Warning signs you’re a shopaholic


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I shop, therefore I am. Artist Barbara Kruger took a cue from René Descartes to create an iconic image that parodies consumerism.

But let’s face it: Buying stuff—a new outfit, toy or just about anything—can be thrilling. Clicking “purchase,” waiting days for your new item’s arrival and finally getting to rip open the packaging can bring on an endorphin rush.


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It’s an all-American pastime. Consumer spending recently reached $14.5 trillion.

This joyous purchasing loop, though, can turn into a nightmare for people who become shopaholics.

It’s important to note that there’s a big difference between making one impulse buy for a bit of retail therapy and having a genuine compulsion. Here are a few signs of shopaholic tendencies and how to stop the urges.

Related: Understanding purchase interest charges on credit cards

What Are the Signs of a Shopaholic?

There are people who merely like to shop. Then there are people who compulsively buy because of a disorder known as oniomania. As the journal World Psychiatry explains, oniomania, otherwise known as compulsive buying disorder, is characterized by excessive shopping behavior that leads to “distress or impairment.” The journal noted that those living with it often have a preoccupation with shopping and have a sense of emotional relief after buying something.

Typically, CBD comes with what doctors call “psychiatric comorbidity,” meaning the person usually has another disorder, such as anxiety or a mood disorder. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the journal says compulsive shopping may run in families.

The prevalence of compulsive buying is a bit unknown, though researchers estimate it to be between 1% and 8% worldwide. While there are no standardized treatments, there are signs and symptoms to look out for so people can become aware of a potentially dangerous pattern. Here are some.

1. Purchasing Unnecessary Things

Shopaholics often buy items on a whim, and it’s often an item they don’t need. Psychology Today notes that true shopaholics tend to spend money without reflecting on whether they need the item. That is because it’s not about the item, but rather the euphoria experienced when purchasing the item. This pattern can be used by a shopaholic to fill a need or negate a negative emotion.

The emotional high, though, can be quickly replaced by guilt about spending money without need. (Not sure where your shopping tendencies fall? Take our quiz to find out.)

2. Accumulating Unopened Goods

Another sign of a problem is leaving unopened boxes or bags in the closet or under the bed. Those living with CBD can develop hoarding tendencies as they accumulate more goods than they need and continue buying.

3. Concealing Shopping Habits

People living with CBD will often try to conceal their shopping habits. This could be because they feel shame or it could be because they are attempting to hide their purchases from a loved one.

4. Feeling Regret

People with CBD may feel remorse after purchasing an item they do not need. They might understand that they didn’t need the item or can’t afford it, or they perceive the purchase as giving in. But remorse can, in turn, force the person back into a negative cycle, as one way a true shopaholic sees a fix is to buy more things.

Treating Compulsive Shopping

There are no standardized treatments for those living with the disorder, but they can learn to cope. As with many disorders, the first step is for a person to recognize that she or he has a problem. Here are a few ways to recognize and improve shopping patterns.

1. Tracking Emotional Responses

One way to figure out personal triggers is to track them in a diary. Any time a person feels compelled to buy something, they can write down the time and surrounding details.

They may be able to look back and find they were triggered by an emotional event with a friend or family member or feel anxious about events at work or elsewhere. This lends insight into what drives them to want to buy and hopefully helps them avoid those triggers in the future.

2. Seeking Expert Help

If a shopping compulsion is suspected, it may be a good idea to seek expert help. This can include therapy or psychiatric assistance. A professional may be able to help track triggers and identify any psychiatric comorbidities, as mentioned above. It’s never a bad idea to seek help if you feel you may need it.

3. Delaying Gratification

Another way to tell the difference between a simple habit and a compulsion is to wait on a purchase. If you see an item you like, it may be a good idea to wait out the immediate emotional thrill of buying. You could ask for the item to be placed on hold for a few days, but sometimes, just a few moments is enough.

Shoppers can choose to leave the store—or the computer—go for a walk, and see how they feel about the item after a pause. If they think they need it or genuinely want it, or it will improve some aspect of their lives, then go for it. Otherwise, leave the item.

