Are You Addicted to Shopping? How to Stop Emotional Spending


If you’re addicted to shopping, you’re meeting your emotional needs by spending money. These tips will help you overcome your shopaholic tendencies.

“I used shopping to avoid myself,” writes Avis Cardella in Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict. “I used shopping to define myself. And at some point, I realized that I was no longer consuming; I was just being consumed.”

If you’re drowning in financial debt and yet you can’t stop spending, you know what Cardella is talking about! Read Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict to learn how she dealt with her shopping addiction.





And, here are several ways to stop emotional spending…

Are You Addicted to Shopping? How to Stop Emotional Spending

Lisa Bradley recently appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show, talking about her financial debt and inability to stick to her budget. She thinks she overspends now to compensate for things she didn’t have growing up. “It’s almost like I reverted back to my childhood and decided to buy my Christmas toys, except they’re not Barbie dolls anymore,” she says. “I didn’t get the Barbie car when I was little, but I’m going to drive the Barbie car now.”

Are you driving the “Barbie car”, which you can’t afford and are struggling to pay for? If so, these tips for stopping emotional spending may help…

Tune in to your “emotional hunger”

If you can’t express your anger, hurt, fear, or pain in healthy ways, then you’ll turn to unhealthy outlets. Shopping, spending money, eating, binging, gambling, and many addictions are signs of unmet needs. People who spend money for emotional reasons are often ignoring their emotional hunger — which is why they’re in debt because of “emotional spending”! If not properly expressed, feelings of fear, doubt, insecurity, anxiety, and low self-esteem can lead to a shopping addiction and serious financial debt.

Know – and learn how to cope with – your spending triggers

Do you succumb to shopping or spending too much money when you’re with a particular person? After a hard day at work? When you’re fighting with your partner? Look for connections between the events in your life and your spending habits. Identify the triggers that push you over the line and send you running to the mall. Your triggers may never go away –you’ll always have stress, pain, and discomfort in your life. Since you can’t get rid of hardship or life’s challenges, you need to find better ways to cope with your feelings – and stop spending money you don’t have.

Get control of the emotions that lead to emotional spending

In Lisa’s case above, Dr. Robin said she must stop buying things, face her childhood shame head-on, and gain control of her emotions. “You were out of control from the very beginning,” says Dr. Robin. “[The] child in you – the wounded child that lives in all of us – was driving in the front seat of your adult life. That child needs to be put in the back seat, cared for, nurtured and reminded that there is now an adult who can look out for her.” Sometimes getting control of your emotions is simply about being aware of them. Knowing that you want to shop because you’re depressed or sad may help you build better money habits.

If you feel out of control financially, read 5 Tips for Taking Control of Your Personal Finances.

Know you’re not alone in your shopping addiction

Dr. Robin says Lisa is not alone – everyone struggling with money problems or financial debt is “trying to fill a spiritual wound with a cheap surrogate.”



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“BMW may not sound cheap, but for a child who is aching to feel like she was enough, for a child who was aching to feel the safety and comfort in his own life, a BMW can’t ever touch that wound,” says Dr. Robin. “What becomes more dangerous is the deeper the wound, the more I spend.”

Talk to an expert in psychology and financial planning

If you can’t figure out the roots of your emotional spending, talk to a counselor. You’re spending money for a reason — and it’s probably an emotional one. The sooner you figure out what need you’re trying to fill, the sooner you’ll overcome your shopping addiction.

Give yourself time to learn new spending habits

Whether you’ve been struggling to overcome a shopping addiction for months or years, remember that it takes to learn healthier ways to deal with stress and your emotions. “Whether it’s food, whether it’s debt, whether it’s alcohol — detoxing sucks,” says psychotherapist Dr. Robin Smith. “I know that’s a nonclinical word, but we all know what it means. It does not feel good when one starts to clean up their mess.”

If you lie about your shopaholic habits, read How to Stop Lying About Money to Your Partner.

Are you addicted to shopping and emotional spending? Comments welcome below.


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2 thoughts on “Are You Addicted to Shopping? How to Stop Emotional Spending

  • Laurie Post author

    Thanks for your comment, Sam. It’s really difficult to change someone’s behavior, especially if they don’t think they have a problem. If your wife loves shopping, she may not see what’s wrong with it. I think the best way to help her stop emotional spending is to help her see the problems it’s causing in her and your life together.

  • Sam Roberts

    Thanks for this article. My wife is definitely an emotional shopper. Whenever we have a fight, she goes shopping! Sometimes she buys me stuff, but mostly it’s clothes for her. She definitely doesn’t need the stuff, which is why I think she’s addicted to shopping.

    How can I encourage her to stop shopping and start saving?