Do you have a shopping habit you’d like to kick? Some people love to shop in stores every day, perusing the aisles and never coming home empty-handed. Others have developed online shopping habits that they’d like to cut back on.
Whatever your reason, if you’d like to curb your shopping habit, you’ve come to the right place!
Here, we go over how a damaging shopping habit can hurt your finances and the key steps you can take to break your shopping habit once and for all.
What is a damaging shopping habit?
A damaging shopping habit looks different for everyone, but, in general, it is anything that is harmful to your finances or well-being. Signs that you might have a damaging shopping habit include:
- You shop when you are bored.
- You impulse buy.
- Shopping is your main (or only) hobby.
- You shop to keep up with your friends or online influencers.
- You don’t have an emergency savings fund.
- You’ve maxed out your credit cards.
- You can’t afford to pay your bills.
How can a damaging shopping habit hurt your finances?
If any of the above behaviors ring true, you probably already know how shopping can negatively impact your money goals. Here are some of the main ways over-shopping can hurt your finances:
Drives you into debt
The number one way shopping can harm your finances is by plunging you into debt. It is so easy to buy things on credit these days, but you will end up paying for them in the end.
Many of those with damaging shopping habits find themselves in debt that they struggle to get out of.
Damages your credit score
If you shop using credit cards and don’t pay your balance off in full every month, you might be hurting your credit score.
How so? Your credit utilization rate – the amount you owe on your credit cards divided by your credit limit – is an important factor in calculating your credit score.
The more debt you take on and don’t pay off, the higher your credit utilization rate. This rate accounts for 30% of your credit score, so the higher it is, the lower your credit score.
Interferes with your financial goals
Broadly speaking, the more you shop and spend, the less money you have to put toward your financial goals. Whether you dream of buying a house, paying for your kid's education, or getting out of debt, these goals become hard to achieve when you have a damaging shopping habit.
What a shopping habit isn’t
One thing we need to make very clear is that we’re talking about a shopping habit, not an addiction. A shopping addiction, also called compulsive shopping, is an obsession or preoccupation with shopping and spending.
A serious shopping addiction is usually best treated with the help of a licensed therapist. If you cannot stop shopping and it is interfering with your life, consider reaching out to somebody for help.
If your shopping falls into the category of habit rather than addiction, you can probably address it on your own (but it will still take some work!).
How long does it take to break a shopping habit?
Ready to tackle your damaging shopping habit? Before diving into the strategies for breaking your habit, it’s important to understand a little bit about habits.
Have you heard that 21 days is the amount of time needed to break any habit? It turns out that is not true. The time can vary from person to person and also depends on the habit itself and how long you’ve held it for.
Some people may be able to change a habit in an instant – like by stopping smoking cold turkey or cutting out online shopping forever.
For others, changing a habit can take weeks or months. So don’t get discouraged if you cannot immediately break your shopping habit!
12 Key steps to take to break your shopping habit
Now comes the fun and challenging part – it’s time to break your shopping habit! We’ve broken down the steps into two categories: steps you can take immediately and others you can take over time.
6 Steps you can take right now
Inspired to take action right this second? You can do some (or all) of these six things right away and see immediate progress in breaking your shopping habit:
1. Delete, delete, delete!
Are your online shopping habits out of control? An easy and fast way to change that is to make it harder for yourself to shop. Do this by deleting everything shopping-related from your phone and computer.
All of those shopping apps that make it so easy to add things to your cart? Delete!
Your credit card information that is stored on your favorite sites? Delete that, too!
By doing this, you’ll make it a little harder for yourself to shop online. You’ll also give yourself some time to really think about what you want before buying it.
2. Unsubscribe from all store emails
Another simple way to curb your online shopping habits? Unsubscribe from all store emails you are probably bombarded with every day.
Many people are unsure about doing this because they think they’ll miss out on discounts or sales. But, ask yourself, is that really the truth, or is it an excuse to stay subscribed?
You can always subscribe again later when you need something or check store sites for discounts when you're in the market for a particular item.
3. Journal about your shopping habits
Understanding why you like to shop so much and why you want to change your habit is a great technique to use when starting to break a habit. Ask yourself what you get out of your shopping habit.
Do you do it to fill your time? To buy things to impress others?
Next, journal about your reasons for wanting to change your habit. Do you want to have more time to spend with your loved ones? More money for things that truly matter to you?
Whatever you reveal about yourself through journaling will help keep you motivated to change.
4. Find an accountability partner
An accountability partner – someone who shares your goal or can support you in your efforts – is an excellent resource for changing your shopping habit.
