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Compulsive Shopping

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Compulsive Shopping

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red copper
I have a problem I have to manage and usually do a pretty good job of. Twice in the last 4 years I've realised I've let my shopping get out of control, no debt was incurred either time (I'm a pretty sensible person, which helps a lot) but both times I had difficultly paying for normal expenses due to having spent too much on my obsessional items. My preoccupation with whatever it is has an impact on my interactions with other humans, ignoring them whilst I scour online stores/Google etc looking for my 'rare' item of choice of the moment....


Most recently I let my shopping compulsion take over during a bout of depression. I work 4 days a week in a reasonably well paying job and don't have any large ongoing expenses so it wasn't having a negative impact, which allowed me let it run wilder and wilder. Then my partner, who is unwell, decided he wasn't able to keep working. I was happy to help him but by now the excessive shopping was habitual, I was so swept up in it I didn't realise I was whittling away my buffer money. Then the bills arrived and for the first time I had to pay for them completely by myself, all $500 of my remaining savings was gone and I only had a small amount of money left. Even then, worrying about whether I would have enough to buy food, I had a very hard time holding back from buying jewelry. As soon as I got paid again I went on another spree. It became plainly evident to me I was out of control. I don't even know how much I spent, or why I didn't instead hold back until I had built up more savings. I was left again with only just enough money to buy food.

What motivates this? I seem to be repeating the same action again and again, like a rat in a cage pressing a lever for food, seeking gratification I had once received from a similar action. The objects I buy are invested with subjective value and mean more to me when I am buying them then their monetary value, which means sometimes I get swept away buying this or that merely because I don't already own it or because I haven't seen anything like it before - with no thought for the real use it will have for me when it arrives in the mail. This has been less of a problem with my jewelry obsession than it was with my compulsion for buying Chinese brocade jackets on eBay auctions 4 years ago, which I still have in the back of my wardrobe today, unworn and beautiful. At least that experience has left me with the knowledge of how to bring my spending back under control today (now I have finally gained insight into my behaviour and have the desire to change). 

The secret? To become aware of what the item you compulsively buy means to you, how chasing that fantasy uninhibited prevents you from really attaining the things these items symbolise and how much you lose by letting your compulsions run free. I've also decided to focus more on quality than quantity  and make myself delay gratification by saving for special items (Luciferins, Anatometal opal eyelets etc). 

So my question to you is this: how many of you fit this description of oniomania (compulsive buying) on Wikipedia? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oniomania
  • I do recognize this.. and i am guilty of doing it too lately.. with jewelry and art commissions lately.. :/
    • I think it must link into a gathering instinct or something, it's intense!
      • Yeah.. its so weird.. and my boyfriend is actually trying to "help" me deal with it.. he already told me no more buying plugs.. (and then i go and hide my newly bought plugs from him -_-) and with commissions.. well he lets me for now but he will keep an eye on that so i dont splurge that much but rather save upf or special things.

        And i just bought a new camera.. *sigh* i dont really need it, but i have so many excuses for my old camera and and.. xD
    • I haven't actively hidden my purchases yet but if I can bring them into the house without any notice being paid I do feel better, there is that sense of guilt and shame. I hate being told what to do but with the eBay thing I did need some intensive help, I didn't want to go out if I knew an auction was ending and would get very upset if I lost. It was 4 years ago and I still remember some of the items that got away! I am quite insane, I am sure!
    • i hide my stuff too...mostly because he HATES my ears and so freaks out. However much to my surprise he agreed to not protest if i get my nose pierced (double, one on each nostril) he said if he protested i'd just do it anyways. Thats progress at least!
  • Couldn't you sell back some of the things you've purchased unnecessarily or unwisely? Those Chinese brocade jackets would surely fetch a decent price if you put them back on eBay, right? If you're a collector, so is someone else. That way you could 'undo' some of the financial damage and feel less guilty about it.

    I don't spend compulsively (I actually do this thing where I put what ends up being too much money into savings), but I understand guilt about buying stuff. It helps to sell things you bought on a whim, if not to get the money back or mostly back for it than to ease your conscience about it.

    If bills will be solely on you for a while, maybe that's a step worth taking until your boyfriend starts working again.
    • I know I wont wear them except once in a blue moon but somehow I cannot bear to part with them (I keep hoping for the right occasion that would justify wearing them, I have a wardrobe full of 'costumes' that only come out for very special events). I am a hoarder too to some degree. I seem to only be able to sell things if I made them specifically to sell and they are 100% perfection or if I legitimately hate them. Hmmmm, wondering if accusations of being OCD might hold some weight...
    • If it's something you physically cannot make yourself do, I would also strongly consider the idea that you may have OCD. I don't know much, if anything, about mental illness, however, so this is where my commentary on that stops.

      However, would it be possible to have your boyfriend handle this kind of thing? You go to work, do your thing, and when you come home, things could have been sold off. Just give him the preemptive go-ahead and let the magic happen behind the scenes, so to speak.

