The movie ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ had given me the idea that a shopaholic is someone who is the first to reach every sale, fights everyone even over a pair of shoes, has a number of credit cards and owns the perfect outfit for every occasion. But, I was none of the above. I detested visiting stores during any sale as it was always too crowded, the merchandize old and the size ‘S/M’ always out of stock.
I preferred shopping during off seasons, choosing to visit stores during the early hours, when the trial rooms were relatively free. However, I always managed to pick up more than I planned to, convincing myself that I needed it. Despite all the efforts, I never looked as fashionable as I would have liked. Even to this day, I have hard time pairing palazzos with the right top or choosing the right bag.
Then one day I discovered online shopping, and things started going severely downhill. I remember browsing through a site for the first time, the variety of outfits and accessories dazzling me. Some products were so different, not something the retail stores at Kolkata offered back then. The price point was also pretty decent. The shopaholic monster in me, that I did not even know existed, slowly starting rearing its head.
The first couple of attempts at online shopping were made with a fair amount of misgivings as I was not sure about the size and quality. Eventually, after getting a hang of it, I found that the whole exercise was quite easy, time saving and often cost effective. I was ecstatic, ordering even the ordinary everyday things like shampoos online. My wardrobe started to face space crunch before long, filled with stuff that I probably did not even wear twice. Once I purchased the same top twice, forgetting I already got it 6 months ago.
Soon enough, my phone was filled with all kinds of shopping apps. Clothes, makeup, grocery, you name it. I found myself browsing the apps even late at night or at office. The first thing I did after receiving salary, was place 4-5 orders. Predictably, my savings took a beating. I always promised myself that I would start saving from the next month, which just seemed to get postponed. And so, the vicious cycle continued. And to make things even worse, my Facebook and Instagram accounts would prompt me to visit new sites every day.
For a long time, I did not accept that I had a problem, or that I needed some sort of intervention. Then finally when I did, I had a hard time dealing with it.
How hard can it be to stop shopping? Oh! believe me it is. It is like an itch that you cannot scratch. A veritable need that gets stronger the more you deny it. Abstaining did me no good, I become moody, ill tempered, and mostly unhappy. I would uninstall all the shopping apps from my phone, only to install them again.
Then with a bit of research I chalked out a plan that I stuck to and it did help me quite a bit.
- Baby Steps: Uninstalling all the apps, not visiting any of the sites will only make you go back with double gusto. So, the first step is deleting 50% of the apps, the ones you don’t like as much, or you can do without. For me the step was easy enough as the 50% of the apps that I chose to keep were more than enough.
- Money Matters: This is very important, as availability of money is obviously the biggest factor when it comes to shopping. Give yourself an allowance and don’t cross that budget not matter what. You might be tempted to spend more but remind yourself that you have filled your quota and don’t need anything more this month. I did struggle a bit for the first few months, then I got used to it. After 5-6 months I lowered my allowance some more.
- Money Matters 2: Create a short-term savings goal for 3 months or 4. After you reach that goal, treat yourself with a little something as a positive reinforcement. Set a bigger goal the next time.
- Closet Stories: When you buy new things every now and then, space issues become real. However big your closet maybe, it is not a bottomless pit. You need to get rid of old clothes to make space for the new. So, if you don’t clean out your closet frequently, storage becomes an issue and you won’t have the urge to buy new things all the time. This works for me most of the time.
In the end, none of it will matter unless you make it a habit. It is like a diet plan, which has to be maintained throughout life for good health. There are of course cheat days, when you can and should gorge, but again in moderation.