As Albert Einstein pointed out “For every action there is a reaction”, and this is so very true for overshopping. These reactions are the consequences that can occur when shopping controls our lives.
I have actually put off writing this post for a while. I knew this topic needed to be discussed, but I have not been ready to delve into it and write about the most painful part of overshopping…the real consequences. As a recovering shopaholic I don’t want to focus on all the negative things that have spun from my endless shopping. I don’t want to face the truth that something which brings me joy (albeit short-lived joy), has caused some lasting ramifications. Yet, it is important to see and understand what has happened, and what still will happen from compulsive and impulsive shopping.
People who are not overspenders may have a humorous image of a shopaholic similar to the character in Sophia Kinsella’s Shopaholic book series. Trust me, there definitely are many humorous stories I can tell from my own non-fiction life. In fact, at some point, I’d like to write more entertaining humorous pieces based on my real life experiences. I do enjoy laughing at my shopaholic self, but the consequences that eventually occur are really no laughing matter.
The most common, well-known and obvious repercussion for overshoppers is financial stress. Those with shopping addictions can easily ignore real financial situations and will spend whatever their credit limit allows (or more). Having the perfect shearling coat becomes a higher priority than bills, savings plans, and certainly more exciting than seeing a zero credit card balance. But serious debt can bring about serious stress. And when your mind is not thinking about shopping, it is then left to figure out how to juggle paying off the bills. Some shopaholics will run up so much debt and financial distress that they may end up with little choice but to declare bankruptcy. When finances become overwhelming and unmanageable, organizations like debtors anonymous can be so helpful. But even if you are managing to keep your head above water and staying afloat, you are likely still not saving money and preparing properly for the future. It becomes a continued cycle of “Buy, Buy, Buy…Happy, Happy, Happy…Debt, Debt, Debt…Stress, Stress, Stress”.
In all truthfulness (I am always honest on this blog), financial stress has not been the main consequence for me. I have never shopped so much that there has ever been an issue on our household finances. Yes, I have opened up credit card accounts that I thought I could manage paying off each month with the amount of spending money I’ve budgeted for. And yes, time and time again I’ve exceeded my budget, ending up with a large balance with large interest payments, and then stressing over what to do next. Then of course, I have to take money from our savings account and pay off the debt…ashamed and disappointed in myself. I have been fortunate that our household income has allowed me to dig myself out of debt each time, but that is not an excuse to continue in this behavior.
Those who know me personally might tilt their heads and scrunch their face in confusion when first hearing me say that I have a shopping problem. They are likely to think “How can she have a problem when she has the money to pay her bills and has a beautiful home, a nice car, and takes wonderful family vacations each year? She doesn’t have a problem…thats nonsense!” But just because I haven’t experienced huge financial consequences does not mean that my shopping hasn’t brought me other types of consequences which have caused their own levels of stress in my life. My excessive shopping behavior has brought negative emotional, relationship and spiritual consequences.
Shame, anxiety, embarrassment, guilt…all these negative emotions can quickly surface when shopping gets out of control. So many times I have wondered
“What is wrong with me?” “Why can’t I control my shopping better?” “Why am I not more responsible?” “Why don’t I ever learn?”
I admire my frugal friends. I wonder how do they do it? How are they able to pass up shopping the Nordstrom sale? Why are they content with what they have and not eager to go out and buy a new coat, boots or handbag? I tend to put them on a pedestal, as if they have some shopping-resistance super power. I may feel inferior and I’ll start to believe that I’ll always be a failure in this aspect of my life.
Low self-esteem, self-criticism and other negative emotions can then lead to more shopping since we use shopping as a way to escape and run away from undesirable emotions. I’ll reason that “I’ll feel better about myself if I get some new clothes”, or, “browsing my favorite online store calms me”. I can day dream about a happy future possibility (such as a vacation or a night out on the town) and then shop for it! Of course, more shopping will eventually lead to the realization that I’ve overdone it again, and this leads to further feelings of disappointment in myself, failure and shame. In fact, these emotions can bring us so low that we may choose to disengage ourselves from others. Which brings us to yet another overshopping consequence…negative effects and friction within our relationships.
