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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
  • 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. =\
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