Let’s face it, we Malaysians are no strangers to yummy food and retail therapy. According to Marketing Magazine, a 2016 Nielsen survey on Global Retail Growth Strategies and Global Retail Loyalty Programmes found that three out of five Malaysian consumers enjoy taking the time to find bargains.
Our love for online shopping is equally evident as well, being the country with the highest penetration of online shoppers (67%) compared to Thailand (57%) and Singapore (52%), as pointed out by The Sun Daily. In fact, Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) director of e-commerce Wee Huay Neo says, “The Malaysian consumer is a shopaholic, with 7% of online shoppers making a purchase almost daily, 26% once a week, 54% once a month and the remaining 13% once a year.”
Indeed, retail therapy provides an outlet for our high-strung society to escape the stress and anxiety attached to our daily lives. However, it could spell serious trouble for your finances if you’re giving in to uncontrollable shopping binges regularly.
Compulsive Buying Disorder is a real thing!
Despite the popular misconception, shopping addiction is a very real impulse-control issue found worldwide which psychologists have likened to mood and anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and eating disorders. According to the Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), experts call it Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD) which has the potential to wreak havoc in a person’s life as well as those around him or her.
“So, why do people do it?” you may ask. Much like an addiction to alcohol, gambling, smoking or even binge-eating, shopaholics regard their activity as a quick-fix way to achieve instant personal gratification. Experts deduced that over time, shopaholics get hooked on endorphins and dopamine – commonly known as feel-good chemicals – released by their brains when they shop. This ‘high’ is then replaced by feelings of disappointment, embarrassment or remorse almost immediately after the act of buying.
And contrary to what many may think, experts say that income has very little to do with CBD. In fact, those with a low income can still be obsessed with shopping and spending but may shop at other more affordable stores due to their level of income.
A disorder that’s largely overlooked
Despite the severity, CBD is still not being taken seriously by society; some experts even call it the ‘smiled-upon addiction’ because it’s socially condoned, making it that much easier for people to fall into addiction without realising it. What’s more, there are several types of shopaholics, as identified below by Shopaholics Anonymous:
- Compulsive shoppers who shop to distract feelings;
- Trophy shoppers who are always hunting for the perfect item;
- Image shoppers who only buy flashy items and want to be seen as a big spender;
- Bargain seekers who buy things just because the deal is too good to pass up;
- Co-dependent shoppers who shop to gain love and approval;
- Bulimic shoppers who get stuck in a vicious cycle of buying and returning; and
- Collectors who don’t feel complete unless they buy the full set or have the item in every available colour
If you’re displaying the following signs, beware: your shopping habits may be less of a hobby and more of an addiction. But don’t give up hope just yet, as we’re also sharing tips you can take to fix the problem of being a shopaholic.
1. Your shopping tendencies are more compulsive than impulsive
Sure, there’s nothing wrong going on a shopping spree once in a while or succumbing to the occasional impulse buy – be it a watch, bag or other fashion items from expensive, high-end brands. But when your purchases turn from impulsive to compulsive and you legitimately live by the ‘shop till you drop’ mantra, it’s a first signal that you need help to curb your shopping behaviour.
How to change: Do a deep dive into your shopping history and recognise the influencing factors in your life. If you tend to shop with friends that share the similar interest in shopping, identifying these people and avoiding them as best as you can might help.
Don’t be afraid to be honest with them about how you view your shopping habits as a pressing problem that you need to fix right away. If you fall under the majority of shopping fiends who prefer to shop alone, pinpointing places that tempt you to shop and spend money and avoiding them might be useful.
2. You don’t shop within your means
Raking up thousands in debt, borrowing money from friends or family and maximising all ten of your credit cards are signs that you are spending way beyond what you’re earning. Seriously, is that latest designer ‘it’ bag really worth banks or creditors hounding you, or your credit score nosediving which dampens your chances of getting necessary lines of credit like a home loan or a personal loan?
How to change: Credit cards are great tools of convenience, but reckless usage is a big no-no. Try not to get anywhere close to maxing out your credit card. And if you do have to make an all-important purchase, use your debit card instead (yes, you have them too!). Or just some good-old cash that you specifically withdraw for the purchase after fixing a strict budget. This way you’ll ensure that that you shop within your means, and buy only the thing you need the most.
Other ways to help yourself include ignoring credit card offers that are mailed to you, giving yourself a good period of waiting time before you make a purchase and limiting your shopping trips and going only when absolutely necessary.
3. You regularly buy things you don’t need
A new designer handbag to add to your already-large bag collection, another pair of trainers (even though you don’t work out), a pair of shoes with a colour so outrageous that it won’t even go with most of your trousers, another red lipstick…you get the picture. In other words, you’re easily tempted by things that you can easily do without and you don’t think twice before splurging on them.
How to change: Make a list (or lists) before you step out to do your shopping. That way, you train yourself to buy only what you need. Always ask yourself this when you have your eyes on something: Do I need this or do I just want it? If necessary, bring a trusted friend or family member to keep you in check or have the hotlines of support groups on speed dial so that you can quickly call for help when you feel like you’re about to spiral out of control.
Related: 5 Useful Tips to Become Debt-Free
4. You try to conceal your shopping habits
Hiding shopping bags in the car, in the storeroom or under your bed, telling your loved ones that your brand new designer shoes cost you only RM200 when it’s really four times that amount, constantly looking over your shoulder as you shop online during working hours…sound familiar?
How to change: Avid online shoppers, help yourself by cancelling email subscriptions from all your shopping websites. It may pain you at first to hit that ‘unsubscribe’ button but if you give yourself a chance, you’ll soon realise that you really won’t miss that email notifying you about the latest launches or seasonal offers after all.
For other more traditional shoppers, it may help to be aware of events that trigger the urge to shop and find a healthier way to work it out. Is it an argument with your partner or frustration at the workplace? If seeing words like ‘sale’ or ‘on offer’ sets you off, resist going to malls or shopping areas.
5. You feel on edge when you don’t shop
We all have that one friend or colleague who’s all grumpy and agitated before his or her morning coffee fix but if you’re feeling anxious because you haven’t swiped your card all day, that’s a major red flag right there! Studies have found that shopaholics reported feeling uneasy if they don’t buy at least one item a day and some even resorted to shopping online if they are unable to step away from their day’s responsibility.
How to change: Find new activities to do in your free time. Go for a jog, try knitting, colouring, calligraphy or even gardening (there are countless tutorials you can look up online), draw, pick up a book or watch that TV series that you always wanted to catch – the substitute options are endless.
Better, spend your weekends in actually making some extra money. Here are 10 fun ways to do it, based on your personality. Also, you can check out 8 cool mobile apps which can help you earn some cash on the side.
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