As someone who’s been working on their compulsive shopping habits (window shopping and actual spending), I can’t say that it’s been at all easy. But I can share a few tips to make it a little easier.
This is probably the most important thing that you can do to avoid getting “the itch”. The average American is exposed to about 250 ad images a day according to some statistics, and the higher guesstimate places that number in the thousands. Those of us fighting addictive tendencies are susceptible to this kind of outside attempts at manipulation, so it makes sense to try and minimize the number of ads you’re going see. If you were trying to quit smoking, it wouldn’t really be a good idea to surround yourself with smokers all day, right? So put down the magazine, walk away from TV commercials, and so on. As a faithful netizen, most of my shopping is done online, so what I’ve been doing lately is unsubscribe from the myriad email newsletters I get every week telling me what store has got what in and how much it is on sale. I’ve also unfollowed a good number of Facebook fan pages, which also almost solely exist as marketing tools. And I can say, this has helped a LOT.
2. Use cash
If you’re prone to spending in meatspace, try leaving the cards at home and going cash-only for outings where you want to stick to a budget and don’t want to get distracted. Having a tangible indication of how much you’ve spent is a powerful deterrent.
3. Leave your shopping bags at home
If you’re deep in the ZW lifestyle, leaving all means to carry purchases home without making waste might help as well.
4. Have a “cheat” item
I’ve found that having a special food item I can purchase almost daily to satiate the need to spend (coffee, for me), helps to calm the compulsion. This has the added benefit of giving me an opportunity to have a little time to myself– I’ll get my drink and sit and read or do some writing as I sip.
5. Aggressively stick to shopping lists
Make extensive use of shopping lists! It’ll give your monkey mind something to do, it’ll let you “look forward” to the purchase even though it may just be a boring necessity like flour. Cultivate a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with checking things off of lists– you’ll leave the store with exactly what you need and no more, and you’ll still feel good about it!
6. Use StayFocusd
StayFocusd is a Chrome browser extension that gives you a certain number of minutes/hours every day to browse a list of sites that you designate as blacklisted. So if you’re an internet window shopper like me, blacklisting Etsy and Amazon would be a great option.