You know that movie, Groundhogs Day? Where Bill Murray keeps living the same day over and over again until he gets it right. It’s kind of funny, the lessons stick with you, but what’s really freaky is that so many of us are actually doing this. We fall into habits that are destructive to our health, finances, and families and even though we so badly want to break the cycle, we just keep repeating ourselves. This is what my life with spending felt like for way too long. Month after month I would plan my spending weeks before payday. I would get so excited about everything I could buy. If it was for the house, I would tell myself, “I just need this one more thing and then I’ll have everything I need.” Eventually, I started to realize, there was always just one more thing I needed. One day it occurred to me…my process never worked. I never got any happier. Why was I buying stuff I didn’t need? Even worse, what was it that I was really chasing? If happiness couldn’t be found in stuff…how was I supposed to find it? Here’s what I’ve learned.
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When we moved into our “big house” (read about our downsize here) there was a voice in the back of my head saying, “Yes, if you live here, people will take you more seriously.” It was like I believed a house and the status that came with it would convince people that I was worthwhile as a human being.
The sad thing is, it probably did.
I would be lying if I said there was never a time that I thought more highly of a person because of the way they dressed or where they lived.
But here’s the harsh reality…while it may be a good disguise to the world, your unhappiness and underlying feelings of not being enough aren’t going anyhwere.
Just like with most addictions, a shopping addiction is a clever way of tricking ourselves into thinking quick win…or a bandage…will solve all of the problems that lie below the surface.
The reason that addictions stick around is because they are meeting at least 2 of our basic human needs:
For shopping this might mean you gain the consistency from knowing that you always feel a little bit better when you buy something new.
Inconsistency kicks in big time because you are getting something brand new every time.
Status. That sneaky little devil. Status sneaks in with shopping just like I mentioned earlier. When it comes to owning stuff we often believe that having better things, the right stuff, the right brand, the right decor instantly gives us a status bump somehow.
Then there’s love. That deepest need of all humankind. Love could feel like a new scented candle and a warm blanket. I know it does for me. And, if the items we buy do in fact bring status with them, well, then there’s a good chance that we might attract more people into our lives, therefore satisfying that need for love. Unfortunately, if the stuff is in fact what brought them in, then the sad truth is that this is the furthest thing from love.
When you start to feel that urge to buy something you don’t need or you want to start browsing on Amazon, take a moment to pause yourself and ask yourself which need you are seeking to meet.
Are things in your life feeling chaotic? Do you feel like you are lacking control? If so, you might be seeking a little more consistency through spending.
Has life gotten super routine, and you’re just bored? Well, you wouldn’t be the first person to buy new stuff out of boredom.
Did you scroll through Instagram one too many times and now you feel like you absolutely have to have a new swimsuit for vacation (or one of those massive sun hats) because you need to take the same Insta-worthy photos as everyone else?
Love. Are you seeking love? Maybe you had a fight, a breakup. Maybe someone was super mean to you and now you’re wanting a hug in the form of a 1 day delivery.
Whatever the case, the sooner you can begin to recognize your triggers and what you are really seeking, the more you can start to make shifts in how you respond to that itchy need to spend more money on stuff you don’t need.
I think we all know that shaming your way out of a bad habit absolutely never works. If someone overeats, you can tell them all you want about how they are going to have a heart attack and clogged arteries and chances are it’s just going to make them want to buy an XL pizza all for themselves. Hell, just typing that makes me want to order myself a pizza, and no one even said it to me.
So if you think continuing to feel crappy about yourself or beating yourself up for your mistakes, or your over-spending is ever going to make you break the shopaholic cycle, (PS Click here to join my live training, The Shopaholic Solution), think again.
The very first thing you can do is want bigger and better things for yourself and get really clear about what exactly those bigger better things are. (But, let’s try to avoid buying stuff, ok?)
You can get started by selecting newer, healthier methods for meeting your 4 basic human needs. Here are some of my favorite examples:
The hardest part of all of this is that if you actually want to get to the root of the problem, you have got to be ready and willing to allow yourself to come face to face with the inner wounds that you have been trying to block out with stuff. Armed with the tools you have now, the only additional thing you are going to require is sheer willpower and desire for bigger and better.
I did this by not buying clothes for 3 years! I did this partially to help with our debt payoff (because I had bigger goals in mind), but I inadvertently began to really get in touch with myself and who I am without all of the “stuff” to cover it up.
Recognizing my spending addiction was the first thing I needed to do in order to get serious about my minimalist journey and the crazy thing that nobody tells you is that minimalism is so much bigger than living with less stuff.
It’s about living with more you…the real, authentic you.
Needless to say, if you struggle with overspending and as you begin to recognize your triggers, you’re probably going to have to set some boundaries and eliminate some stuff from your daily habits.
You can work to direct your focus by finding books that help you broaden your perspective on life. There are so many books, podcasts, and online trainings to help you in your self growth journey.
If you are seriously ready for change, then I say, go all in! It won’t always be easy, but any journey that offers the potential for growth and expansion is a great journey to take.
More minimalism resources: