Shopping used to be limited to in-person excursions to the mall or trips to a specialty store for one specific item. Now, we have the ability, right at our fingertips, to not only shop but to go on a full-on shopping spree at any moment. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to understand shopping sprees and how they can impact your finances.
Are constant shopping sprees making you broke? You’re not alone. American families carry an average credit card debt of $6,741. While other factors contribute to credit card debt, excessive shopping makes up a huge chunk of this debt for many.
Read on to understand what factors likely contribute to your shopping sprees and what you can do instead of shopping that will leave you better off financially.
Defining the meaning of "shopping spree"
The dictionary defines the meaning of shopping spree as “a short period of time in which someone buys a lot of things.” That definition probably sounds familiar to you. Can you think of a time when you went to a store and came out shortly after with a full shopping cart?
So many of us have dropped $100 at Target after stopping by for “just one thing.” Shopping sprees can happen online, too. It’s even easier to fill up a virtual cart and check-out minutes later (usually with a saved credit card).
It’s important to note that going on frequent shopping sprees doesn’t necessarily mean you have a shopping addiction. Those with true shopping addictions shop excessively and can’t control their shopping impulses, which has a negative impact on their lives. If you suffer from a shopping addiction, consider seeking more formal help to get to the root of your problem.
Here, rather than addressing addiction, we’re talking about how even the occasional shopping spree can negatively impact your finances and how you can avoid indulging in unwanted shopping sprees.
How shopping sprees can impact your finances
Are you wondering why your shopping sprees are making you broke? Here are just a few ways constant shopping sprees can negatively impact your finances:
1. You might unexpectedly blow your budget
You know that budget you worked so hard to craft and stick to? With just one shopping spree, it can be blown in the blink of an eye! A shopping spree can ruin a whole month of discipline.
Going off-budget once in a while is ok (we’re all human!), but if it becomes a habit, you might decide budgeting is not worth it and drop the practice entirely, which can be detrimental to your finances.
2. Shopping sprees can cause excessive credit card debt
Most shopping sprees are assisted by none other than your credit card. It might feel easy and good in the moment, but putting your shopping spree charges on your credit card will likely lead to excessive debt that you’ll have to work hard to pay off.
3. Can lead to bankruptcy
If credit card debt and other types of debt become too much to handle, you might have to turn to bankruptcy. While this is an extreme situation, frequent shopping sprees can certainly contribute to filing for bankruptcy, so they should not be taken lightly.
4. Can cause issues in your relationship
Especially if your shopping sprees have resulted in credit card debt, they could cause issues in your relationship. Debt, in particular, is one of the top things couples argue about and even get divorced over.
Understanding why you go on shopping sprees
We’ve all gone on a shopping spree here or there, for different reasons. Some of the most common reasons behind why people go on shopping sprees (and how you can avoid these) include:
1. Outside influences
There are two main categories of outside influences that can cause you to get that sudden urge to shop (or even stress shop): influencers and your peers. First, let’s talk about those lifestyle influencers who are constantly flaunting their fancy new items on your feed with those enticing haul videos!
Seeing all of these new things might make you feel like you just have to have them, too. Which can lead to – you guessed it – a spur of the moment online shopping spree. Secondly, there’s the influence that your peers and their shopping habits have on you.
Seeing your friends with the hottest new outfit or gadget can spark jealousy, competition, and over-spending. It’s one of the main reasons why people go broke. It’s hard to resist constant shopping sprees when you are trying to keep up with what everyone around you is doing.
Avoid these temptations by limiting your screen time, unfollowing influencers, and doing your best to remember that you don’t have to have everything that your friends do. If you can’t afford it or it’s not in your financial plan to purchase it, don’t succumb to peer pressure just to try to fit in.
2. To make you feel better when you’re down
Feeling sad? Depressed? Angry? Sometimes a little “retail therapy” is all you need – or all you think you need. While a shopping spree might make you feel good in the moment, it won’t address the underlying causes of your unhappiness.
Those need to be addressed separately. In the meantime, try not to let your mood dictate your spending habits. Recognize when you feel triggered to shop and have a plan to do something else during that time – call a friend, go for a walk, cook a meal – anything but shopping.
3. To counteract boredom
Feeling blah about your own life? Not sure what to do with your free time? Lots of people use shopping to escape from their life, fill a void, or simply to use up time when they are bored. Shopping sprees happen so quickly it doesn’t even take much time to complete one.
It’s easy to turn to your phone, fill up a shopping cart, and click “order” when you have nothing else to do. By being aware of this and finding other things to do to fill your time, you’ll be able to avoid shopping as a time-filler.
