A shopping binge happens when you excessively or compulsively indulge in buying things you never intended to get. It’s an incessant urge to shop that often leads to credit card debt, depression, broken relationships, and even bankruptcy.
In a world that praises retail therapy, binge shopping may not seem that bad. Everyone does it, right? But it can hold the same power over your life and bear the same consequences as an eating disorder or addiction.
6 signs of binge shopping
Going on the occasional shopping spree is one thing. Binge shopping is something else entirely. Here are a few signs you may be experiencing a shopping binge:
- You feel a rush of adrenaline when you shop, followed by a wave of regret when you finish.
- You hide purchases from family and friends.
- Your shopping habits have led to arguments with loved ones.
- Your house is full of things you don’t need or use.
- You prefer to shop by yourself so no one will judge you.
- You’re in debt because of your shopping habits.
How to avoid a shopping binge: 9 tips
If you want to curb your spending, here are some tips to help you stop binge shopping:
1. Keep track of your emotional triggers
Most people go on a shopping binge when they’re triggered by a certain emotion (similar to when you overbuy at the grocery store because you’re starving). Figuring out your triggers and avoiding shopping during those times can help keep your spending in check.
Emotional shopping triggers can be positive or negative. For example, you may feel the urge to shop when you experience:
- Low self-esteem
But you can also feel tempted when you:
2. Avoid a shopping binge by using cash
If you really want to fight the urge to binge shop, get rid of the plastic (both debit and credit) and stick with a cash budget for a while. When you use cash, it’s harder to justify an impulse purchase. If you don’t have the money, you can’t buy it. Plain and simple.
A recent scientific study reveals that you’re more willing to purchase higher-priced items when using credit instead of cash. This is likely because you don’t see the purchase show up on your bill for a couple of weeks. And when it does, it’s a consolidated balance.
3. Don’t visit stores with friends who love to shop
Have friends who love to shop till they drop? If so, you’ve probably noticed you’re more prone to binge shopping when you hit up stores together. You don’t have to quit hanging out with them altogether, but stop shopping with them at the very least.
Find other activities to do instead. Host a game night at home, cook a meal together, explore all the free activities in your city, or maybe go for a hike. The options are endless!
4. Wait before you buy
Institute a rule that says once you add something to your cart, you have to wait at least a day, a week, or a month before you can buy it. If you still want it after that time has passed, you have full permission to get it as long as there’s room in your budget. Most of the time, the urge to buy will pass by the time you’re finally able to get it.
5. Shop your closet instead of going on a shopping binge
If you’re anything like me, you get into the habit of wearing the same shirt with the same pants over and over again. But what if you switched it up a bit by “shopping” your own closet?
Here’s what I mean...
Spend an afternoon picking one top from your closet. Try it on with as many different pants, shoes, and accessory combinations as you can. If you see a new outfit you like, snap a picture of it so you can reference it when your clothes feel uninspiring. Then, do the whole process again with another top.
6. Make a list of what you already have
Keep a list of everything you already use and love at home. It could be a favorite coffee mug, those black penny loafers, that striped top, your favorite book, or anything else you tend to buy over and over.
Then, when you’re out shopping and find something you like, scan your list to see if you have something similar at home. Chances are, you’ll realize you’re drawn to that item because it reminds you of something you already own.
7. Practice the one in, one out rule
Tell yourself that for every new item you bring into your home, one item has to go. (Or, if you really want to declutter your home, tell yourself that for every one item, two items have to go.)
Practicing this rule will help you be more mindful of what you bring into your home. It’ll also help you think more critically about what you already have, so you buy things you truly enjoy versus just shopping to shop.
8. Make it harder to shop online
Nowadays, online shopping is more of a trigger than shopping in-store. Advertisements and social media make it easy to spend hundreds of dollars in seconds before you even get out of bed in the morning.
It’s almost impossible to avoid the internet, but here are a few strategies you can use to make it harder to go binge shopping when you shop online:
- Unsubscribe from deal sites and promotional emails.
- Delete your credit card info from your phone and web browser. (If you have your card numbers memorized, call up your bank and ask for new ones.)
- Block websites that are typically a big shopping trigger for you.
9. Hit up your local library
Next time you feel the urge to go binge shopping, hit up your local library instead. (This is one of my personal favorite tips and something I often do.) You can shop around for new book releases, cult classics, music, movies, magazines, and more.
You’ll get the thrill of shopping for your next deal, but you’ll walk out of the store with your hands full for free!
How to recover after a binge: 4 tips
If the damage is already done, you may be looking for tips on what to do after a binge. Here are four recommendations:
1. Return items immediately
Save receipts and return any and everything you can. The quicker, the better. If you’ve already opened items or torn off tags, see if you can sell them on Poshmark, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. Every little bit of money you can recoup will help.
2. Reevaluate your budget
After a binge, it’s time to face the aftermath and see what shape your budget is in. Ignorance is not bliss here. It may be painful or depressing to look at the numbers, but doing so will help you chart a path forward.
If you’ve tried budgeting and absolutely hate it, it’s most likely because you haven’t found a method that really fits your lifestyle.
Take our free course on creating a budget that works for you and see if it’s easier to stick to. It's chock full of bite-sized explainers and worksheets to help you succeed!
3. Save enough money to cover the amount you spent on your shopping binge
Once you know how much you went over budget, take the Clever Girl Finance savings challenge to see how quickly you can gain it all back. For example, if a recent shopping binge puts you $1,000 in the red, our 26-week savings challenge can help you save that much and more. (You’ll have $1,378 at the end of the challenge.)
Gameifying, your savings like this, can help curb overspending and keep you focused on your goals. You got this!
4. Talk to a therapist
If you’re in a position where you’re hiding purchases, acting like you’ve had new things for years, or getting into serious debt because of your shopping habits, these are clear signs a compulsive shopping disorder could be at play.
A therapist can help you develop a treatment plan that effectively reduces the symptoms you’re experiencing so you can live a happier, healthier life.
Use these tips after a binge so you can recoup some of your money and move past it.
You can avoid binge shopping!
I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t struggled with binge shopping at some point in their lives. The key to getting past it is recognizing your triggers and putting steps in place to avoid temptation when it rears its ugly head.
For more serious cases of binge shopping, consider meeting with a professional who can help you treat and control your impulses. It might just be the best thing you ever do for yourself, your family, and your finances.