How to Stop Using Shopping to Fill a Void

Four Methods:Learning Why You Are a ShopaholicFinding Ways to Fill the VoidControlling Your Spending HabitsSeeking Outside Help

You may struggle with compulsive shopping, using it as a means to feel better when anxious, upset, tired, or overworked. There are many possible voids you may try to fill through shopping, such as boredom, self-esteem issues, or compensation for relationship issues. You can curb your urge to compulsively shop by taking steps to recognize its root causes and taking steps to stop the habit.

Method 1
Learning Why You Are a Shopaholic

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    Identify the type of shopper you are. You can overcome compulsive shopping by recognizing what motivates you to act and working to stop the problem at its root. The most common type of shoppers are:
    • Compulsive shopaholics shop to assuage emotional problems.
    • Trophy shopaholics look for top items to add to their collections.
    • Some shopaholics seek the flashy appearance of material affluence through new things.
    • Bargain seekers are those who justify purchases based on sales and good deals.
    • Bulimic shoppers are those who get caught in a guilt cycle of buying and returning.
    • Collectors who feel they need every item in a particular set to complete a collection.
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    Know if you shop when stressed. People tend to shop to relieve stress. You can help get to the root of issues by observing your stress level when you choose to shop. It can also help deconstruct that shopping does little to actually relief stress. After all, how stress-reducing is it to worry about whether or not your credit card will be refused, and how much it is mounting up? If you shop when you are stressed, you are more likely to make impulse decisions to stop the feeling.
    • Take notice of your triggers and emotions. Shopaholics tend to shop in response to certain emotional states, such as negative emotions, boredom, for a thrill, or to fill a void. Triggers, when recognized, can help stop destructive behaviors before they start.
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    Recognize the link between shopping and self-esteem issues. Shopaholics often use purchases to deal with self-esteem issues. These purchases can be clothing that makes you look better, or new things for the sake of keeping up on appearances. Write down how you feel after making a new purchase. Observe if you feel more confident, or other emotions that address self-esteem issues.
    • Materialism and competition in a consumer based society can exasperate these issues. Shopping is seen as a more acceptable behavior than other addictions like drugs or alcohol. Avoid using your possessions as a measure of success or to compare to others. [1]

Method 2
Finding Ways to Fill the Void

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    Avoid making shopping a social activity. Shopaholics often make shopping a central social activity to do with friends and family. You may find yourself shopping to celebrate a big promotion or after a bad day. Find others way to cope. Go out to eat with friends,to a movie, or a museum. You will still have the comfort of social connections without relying on shopping. [2]
    • Don't let shopping be a reward or a way to deal with bad days. If you have a bad day, call a friend, partner, or family member and let them help you cheer up. If you have some extra money to celebrate, put the money away and rejoice in the good feeling when all that savings adds up.
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    Stop viewing shopping as a hobby. A hobby is something that should fulfill you and make you feel satisfied. Shopping offers little long term fulfillment. It is also harder to match that feeling each time, so you feel compelled to buy more. What sort of hobby leaves you feeling so compelled and tied up? Unless your shopping habit is truly giving you a long-term sense of satisfaction and enrichment, it's not a hobby.
    • Find a real hobby and substitute that for the shopping hobby. Try substituting physical activities or something that gives you a rush instead of shopping.
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    Change your environment. You are much more likely to do impulsive, emotion based shopping if it's available to you. Create off-limit zones that may trigger your desire to shop, such as malls, shopping areas, and other stores. Don't allow any ambiguity, such as a grocery store within your forbidden zone, to help reduce lapses.[3]
    • This should apply to your internet life, too. Don't go to shopping websites, even if it's just to look, and unsubscribe to e-mails from your favorite stores and companies.
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    Bring a friend or family member with you shopping. Accountability and transparency are key to breaking a shopping habit. Take someone, a shopping support buddy, with you when you shop. They can help keep you on task and prevent any binge purchases.[4]
    • Even if you're alone, texting or calling a friend while shopping, can be useful. You can tell them what you're purchasing and they can offer an outside perspective.

Method 3
Controlling Your Spending Habits

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    Avoid using anything but cash. Credit gives someone the ability to spend more than they have at any given moment. Shopping exclusively with cash will keep your purchasing power limited. Take only the cash you need to buy specific items you need. [5]
    • Wait before making a purchase. It can help to wait until the rush of the impulse wears off and you can really think about whether you need the item. If you see something you want, give it until the next day then reassess whether you still want it.
    • Leave your wallet at home. Take only your driver's license or public transportation pass and the exact amount of cash, no more.
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    Be transparent with bills and credit habits. Many people who shop for emotional reasons are able to secretly run up mass amounts of debt. It is important that you are transparent about your spending to make your shopping habit accountable. Let a friend, or even better a partner, keep track of your spending and go over credit card bills to see where you may be straying.
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    Make a list of your savings. At the end of a week of not shopping, look at all your savings.

Focus on tangible results to help positively reinforce smart shopping. Shopping can have a snowball effect: shopping to fill an emotional void followed by guilt for shopping. Create a positive out of a negative by dwelling on your savings after a successful period of not shopping.

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    • You should be clear about your budget. This will play into your savings, as well. Create certain amounts of money you are allowed to spend on non-essential purchases and have others help keep you accountable so that you don't go over your budget.

Method 4
Seeking Outside Help

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    Find a therapist to help. A therapist can help you manage your shopping and address the underlying causes. There are no standardized methods, and medicines aren't likely to be subscribed, but the therapy should aim at helping you regulate and control your urges.[6]
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy is sometimes very helpful. This aims are to deconstruct why shopping is used for emotional reasons. This can also be done in a group setting so that you can use others with the same problems for support.[7]
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    Look for group help. Group therapy is a great option to provide support and structure for a shopaholic. In a group setting, you are amongst people who suffer similarly to you, and can help provide coping methods.[8]
    • There are a number of twelve-step and group options available. Shopaholics Anonymous is one option that provides counseling and group therapy options. Spenders Anonymous is a twelve-step group based on the principles of Alcoholic's Anonymous. They strive to help individuals take control of their shopping and seek other coping methods.[9]
    • There are also online options available. The most famous is Overshopping which provides forums and self-help techniques. This way if you want [10]
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    Seek out credit counseling. A credit counselor can help evaluate and curb the toll shopping takes on your finances. A credit counselor can make the debt you've accrued more manageable and help alleviate some of the guilt.[11]
    • This is important because you are trying to manage the emotional reasons that cause you to shop too much. If you are feeling guilty from your debt, this can cause a relapse.


  • Take a good look at people in the shopping mall. Do they look happy? The adults, that is - the teens are spending someone else's money! On the whole, most people will look worried, tired, anxious, or bothered because money worries are walking around with them. Is that a good advertisement for spending? Hardly! Compare the faces in a museum, at the beach, in the local park. You might be surprised.

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Categories: Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management