The answer c9814708_san be, I believe, both.

For me, and many people like me, shopping certainly had many of the elements of addiction.

I would obsess about buying something. I would seek out opportunities to go shopping although I knew it was damaging my relationships and credit rating. I’d often have trouble stopping and would feel restless and irritable or even depressed, when I stopped or hadn’t been shopping in a while. I denied I had any problems with money and was never open about my purchases regarding price or quantity. I would also be out of control sometimes e.g. buying 2 pairs of shoes when I only needed one or none at all!! One of my clients told me of going into a shop to buy a white t-shirt and coming out a short time later with many t-shirts of assorted colors!

These are all common characteristics of addictive behaviors as described here http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/hints/addictiveb.html .

So, I now readily admit, I had a spending or shopping addiction for many years.

For me shopping was not the cure. It was merely a temporary patch or plaster over some wounds, namely my low self esteem.

Buying stuff made me feel better about myself and more worthy of others’ love and attention, in the moment.

It was temporary at best.

Many people who use shopping, or spending money, as a salve for their wounds report having feelings of remorse and even self loathing afterwards. They regret that they have again succumbed to the seduction of shopping. Their self esteem is hit again as, once more, they have broken the promise they made to themselves to stop using their credit card.

Just as alcoholics wake up the next day and regret last night and vow to, this time, never drink again, so does the shopaholic regret the shopping and vow to never do it again. They promise that they will pay off their credit cards and never use them again.

I would, secretly, make statements like that all the time and then further knock my self esteem by not keeping my promise to myself. I couldn’t be relied on, even by me.

Now what about the other part of the equation…that retail therapy is a cure?

For many people an afternoon of shopping is a very enjoyable way to spend time, either with friends, or alone. The buzz and visual stimulus of the shops and malls make them feel uplifted and brighter. It elevates their mood.

One of the questions I ask people when they start working with me is about their attitudes to shopping. If they describe shopping as a hobby it does raise a red flag for me.

Does it mean they are addicted? Not always.

However, it is worth remembering that shops and shopping malls are in business to sell stuff and make a profit. If you are spending lots of time there, the chances are you are going to spend more money than you intend and often, than you can afford.

So if, for you, the occasional outing to the shops lifts your mood and makes you happy then by all means go for it, at least occasionally. We are meant to be happy.

If, on the other hand you find yourself spending more time or money than you intended when you go shopping maybe it is time to evaluate these trips and find other less expensive hobbies or ways of making you feel better or relieve the boredom.

If you found yourself being a bit alarmed or all too agreeable, when you read the first part of this article contact me and set up a clarity/strategy call with me and we can talk about. You can schedule it here :-http://www.financialclarity.co.nz/schedule-session.html

Have you ever opened your credit card bill and been absolutely shocked at how much it is? Worse still, have you ever been too scared to open it, knowing you were going to be shocked? How about going into your wallet and going “where did that $100/$200/$300 etc go?  We call this being in the “money fog”! Essentially not having any clue how much money we are spending or have spent.

The money fog is almost always worse when we’re using credit cards, because the spending is often unconscious. In other words, you don’t really have to think about it, you just hand over your card without even considering what the balance already is. Provided you’re not at your limit you can easily do a day of retail therapy, or compulsive shopping, without giving the total amount spent another thought! You can just shop until you drop! Whilst you can also be in the money fog when using cash or debit cards, reality is closer at hand! You will either run out of money, need another trip to the money machine, or your debit card or EFT POS card will be rejected. Your spending therefore has to be, if not completely , at least partially, conscious.

Conscious spending is being aware of, not only how much you’re spending, but also being aware of what you’re buying! Do you really need it, or have you just seen it and want it, RIGHT NOW?

I know that when I was at the peak of my overspending, I could have a day out shopping without giving a thought to how much it was costing, or if I really needed what I was buying. As I was a very regular Internet banker ( I had to be, to keep juggling my money!) my shocks at how much I’d spent came pretty early on!  The unneeded purchases were often obvious very early on too! I might have “needed” a painting but did I need ten?

As the reasons you overspend, or shop compulsively, are many and, often, complex there isn’t a quick cure. However, if you only use cash or debit cards, the harm you can do is minimised. The other key is tracking your spending, that is, write every single cent you spend down.