To really up the ante on waiting for a purchase, try the 30-day rule. Using the practice, shoppers looking to buy a nonessential item must put it back on the shelf and step away for a full 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, if they still want the item, they can return and purchase it.

4. Tracking Spending

Buyers who think they may have shopaholic tendencies may be able to know for sure by tracking their spending. Tracking spending can show different shopping habits. It may also be an excellent resource for the aforementioned diary.

By monitoring spending, you can track if there are specific days or times you tend to spend more, or if you tend to spend more at specific stores and potentially cut back on spending from there.

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32 ways to celebrate the holidays affordably

32 ways to celebrate the holidays affordably

The holiday season is a popular time for Americans to go all out with their spending. They shell out an average of $1,000 to $2,000 on gifts alone. And that doesn’t include spending on parties, decor or travel. 

There are so many expenses that need to be taken into account during the holidays, but you don’t need to overspend for top-of-the-line gifts and experiences to enjoy the season.

Here are some ideas to help you celebrate the holidays affordably.

Related: Creating better buying habits

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Before spending any money, come up with a realistic budget for gifts, decorations and experiences this holiday season. You’ll be able to prioritize your spending in advance and identify where you can make cuts.


By making purchases with cash instead of plastic during the holidays, you could end up spending more thoughtfully. Try the cash envelope system to help you stick to your budget. All you do is create a few different envelopes for spending categories like holiday meals, decorations and experiences, and then put the cash for each into the envelopes. When you run out of cash, it means you can’t spend any more money in that category (or you have to dip into the budget for another category). 

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While you may prefer to cook everything yourself for holiday meals, hosting a potluck and asking your friends and family members to bring food to a holiday meal is a good way to cut costs on your grocery bill. It could also be fun to sample everyone’s cooking. Just make sure that you ask people ahead of time what they plan to bring so that you have enough food and options for everyone.


If you are hosting a meal, choose some foods that are on the cheaper side to save money. For instance, if you celebrate Hanukkah, you could make latkes, which only require potatoes and onions, plus some sides like applesauce and sour cream. More cheap Hanukkah meal ideas include fried chicken and donuts. If you celebrate Kwanzaa, try cooking some buttermilk biscuits and plantains. For Christmas, pigs in a blanket and yule log cakes are both fun and affordable.

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There may be an area near you that’s known for looking spectacular at Christmas time. Hop in the car with a friend and tour the local Christmas decor for a festive, free night out.


Instead of doing a Secret Santa gift exchange with presents, get together some friends, colleagues or neighbors and do a cookie swap instead. Before committing to making any cookies, be sure to ask everyone in the cookie exchange if they have any food allergies.

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This is a great free holiday activity to do with the kids. Go to the library, take out some holiday books you loved when you were a kid, and then reread them to your children during the holiday season. You’ll get to reminisce about the past while sharing your childhood with your family.

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Search YouTube for the best holiday tunes to boogie down to with your friends and family. Of course, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” has to be on your playlist.

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The dollar store is full of cheap holiday decorations as well as goodies you can put into gift bags or stuff into stockings. You can find low-cost ornaments, lights, balloons and more to make your home more festive for the season.


If you already subscribe to a streaming service, you’ll find plenty of holiday movies featured come December. Look for classics like A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Scrooged” and Home Alone to get started. Pick up some microwave movie theater popcorn and you’ll have a fun, cozy night in with all your favorite flicks.

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A custom playlist is a classic thoughtful gift for friends and family. Now that most music is available online, it’s easier than ever. Just create a playlist on Spotify, name it, and then share the link. They’ll be sure to appreciate the tunes!


Your town likely hosts lots of free and/or cheap events you can partake in during the holidays. Search for Christmas tree lightings, concerts, parades and outdoor movie nights, which are usually free or low cost.

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What better way to celebrate the holidays than to give back? Look for local opportunities to volunteer at a soup kitchen or work with the homeless and hungry in some other way this year. Your community will benefit from your kindness, and you’ll feel great for volunteering.


