Does it often seem that you can’t control your spending? You have a budget, and even a forced savings plan, but your debt levels are going up just as fast. The problem may be impulse spending and recreational shopping—which are actually two sides of the same problem.
Most of us have good intentions when it comes to living within a budget, but something falls apart in the execution. Here’s the problem: spending money feels good! Much like a drug, spending can create a high. Recklessness usually does! Think how it feels to speed on an abandoned road—you know you shouldn’t, but you still do. You may regret it afterward (accident or police summons) but while your doing it you feel so free, as if nothing can stop you.
So it is with spending. While you’re spending it can feel as if you’re treating yourself, breaking out of your routine, or even getting away with something. You’ll regret the empty bank account or the higher credit card balance afterward but none of that matters at the moment.
Recreational Shopping And Boredom
Do you remember Jim Carey’s line in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (said to no one in particular): ”Am I just eating because I’m bored? Have you ever asked yourself the same question? Boredom is the reason we do all kinds of things in addition to eating: watching TV, drinking (alcohol), web surfing, texting and, yes, shopping!
It seems counter-intuitive that in a world where we seem to be “so busy” all of the time that we always find time to engage in activities that are at least moderately self destructive. Maybe that’s why we seem to be so busy!
The most basic solution to recreational shopping and impulse spending then seems to be one of time management, or better put, spending more time on productive past-times as a way of reducing the amount of time available for the not so productive ones.
The Connection Between Recreational Shopping And Impulse Buying
If you have a problem with impulse spending, the last thing you want to do is to put yourself in a position where you’ll be tempted—think of an alcoholic hanging out in a bar as an analogy. If recreational shopping is a response to boredom, it’s probably the single worst activity if you want to control your spending. It puts you in the place where the most damage can be done.
Many people do it, more than we commonly believe. It’s easy enough to convince ourselves that it isn’t really happening. We’re just heading out to buy a pair of shoes—but four hours later we come back with two new shirts, a golf bag, a pound of Godiva chocolate—oh and since we were gone longer than expected we had to grab lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. A $50 pair of shoes morphs into a $200 full-out mall outing, complete with lunch.
Can you see how that plays out in the willing mind? It starts with some level of necessity then mushrooms into an expensive shopping spree.
Since the best way to get rid of a bad habit is by replacing it with a good one—here are some suggestions to replace recreational shopping and impulse spending with more productive activities.
How To Fight Recreational Shopping And Impulse Buying
Start An Exercise Program
If you have time and energy to burn, rather than trying to handle it at the mall or some other shopping outlet, do it through an exercise program instead. Not only will exercise soak up the extra time and energy, but it will have positive health benefits. You’ll be swapping a bad habit—shopping—for one with constructive benefits.
You don’t have to spend money doing this either—you can walk, bike, or exercise or lift weights at home. Bonus: there’s good feeling that comes from exercise that may very well replace the “high” that comes from shopping.
Spend More Time With People
So far we’ve discussed boredom and it’s affect on spending, but isolation is another culprit. Spending often results from shopping trips that are taken to alleviate loneliness, or as an attempt to use things as a substitute for the people who don’t seem to be there to keep us company.
The way to deal with this is to be purposeful about getting together with people. Phone calls, emails and the social media are one way to do it, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face contact. That’s the most basic way to build relationships.
While you’re getting together with people you’ll be a) building the relationships that will make spending money less necessary, and b) cutting down on idle time that leads to spending.
Commit To Reading The Bible
Building our relationship with God is how we can fill that void that leads to recreational spending. The way to make that happen is by prayer, fellowship with other believers and by immersing ourselves in God’s Word—the Bible.
All of that takes time. And when we invest that time, we’ll not only grow in our spiritual lives—which will ease our perceived need for stuff—but we’ll also have less time for shopping.
Learn A New Skill
Many of us want to earn more money, get a promotion or get a new job, but we don’t have the skills to make it happen. By diverting time into learning new skills we’re preparing ourselves for a brighter future. But that effort will also take time away from shopping, and that’s yet another budget friendly past-time.
And once again, as you learn new skills you’ll also feel better about your future and about yourself. That by itself could lead to less reliance on the high that spending brings.
Get A Part-Time Job Or Start A Side Business
These are yet another example of a double win in the war against recreational shopping and impulse spending. Not only will you have less time for spending money, but you’ll also have the obvious benefit of having more money.
One caveat here: if you take this approach, be sure that it doesn’t enable even more spending!
If we use spending to fill emotional voids, then doing volunteer work may be just what we need to cut back on unnecessary spending. It may sound like semantics, but helping others is an excellent way to help ourselves to feel that we have a higher purpose in life.
When we help others, we’re not only working to relieve some of the stresses of the human condition, but we’re also making an outstanding witness to others of both our faith and of the strength of our convictions. And convictions beat bad habits every time.
If you’re finding that you’re spending more money than you should, it may not be a money problem after all, but a time management issue. Use the time that you would spend shopping and buying for purposes that will improve your life. Any activity that allows you to grow in your faith, your relationships, your health, your career or your income will fit the bill. It’s just a matter of replacing a bad habit with a good one. Or two or three or more.
Have you ever considered that you may be using spending as an answer either to boredom or to some type of emotional void?
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