Almost all of us have a friend or family member who would also like to stop spending so much. Or, perhaps you have someone in your life who has already curbed their spending.
If you find someone who you can share this journey with, you’ll be even more likely to succeed in changing your shopping habits.
5. Get rid of any store-branded credit cards
If you have any store-branded credit cards, get rid of them. These cards usually charge high-interest rates and can only be used at that one store.
They don’t offer much in return and make it more likely that you’ll shop at that store even if you don’t need anything.
6. Unfollow social media accounts that are prompting your online shopping habits
Influencers and their advertisements are one of the main reasons we develop damaging online shopping habits. An easy way to get these advertisements out of your sight?
Unfollow any influencers who constantly show off new products or who tempt you to make impulse purchases.
It’s hard to avoid advertisements entirely, but unfollowing those who make you feel like you need to buy the next best thing is a great way to start.
6 long-term steps to take
If you want to make lasting change, here are some key ways to curb damaging shopping habits once and for all:
1. Become more intentional about your purchases
Instead of shopping whenever you feel like it, become more intentional with your purchases. How can you do this?
One way is to create a list of items you want or need. By listing everything out, you can prioritize your shopping and decide what is really worth spending your money on.
Keep an ongoing list so that you can plan for your purchases instead of succumbing to shopping sprees on a whim.
2. Fill your time with another hobby
Do you shop to fill a void? Because you are bored?
Has shopping become your only hobby or activity? If you shop because you don’t have something else to do, why not fill that time with another hobby?
3. Track your spending and set a budget
Seeing exactly how much you spend on shopping each month can be very revealing. It can also inspire you to stop shopping so much and to put your money toward your financial goals. To do this, first, you’ll want to track your spending.
Secondly, you need to set a budget and decide how much money you want to allocate toward shopping. Breaking a damaging shopping habit doesn’t mean stopping shopping altogether.
For most, it just means getting your priorities in order and deciding how much you can spend and still reach your other financial goals.
4. Go on a no-spend challenge
If you are really dedicated and want to stop shopping entirely, a no-spend challenge is the way to go. With a no-spend challenge, you vow to stop spending on anything other than bills and necessities.
You can do this for a week, a month, or even a year!
While it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t shop again at the end of the challenge, it's a fantastic way to prove to yourself that you can stop shopping, and it will help you see the many benefits that come along with that.
5. Wait before purchasing anything
Are you an impulse shopper? Unfortunately, the instant gratification impulse shopping brings does not bring long-lasting happiness (or financial prosperity).
Instead of buying something the moment you see it, set it aside and wait a few days before buying it.
If you’re shopping online, you can put it in your cart but not check out. If you’re shopping in person, you can leave the store and come back another day.
By waiting before buying, you’ll have more time to think about whether you really want the thing or if it was just an impulse that soon passed.
6. Stick to cash
Do you rely heavily on credit cards to support your shopping habit? If so, consider switching to an all-cash system. Set aside a specific amount of cash to use for shopping and, once that’s gone, don’t allow yourself to spend anymore.
A bonus of using only cash? When you stick to cash, you eliminate the option to shop online, which helps break any online shopping habits you might have!
How not to fall back into a shopping habit (and what to do if you slip up)
After reading the tips above, you’re probably inspired to break your shopping habit once and for all. You might have even already implemented some of the immediate steps, which is amazing!
Like all habits, though, a shopping habit isn’t always easy to change. It can take time, and you might take a few steps forward and then one backward. Here are some essential things to remember as you work to change your shopping habit:
Remind yourself why you’re changing your habits
Was spending hurting your finances? Keeping you from reaching your financial goals? Preventing you from taking the vacation of your dreams?
Whatever the reason, remind yourself of why you wanted to cut back on shopping in the first place.
Cut out any triggers
Have store emails found their way back into your inbox? Do you hang out too much with a friend whose only hobby is shopping?
Cut out any triggers or bad influences, and you’ll have a much easier time sticking to your new shopping habit.
Be patient with yourself
If you “mess up” and shop when you told yourself you wouldn’t, it’s ok! Cut yourself some slack! Changing a habit is hard.
If you slip up one day, forgive yourself, and get back on track with your spending and shopping the next day.
Yes, you can change your shopping habits and get your finances back on track!
In-store shopping sprees, impulse purchases, and online shopping habits we can’t seem to shake – we’ve all been there! The great news is that all habits are changeable.
The sooner you implement some of the steps above, the sooner you’ll be able to break your damaging shopping habits, and the sooner you can get your finances on the right track! You can even make your own financial plan following these steps!