If you are concerned about your spending or any of this, please seek help. The Financial Recovery℠ Institute has a list of counselors http://www.financialrecovery.com/?p=find-by-area. If you cannot find one in your area I, and a lot of my colleagues, offer counseling by phone or via Skype.

Do you have a story of being too scared to open your credit card bill? Please share it with us below in the comments section.

Do you ever feel triggered? Do you ever find yourself spending money you didn’t intend, but you do it anyways? Sometimes I feel almost defiant when I’m in this mode. “I know I didn’t plan this. But screw it! I’m buying this!” Usually, it is because I’m triggered.

Over the years, I’ve gotten in touch with my own spending triggers. Knowing them has helped me avoid being triggered in the first place and better able to analyze my own overspending when it does happen. Thinking about triggers also helps us not beat ourselves up so bad. Everyone overspends sometimes. But if you can then think about WHY you spent the way you did, you’re less likely to fall into that trap again. Yes, you can actually use overspending as a personal growth experience!

Here are four kinds of triggers:

Emotional State Trigger: Many of us overspend if we are emotionally triggered. It can be similar with eating. If we just had an awful fight with our husband, we may turn to food to make us feel better or we may spend money to feel better. Sometimes we spend when we are depressed. We feel like buying something to lift our spirits. Sometimes we spend when we are lonely. What about you? In what emotional state are you most likely to overspend? If you name it, you can come up with some alternatives before that feeling hits you. Besides ice cream and the mall, what else would make you feel better?

Situational Trigger: Sometimes it doesn’t matter what emotional state we’re in. We know that when we go shopping with our friend Ellen, we tend to overspend. Or we may notice that whenever we are kid-free, we head to the mall to relax. Some situations just lend themselves to overspending. For me, when I had an entire day to myself with no plans, I could easily overspend. Once I identified this, I was able to stop spending simply because I had no plans! (This was also likely related to my divorce. I suddenly had some weekends without my son and I felt a bit “adrift”. This just goes to show you that many situational triggers have an emotional component to them as well.)

Location Trigger: Some places trigger me, no matter how I’m feeling. Certain places just seem designed to suck money out of my wallet. For me, it is the center isle of Costco, where all those “you never know what will be there/ great values” lurk. I’ve had countless clients report the same thing- the dangers of that alluring isle. I also get triggered at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I walk in there and I just want to spend money. If you are trying to be careful with your spending, it may be best to stay away from certain locations, unless you’ve got a solid plan for how you want to spend your money.

Bio Trigger: People tend to spend more when they are hungry. So if you are hungry, don’t go shopping! Eat first, plain and simple. I’m not saying that you don’t want to go out to lunch when you go out shopping. But if you hit the mall or your errands on an empty stomach, you tend to overspend without thinking through your plan. You get a bit “fuzzy” and power through your shopping, throwing money at things instead of stopping to take care of yourself first.

So what about you? What your triggers? For each of these four areas, can you come up with a personal example? The more you think about this, the less likely you are to blindly overspend.

We all have our triggers. Name yours.

Shop 'til you drop!I have been promising a blog on compulsive shopping so, here goes. Compulsive shopping is virtually synonymous with overspending or overshopping; so I use the terms interchangeably here.

We’ve all laughed when someone says they’ve done some retail therapy or, they’ve shopped ’til they dropped! Let’s face it most of us have done it at one time or another, and no harm was done. However, for others, and for many years I was amongst them, it isn’t a laughing matter and harm is, or was done.

In her book, “To Buy or Not to Buy – Why we Overshop and How to Stop” April Lane Benson, a New York psychologist, specialising in the treatment of compulsive buying, says “……when we overshop, though we often don’t realize it, we are trying to fill emotional needs with material goods.” She goes on to say that:- “The conclusion is now inescapable: far from trivial, overshopping is an important source of emotional, social, occupational, financial and spiritual misery for a great many individuals and families.”

Mine was mostly financial although the sleepless nights, worrying how I was going to be able to pay my bills, took their physical toll at times.

So, the next time you laugh about someone’s retail therapy, just check in with yourself about whether this might, in actual fact, be something more. There is help available.