      I don't want to come off as insensitive, but I do believe there is a solution to your problem. It's just a matter of finding and implementing it. :]
      • I don't think you're being insensitive but I do think you missed the point of the end of my post somewhat. I'm sharing a solution as well as my story (no point crying about my problem and not trying to help others in the process). I've overcome this situation before and brought it under control so I can do it again. I also think sharing my issue might inspire others to become aware of theirs as I don't think it's uncommon in this community.

        The majority of the time I am pretty sensible with money, I buy everything cash and don't have a credit card, make sure I have emergency money etc. My partner has actually accused me of being too pedantic about my savings from time to time. When I am overcome with my depression (which is being treated) things do get out of control sometimes. I think it's linked to the ahedonia (inability to experience pleasure)and me desperately trying to find something to make me happy, doing things that have been fun before over and over hoping to get that feeling again.

        Thankfully my partner is about to go back to work part time so that will help me build up the emergency money again, and I'm reevaluating my attitude so I'll be bringing the issue under control...basically as of now.

        I still don't want to sell my jackets, I certainly will never buy any more of them again though!
    • It does sound like hoarding, from reading this response. I know that therapy helps for some people. =\
  • When I was on maternity leave during the summer and thus making 55% of my salary I was buying so many plugs that I told my husband he could buy a TV if he would never give me a hard time about plugs again.
    Now he says the statute of limitations is coming up on that promise. I may have to let him get an android phone...
    I'm not in debt and I would never buy plugs at the expense of my family (ex. plugs over something my daughter needs) but I have no more "buffer" money in my chequing.
    I just find it really hard not to buy plugs that are discontinued. I'll never be able to get it again!
  • This isn't a huge revelation or anything, but if you're currently having an issue with plugs/jewelery, you might consider leaving stretched/gt/etc., at least for the time being.

    I know seeing everyone else's plugs definitely encourages my spending habits as far as plugs go and makes me want some jewelery I never wanted before. This was more of a problem when I was younger for me, though, not a compulsion or anything. But I thought it might help.
    • Yup, removing temptation can do wonders for many people. So can seeking help from a mental health professional.
      • Strangely enough looking at peoples collections via the Stretched tags actually helped. It made me reassess my priorities and appreciate some peoples small but high quality collections. I am seeking help for my depression and will discuss this problem with my psych. I know how to handle it though, I just had to realise it had become out of control...which I can be a little blind to.
  • i am SO guilty of this. I find tho that i buy due to feeling like shit so i buy myself presents to make myslf feel better....until the bills come. however lately i haven't be incuring debt. If i go into overdraft its payed off first thing at the end of the month and i no longer have a credit card so i've been able to stem it. You're not alone tho! i've taken to being a bit more selective and a lot of sellers are good with payment plans (e.g. onetribe)
    • i should mention i've spoken to my doctors and they don't see a problem since i'm pretty sensible in being able to restrain myself until i have the money. I think a lot of people shop when they feel down its when you start incurring massive debt or borrowing/stealing that i think people need to get help if it gets that far.
      • This is probably what my psych would say too. A lot of people have a crutch, I have had lots of them in my time. I quit a lot of the more negative ones already and I seem to be left with some compulsive behaviours but overall my psych seems to want me to recognise more of the positive things I have achieved despite any obstacles I might face. I have achieved well in my education and career, I have a 7 year relationship with someone I love very much etc etc.
        • yep i'm in a comitted 5 year relationship, its about moderaion, if i spend a lot on something than i can't make any more big purchases etc. before when i had a credit card....then there were problems but now can only work with money i have!
          • I've never had a credit card because I don't believe in credit (I'm old-fashioned like that) and also because when I was younger every single one of my friends who had one got in massive debt. Unfortunately I have NO credit rating as a result LOL
            • i'd never had a job until university (not my choice my parents rules as my schoolwork was my job as i was going into pre-med) they hooked me easily as it was a good way to pay for books and bus fare and well...everything! until i wound up paying it off years later its not horrible. i MAYBE have 5 grand total so its workable especially since i don't use the card. Still its a pain in the ass. I keep telling people who are on the fence, just don't both with a credit card or get one with a 500 dollar limt and carry a 30 dollar balance to build up your credit.
  • I also have a tendency to obsess over or hoard things, mostly plugs. I have a hard time making myself get rid of things (I just went through my books and was able to weed out 5 of over 300 ... ::sigh::) but plugs, maybe because they're small, or shiny, or because I'm in a comm devoted to how pretty they are and several comms devoted to selling them, they're my biggest weakness. one thing that has worked for me is to look at the plugs and ask myself if I'll ever wear them, instead of thinking about how pretty they are. I traded a pair of 6g solid satins for 8g IS rainbows and I'm really happy I did; despite how lovely and rare the satins were, I don't think I would have worn them much and I've already worn my rainbows a whole lot. same with a pair of IS water opal eyelets; they're beautiful and flash a multitude of colors ... but I just can't see myself wearing them so I'm going to sell/trade them. I'm trying to trade or sell things that I won't wear since it a. allows me to get things I will wear, and b. means that someone else can enjoy them. the lady I traded the satins to gave them to one of her friends as a holiday present; her friend has emerald satin eyelets and 6g conches and apparently has been wanting solid satins for a while. so they're busy being loved by someone, instead of sitting in my plug box and never seeing the light of day.
    • I gave away a lot of my 8g stuff I didn't like to a friend of mine who lives in the US. Despite her and her partner working in decent jobs they seem to struggle and she was always jealous of my collection. I'm a real perfectionist so in the beginning of amassing my collection I bought a lot of things that were perfectly fine but I didn't like because I hadn't worked out my style yet. She got a package of about 70 items and she was over the moon, it was much better then leaving them to sit in my plug box, so much fun to surprise her like that! :-D