Be more deliberate with your shopping, only doing it when you truly want to and have thought through your purchases.
Knowing what factors contribute to your shopping sprees and what to do about it
In addition to the underlying reasons why you might get the shopping urge, the following things may inadvertently be contributing to your constant shopping sprees. The good thing is, you can do something about them, too!
1. Not having a budget
This one is pretty straightforward. If you don’t have a budget, there’s nothing to blow, so you might not even realize the damage your shopping sprees are doing to your finances.
The solution? Create one and stick to it! When you see your income and expenses clearly laid out in front of you and understand where your money is going each month, you’ll be more likely to hold back the next time you think about going on a shopping spree that isn’t accounted for in your budget.
2. Relying on credit cards
When used wisely, credit cards are great financial tools. But they also aid and abet shopping sprees since it’s just so easy to swipe without thinking first. This can lead to debt that you can’t make the monthly payments on.
The solution? Figure out what it is you tend to go on shopping sprees for. Is it clothes? Kitchen accessories? Target purchases? Whatever your shopping “vice” is, promise yourself that you will only shop at that place or for those items with cash.
By taking away the quick-click or swipe of a credit card and replacing it with cash, you’ll be able to take more of a pause before you make a purchase and will only spend money that you actually have.
3. Not having financial goals
When you don’t have any financial goals in place, you lack direction and purpose. If there’s nothing to save for or dream about, you’re more likely to go on shopping sprees and spend on things you don’t really need or even want. The solution? It’s simple – set some financial goals today!
Once you have a goal in mind (for example, paying off your student loans by a set date), you’ll be more in tune with what you’re spending your money on. You’ll be less likely to go on a shopping spree that will hinder your goal setting. Instead, you’ll be more likely to stick to your goals by passing on a shopping spree.
Feeling an urge to shop? What to do instead of going on a shopping spree
There are so many other things that don’t involve spending money that you can do instead of shop. A shopping spree might last only thirty minutes, but it can do some serious damage to your finances. Instead, why not try one of these suggestions?
1. Plan a trip or an outing
Feeling a little down? Don’t soothe yourself with a shopping spree – that’s just a temporary solution. Instead, plan something fun for the future. Even if you can’t go on a trip just yet, planning a vacation or an outing with friends can seriously boost your mood.
If you’ve created a vacation budget that you stick to, then, when the time comes around to taking your trip, it will be fully planned and adequately budgeted for.
Sharing your time and talents with others less fortunate than you is one of the best ways to spend your time. You won’t even think about shopping when you can make a difference in someone else’s life just by spending your time with them.
3. Start a home decoration or small project
Constantly dropping large portions of your paycheck on home goods? Why not pick a project to do instead? Whether it’s redecorating a corner of your room with items you already own or embarking on a more substantial building project, the amount it costs to do a home refresh is nothing compared to what you might spend during a shopping spree.
4. Try a shopping ban/wardrobe challenge
Instead of spending money on clothes, commit to a shopping ban and try a wardrobe challenge aimed at wearing what you have and reducing what you own.
One challenge, Project 333, asks you to choose 33 items to wear for an entire 3 months (no shopping allowed but you can shop your closet!).
Who knows, after the challenge is over, you might find yourself embracing a minimalist lifestyle that does not include shopping sprees. Instead, you might embrace slow shopping. Plus, ban island can be a lovely place!
5. Declutter your life
In addition to streamlining your wardrobe, why not declutter your whole life? Embarking on a project like this means you won’t have the time to go on endless shopping sprees. And when you’re done, you won’t want to fill your recently decluttered space with more stuff.
6. Try a new hobby
A hobby is one of the best alternatives to impulse shopping, especially if you find yourself drawn to shopping when you’re bored.
Instead of filling your time by spending money, get back to doing something you used to love to do, or pick up a new hobby that doesn’t have to cost a lot.
7. Find something else productive to do
Need some more inspiration? There are endless ways to spend your time that don’t involve shopping or wasting your hard-earned cash. Check out our list of 35 productive things you can do instead of spending money.
It’s time to end your constant shopping sprees!
The meaning of a shopping spree is simple – it’s when you buy a lot of stuff really quickly. But a shopping spree’s effects on your finances can be anything but simple and fast. Rather, it can be quite consequential and long-lasting.
Hopefully, now, you understand why you might find yourself going on a few too many shopping sprees. Better yet, you also have the tools to do something else with your time (and money!). You can also learn how to create a budget that works for you with our completely free budgeting course!
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