or a house deposit will take ages so I might as well spend the money on this now. It's a distraction when I'm supposed to be working or doing other things, it's putting a strain on my relationship (we live together and the hiding of transactions/stuff out of guilt is possibly more detrimental than the buying) and I find I don't even enjoy having/using stuff once I have it. It's feeling like a problem, and I'd like to find some information, practical help or something that will help me understand it and try and change my attitude.

I'm aware of Debtors Anonymous, but that seems to be focused on 'compulsive debting', which doesn't seem to fit my problem - my debt is maintained and is not endangering my financial life (though it is a source of guilt), it's the shopping and its associated problems (too much stuff, distraction from things I need to be doing, guilt and shame, inability to focus on longer-term goals because that time/money is focused on short-term fixes) that is the issue.

I've also looked at books on the AA model, but I'm not sure this applies either - an alcoholic can cut out drinking, but one still needs to shop in order to buy food and essentials. Cold turkey is pretty difficult unless you are a subsistence farmer. I was wondering if there was anything that specifically deals with compulsive or disordered shopping, so I can at least read the stories of others, if not participate. Beauty forums often have threads dedicated to 'no buys' - although reading about all the pretty shiny things others are using can trigger the impulse to believe that that one item will change my life/future/looks/brain, reading about what others are doing to avoid spending is useful.

Note: I have already tried therapy of various kinds, and am on the waiting list for more as I had to quit my previous therapy due to moving away from the area. (I've also found the therapists I've dealt with haven't seen this as a problem or taken it seriously - one just said 'well, make a shopping list when you go to the supermarket', sigh) I have from this identified emotional and past experience triggers that might have led to me thinking this way, but knowing this doesn't seem to have changed things in the here and now. I would like resources I can use in the meantime!)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think there's an online component to this, but here is a link to the Financial Therapy Assn, which specializes in psychotherapy designed to target your exact issues. There's a link on the site to search for a therapist by state. I found one on that site and, although I am deferring therapy at the moment for cost savings (for snowflake reasons that he agrees with), I intend to go see him in the not-too-distant future to work on things that you talk about. Like how do you go from saying, "I'm a good person for buying this thing at a bargain price!" to saying, "But it's still not a bargain if I don't need it or can't use it."

It's possible that online education about money management could help you, at least so that you could set realistic goals and know what the benefits will be. A resource that has been helpful for me is the money management section of this website.
posted by janey47 at 7:13 PM on February 3, 2014

I was wondering if there was anything that specifically deals with compulsive or disordered shopping, so I can at least read the stories of others, if not participate.

Actually, this sounds to me a lot like hoarding. I know you say that you don't enjoy having/using the stuff once you have it. But lots of hoarders don't either! They just pack it away the best they can, never to be touched again. You don't say what your triggers were, but I think a lot of the time, hoarding can be triggered by poverty/deprivation. Also, sometimes, it's bound up with issues of OCD. Your statement that you feel like you have to get something because it might not be available at that price again or you might not be able to get it in the future, is very similar to the things a lot of hoarders say. That's the keyword I think I'd start with.
posted by cairdeas at 7:46 PM on February 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

If people do recommend you some books, start by getting them from the library instead of getting on Amazon or going to the bookstore.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:43 PM on February 3, 2014

I don't think it's on anymore, but if you can get it in the UK, you could try watching My Shopping Addiction -- yes, crap TV, but they have a couple of therapists walking the subjects through exercises to think about WHY they shop. It would certainly give you examples of other people with this problem, and might help you think about the reasons behind your shopping.
posted by pie ninja at 5:48 AM on February 4, 2014

In the book Debt Proof Living, Mary Hunt talks quite a bit about her compulsive spending. It is, obviously, focused on how her spending caused her to get into trouble with debt, and how she got out of debt and stays out. But much of the advice would apply to a situation where you are not really having debt issues but your spending is causing you pain in other ways.

Your Money or Your Life talks about the real cost of buying things you don't need, in terms of the life energy you spend earning money, and stopping to think if you really want to trade 10 hours of your life for that (gadget, necklace, or pricey whatever.)

You might also want to look at books on minimalism or "less stuff" (of which there are a MILLION right now) because they help you learn to live and be happy with fewer possessions. Also books about cluttering and hoarding tend to address the compulsive aspect of acquiring things and feeling like you never have enough. The Hoarder in You is one that talks about the hoarding tendencies of average people, as opposed to the extreme situations depicted on the hoarding TV shows.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:50 AM on February 4, 2014

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