      I'm gonna PM you about those IS eyelets by the way, I only recently found out what water opals are (the IS pics don't really show them properly) and I wouldn't mind seeing what yours look like.
  • I used to have an issue with this concerning stuff like clothes and makeup, and for a spell there, plugs. Then I lost the motivation or interest to buy stuff like that all the time because I was able to assess what I needed and didn't. Now I'm more interested in having money to do "domestic" things, like buy food to cook, or decorate and all of that is focused on replacing worn out things rather than gaining more useless stuff.

    One thing that happened as a part of my "getting over" spending money like crazy is that I'm more likely to buy something expensive rather than a ton of cheap shit now, because I figured out what worked for me after all those years of trying a bunch of crap. This has it's own draw backs from time to time of course.

    One way to learn to not spend money on crap is to suffer through a few dry spots in the finances. Every time I go through one I learn a new thing about how to avoid them, and they get less shitty. I guess being a student teaches you something about budgeting eventually (at least it does for some people).
  • FWIW, your connection to the compulsive shopping and depression seems to be a very valid one. After I had my daughter, about 3 months in I developed postpartum. Despite my hatred for shrinks I went to one after a few months because, well, I was the only caregiver and obviously needed help. One of the first things he asked me about was compulsive shopping.

    I realized while I wasn't spending a lot of money on things (or not paying bills, etc), I don't know how many times I'd go get some art supplies, or something like that, and they were still in the shopping bags on my craft table at home. I had like 6 bags of unopened stuff and it wasn't till he asked me about it I clued in to what I was doing.

    I dealt with it by sticking to a list when I go out, waiting 24 hours for any non-essential purchases, not buying any supplies for new projects when I haven't finished old ones yet, and not online "shopping". No ebay, etsy, and I still stick to that. Now I don't even open gaugetrade entries when I know I don't need anything over 5ish pairs of what size I'm stretching to, cause otherwise I know I'd go crazy.

    (tangent- The "doctor" absolutely didn't help though. I was seeking help from depression because I was caring for a baby and wanted to be giving her a better quality of life, he kept giving me meds that made practically gave me a lobotomy, unable to function, brilliant! Sorry, Im still bitter... and hate shrinks even more now :P)
    • I live in Australia so online shopping is a must if I want to ever buy anything interesting. After the last issue I am banned from online Auctions though and I have never broken that rule *pats self on back*.I am going to limit the amount of time I spend looking at online stores though. I should probably only be looking at them once a week max but I tend to look at at least one store everyday until very recently. One of my new rules is going to be that I can only buy jewelry once a month, probably around the BAF coupon sale time. It would be great if I could stick to that :-D
  • I just graduated from college and am trying to find a job, which is really freaking me out. I've been noticing myself spending a lot recently. I'm not buying expensive things, but I'm constantly buying jewelry/clothes/makeup/nail polish, especially online. I've done this at various points in my life but it was usually when I had a job so it wasn't as big of a deal. :|

    I tend to "collect" things. I've spent $300 at BAF alone since January and I don't even have stretched ears right now (downsizing in preparation to repierce). WTF is up with that. I keep stopping myself from buying things on gaugetrade when my brain goes OMG LOOK IT'S IN YOUR GOAL SIZE AND PRETTYYY! Um, 1. I have no clue what my real goal size will be and 2. There will always be more jewelry. I keep having to tell myself that.

    Lately I've been trying to distract myself from buying things. I do my hair, I do my makeup, I paint my nails, I organize, etc. (Yeah, all of my spending is connected to my appearance, apparently.) Meh, this was too long, but you're not alone :P
    • Yeah that helps too, use things you already have to give yourself a free boost. It makes you appreciate how much you own already and that you aren't using them to their full potential. Like when you feel you need to buy a whole lot of new clothes you should always go through your wardrobe first to see what you have with new eyes. I always discover some forgotten treasures that way :-)

      I'm about to get an 8g piercing in each ear and will gain a new use for my 8g collection, then I can do combos with my existing stuff, which should slow down the shopping a LOT :-)
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