How to Stop Overspending

Woman holding up a shirt in a shopping boutique

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Spending money is part of modern life. Since spending cannot be quit cold turkey, it can be especially difficult for people who have a shopping addiction to get harmful shopping behaviors under control while they continue to purchase necessities. To make matters worse, though the DSM-5 was the first to recognize select behavioral addictions like gambling disorder, compulsive shopping is not currently recognized as a distinct disorder. It does, however, appear in the context as a symptom of other mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder.

Tips to Avoid Overspending

If you feel that your shopping is out of control, consider seeing your doctor to rule out a treatable medical condition. If you have a true shopping addiction, you will not only be intensely preoccupied with buying and shopping, but you will feel euphoria or relief after making a purchase, followed later on by guilt and shame. You may also grow very anxious before making a purchase.

Cover Your Living Expenses First

It doesn't matter whether you are scraping by on a skimpy paycheck or living a life of luxury. Before you spend on any nonessential purchases, pay your monthly bills like rent, electricity, and groceries. If there are any non-essentials you take for granted, such as phone, internet, and travel expenses, pay for them upfront, too.

Food can be among the trickiest essential purchases to get right. Try stocking up on non-perishable foods at the beginning of the month, and then set aside an amount you can afford each week to cover fresh fruit, vegetables, and dairy products.

Guard Against Debt

The most common fuel for overspending is the credit card. It's quick and easy to use, so you can easily make an impulse buy with no immediate consequences. With the "buy now, pay later" concept, you can drain your bank account for next month as well as this month. To avoid the credit trap, try taking only the cash you can comfortably afford to spend with you on each shopping trip. Use cash as a physical reminder of your budget, and stick to it.

Clearing your credit card debt and ditching your credit cards will also help improve your credit rating, which can have an impact on far more than your future access to credit.

Keep Track of Your Spending

Start by making a spending plan, then try to stick to it. If you have a tendency to spend any money left over after covering what is included in your spending plan, start to make note of what you overspend on. If it is non-essential (such as extra clothing, shoes or other accessories, or electronics), give yourself a limit. Determine how much you can reasonably afford, in terms of money, storage, and emotional cost. Keep all of your receipts.

If you find you have overspent on an unnecessary purchase, return what you can. And for anything you just cannot bear to take back, give up its predecessor. For example, if you just have to have those designer shoes you found for $100, donate the scuffed pair to charity. You won't be overwhelmed by so many items in your closet, and you will be more likely to actually use what you buy.

Don't Be Lured by Discounts

Shopaholics are prone to be tempted by discounts, which appear to offer a way you can have your cake and eat it, too. You may even feel like you are saving money by spending on something with a discount. In reality, you're still going to be out of pocket.

Each time you are tempted by an apparent bargain, ask yourself, "Do I need it?" and "Is it worth full price?" Only consider the purchase if the answer is yes to both questions.

A Word From Verywell

If you have a shopping addiction, you're not alone. A 2006 Stanford University study concluded that while no study has employed a large enough sample to estimate the prevalence of compulsive shopping across the general population, of the 2,513 adults surveyed in their study, 6% of women and 5.5% of men showed symptoms consistent with compulsive buying disorder.

If you've tried following these steps and are still struggling, you may want to consider joining a group that offers help. Debtors Anonymous offers support groups and various resources for those who struggle to cope with unmanageable debt but can't seem to stop spending.

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