Another way you can give back — and get the entire family involved — is to donate toys your kids no longer use to children and families in need. Search for local toy drives happening in your community to find the best place to donate them to.

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The average Millennial will spend $228.10 on New Year’s Eve. If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on one night out, then crowdsource a New Year’s party at home. You can invite over a few friends and have a potluck, or order in some pizzas and have everyone split the costs. Turn on the TV and watch some movies, bust out the holiday playlist and have a dance party, or sit in the front of the fireplace and drink hot cocoa.

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If you can’t be with your friends and family members in person on the holidays, then host a Zoom party. Everyone can pour themselves a glass of something and catch up without spending anything on travel.

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Have some board games in your closet? Or maybe you have access to online games on your television? Invite over your loved ones and host a game night. Buy some cheap snacks like popcorn, chips and pretzels, and pair them with soda and bring-your-own beer to stay on budget.


Groupon is home to some amazing deals, and during the holiday season, the site may offer discount codes on experiences as well. Look for local holiday events in your local area, or get creative and gift a discounted experience to a friend.


Do you have credit card points racked up? Then the holiday season is the time to use them. You may be able to use your points to purchase gifts as well as book hotels and flights.

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Instead of spending thousands traveling on a plane to some exotic location, stay home and explore your town, or take a road trip to a local destination. If you bring friends along, you’ll have more fun — and you can split the cost of gas and food.


E-cards are free or cheap, making them much more affordable than traditional holiday cards. Show your family and friends that you’re thinking about them by sending them a personalized e-card leading up to the holidays.


Ask your loved ones to bring over their own prepared cookie dough, and then give out the supplies to decorate the cookies, such as sprinkles and icing. The finished cookies can even be used as small holiday gifts!


If you log onto Pinterest, you’ll find a number of DIY holiday decorations you can make yourself for a fraction of the price of store-bought. For instance, you could create a wreath out of old wine corks or string up popcorn on your Christmas tree. Make sure to ask your family and friends to join in on the fun.

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Thrift stores sell holiday decorations and cards at much lower prices than a typical retail store. Go to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or other local thrift shops to find great deals.


Many times, churches, synagogues and other houses of worship will host holiday celebrations for free or a donation you can afford.Whether you’re attending formal services or a special holiday event, you’ll be sure to meet people from your community and make new friends.

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Look up the rules for playing dreidel and then host a dreidel competition at your house. Remember to whip up some latkes and donuts for the Hanukkah celebration and to create prizes for the winners. (Don’t worry: Simple items from the dollar store should suffice.)

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You can find a cheap advent calendar at the store — or make your own — and then use it to count down every day to Christmas with the kids. You can’t go wrong with a traditional candy advent calendar, but those with large collections of holiday-themed books can also try a book-a-day countdown.

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You can construct some great gifts at home without having to spend much on materials. For example, you could make a family cookbook containing recipes and fun stories about the person they came from. If you sew, you could whip up embroidered items like handkerchiefs or tote bags, or if you’re a whiz in the kitchen, you could make jams, jellies and more!

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You may have saved up holiday cards over the years. Now is the time to break them out and decorate your home. When you look around, you’ll have fond memories of past holidays (and a reminder to send your own cards this year).

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Ugly holiday sweaters are officially a thing, and donning one might help you keep your thermostat lower come heating season! Find a goofy sweater online or at a discount store to wear proudly throughout the holiday season. Better yet, break out the one that your grandma made when you were a kid (if it still fits, of course).

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An artificial Christmas tree will likely cost more upfront than a real tree, but it’ll last you for years to come. Even if you shell out $300 on a fake tree, if it lasts for 10 years, that’s $30 a year. When compared to the average cost of a live Christmas tree — $112.63 — the savings are clear.


If you put off shopping until the last minute, you’re much more likely to blow your budget. Schedule time to shop before the holiday season is in full swing to help you avoid the overspending trap.

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The holidays can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. Focus on spending time with friends and family, investing in your community, and exploring your D.I.Y. side to get the most out of the season while spending the least.

Learn more:

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

SoFi Money
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA /SIPC. Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
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