This is the most difficult consequence to think about and write about. How has my shopping affected my husband, my children and my friends? How may I have hurt the people I love? I am blessed to have married my soul mate. We love, we laugh, we pray, and like most couples we argue. But perhaps unlike most, the only thing we really have ever repeatedly argued about is my shopping. Every time I have surprised my husband by announcing that I accumulated a high credit card balance “again”, it has caused stress in our relationship. We have always worked through it, but it is certainly a sensitive subject for us, and likely I could write an entire post just about that! It makes me unhappy to know that I have let him down time and time again.
As for my kids…until I started this blog, they would have told you that they had no idea I had a “shopping issue”. I suppose I’ve managed for many years to hide it from them. In fact, when I told one of my sons about this blog, he said “I don’t think you shop too much. You don’t buy too much for us.” That, of course, made me feel guilty that I buy so much for myself but not too much for them!
The biggest effect my shopping has had on my kids would likely only have been noticed by me. There were too many times when I could have engaged with them…playing with their toys or playing a game, but instead I sat on the couch fixated with nordstrom.com. There were softball and baseball games where I wasn’t fully paying attention because I was in the stands on my iPad making certain I didn’t miss out on RueLaLa’s latest designer sale. There were multiple times when I would be running late from a shopping spree at the mall and end up being the last parent to pick their kids up from school. In fact, it hurt my heart so much years ago being late so often, and seeing my oldest kids standing there waiting for me, that this never happens anymore with my youngest child. I always make sure I am one of the first parents to pick him up….so see, there is hope for positive change!
I do have a wonderful relationship with all of my kids and I do believe I am a great mother in so many ways, but I know in my heart the moments I have failed them because of my shopping. I don’t think…or should I say “I hope”... that I haven’t hurt or negatively affected them…but still I am negatively affected because I know the times when I was not fully there as a parent…when my mind was off shopping somewhere. I can never get back those days again, but I can control missing any future moments.
There is no doubt that our friendships can suffer too because of our shopping addiction. For some it may be as simple as not having the extra money available to go out with their friends. For others it may be that you are spending time shopping, when instead you could be with friends. What I’ve seen happen to me is that I may not be fully present when I am with my friends. This can especially happen if I am experiencing one of those times when I am trying to resist a shopping urge. My mind can become obsessive about something that I “must have” and I’ll find my thoughts constantly drifting to “how can I buy it”…”should I buy it?”…”when can I buy it”. These obsessive shopping thoughts will distract me from the company I am with, and I will not be as present in the moment I am living because I am too caught up in some future shopping event! I recall once being late for dinner plans with my good friends because I went to the mall first to purchase something that I “had to have”. I showed up a half hour late and everyone was waiting for me before they ordered. I can’t remember what was so important that I couldn’t wait to purchase it, but I do recall feeling that I had put my friends “second” to shopping that night.
Shopping can also affect us spiritually. No matter which religion or spiritual belief a person may have, the constant need to satisfy our earthly desires can thwart our spiritual growth. As a Catholic, I know for myself and my faith, that putting such importance on earthly, material things pushes me away from God. The guilt and repeated failures can often lead to feeling like I am not the best Christian that I can be. And because I repeatedly stumble with this shopping issue, I become reluctant to ask God for more help. I think “Surely God must be tired of me praying for strength and guidance only to go on another buying spree”. Ultimately, I do not believe God thinks like this…it is me who harbors disbelief in myself…who has a hard time offering empathy and forgiving myself. We must continue to remember that we are human and therefore imperfect. And despite my “recovery hiccups”, I do continue to pray and work to improve myself spiritually.
There may be other consequences that people experience from Shopping Addictions that I have not mentioned. I can only write sincerely about the issues that I have personally experienced. Taking the time to recognize and evaluate the negative outcomes of our overshopping can help motivate us to work even harder on our recovery and stay on a more mindful shopping path. I know that after writing this post and reflecting on my own past consequences, those expensive Valentino boots that I began yearning for suddenly don’t seem so important anymore.