It seems like there is tremendous wealth all over the world doesn’t there? We are hit with TV shows highlighting millionaires and all their toys; rich “Housewives” of whatever major city, and HGTV with their international home buyers. These shows become the standard – it seems everyone has wealth and toys everywhere so why shouldn’t we? This perception of great wealth and materialism can attack our self-esteem when we aren’t those people. There is a lot of pressure to feel included – to keep up with the Joneses so we too feel, and look like, we’re successful in the world.
In addition, buying has evolved from a necessity to a national past time in North America. We are surrounded by store signs, commercials, flyers, catalogs, online advertising – you name it. We are a materialistic society – where people are often judged by their appearance and what they own. It’s hard to fight it and some embrace it to a point of self destruction. Are you one of those people?
If you purchase on a regular basis – everyday, in response to negative experiences, or in response to positive experiences – you may be seeking way too much ‘retail therapy’. The purchases could be for yourself, friends or family – any excuse works.
Look for these warning signs:
1. Clothing hangs in a closet with the labels still on.
2. Purchases are a thrill but quickly lose appeal.
3. You shop to avoid a major decision or action required.
4. You feel a bit low and need to boost your spirits.
5. You hide your purchases or bills to avoid confrontation.
There is a tipping point between shopping occasionally with friends, versus shopping as a regular reaction to emotions. There is no black and white score card, but when shopping becomes a compulsion like alcoholism or gambling, it’s time to get it in check.
In Part 2, we’ll examine why people are driven to shopaholism.
Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a web site for women focused on the psychology of money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Thoughts always welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.