5 Types of Spending Addicts: Which One Are You?

savings addict
Black Friday marks the start of the Christmas shopping season and the single biggest retail period of the entire year. From now until Christmas Day, gift hunting and buying becomes our number one goal, as we fight crowds at the mall, endure long store lines and scour the Web so our loved ones can be paid a visit by Santa. It’s a brief time of year when it’s OK to spend some extra money, since we get to buy family and friends some cool stuff. But the spending can start to become a problem when it keeps going on and on, and gets more and more expensive.

“Compulsive shopping can range from an occasionally budget-busting diversion to a drop-dead serious addiction,” Laura Coffey told Today Money. “At its most extreme levels, a compulsive-buying problem can lead people to hide or lie about their purchases, max out numerous credit cards, live on the edge financially and stockpile items that never get used and often still have the price tags attached.”

Related: Savings Addiction: 4 Types of People Addicted to Saving

If you or someone you know exhibits these traits, it could be the warning signs of compulsive buying disorder. Like a gambling addiction, it can send the sufferer into a decline of mounting debt. Take a look at five of the more common CBD “types,” with some tips to catch behaviors and minimize them before they become an issue.

Five Different Kinds of Shopping Addiction

1. The Thrill Seeker. The thrill-seeking compulsive shopper doesn’t care so much about what they buy, but the act of buying it. Their validation comes from an attraction to big price tags and the enjoyment of feeling “thrilled” from plonking down large sums of money on items, regardless of what’s being purchased. Once the money’s been spent, the excitement wears off, and this compulsive shopper is out of money and in possession of an expensive trinket they never really wanted. This can lead them to go out for some more shopping to feel that thrill again — and a dangerous cycle continues.

What to do: See what’s at the root of the problem. The end goal for the thrill seeker is not the item bought, but the transaction of money. Does it make you feel wealthier or more powerful to spend? Try to find ways to exchange money in a non-retail setting. Doesn’t it feel good to pay it towards a donation, for an honorable cause or charity organization? Knowing that your dollars went towards helping others, instead of an indiscriminate purchase, is a huge difference. Start getting into the habit of this and your perspective on the value of money will change.

2. The Retail Therapy Shopper seeks comfort in their behavior, unaware that it’s doing harm — like the drinker who self-medicates without realizing that they’re fast becoming an alcoholic out of control. This compulsive shopper views themselves as a patient of sorts; they’ll deliberately shop, believing that it improves their mood, assuages negative emotions, improves depression or fills a void. What they’re not realizing is that spending isn’t a therapy, but a distraction or denial from the real problems at hand.

What to do: Think about all the things that upset you or cause you to feel stressed out. Make a list of how you feel and what triggers those feelings. Then, make a plan to not spend any money, any time those emotions or feelings arise. Compare it to a smoker trying to quit: instead of scrambling to light a cigarette, sit with the feelings, feel them and don’t run to replace them with shopping. A new designer bag may provide a temporary mood boost, but that’s all it is — temporary.

3. The Bulimic Shopper. “Shopping bulimics are more in touch with the financial realities of their situation,” said Dr. Robi Ludwig of Today Money. “This awareness triggers a lot of guilt, which gets them to return the item/items, so they can convince themselves they’ve avoided financial consequences for their spending.” Their chronic indecisiveness is manifested through a game of buying and returning, buying and returning, usually because the shopper believes the item they buy will make them happy, only to regret their purchase later. According to Ludwig, this form of retail abuse can hurt retailers and fuel the bulimic shopper’s own impulsiveness, where the end goal is never truly clear, masked by excessive spending.

What to do: Are you the kind of person who makes rash decisions and then feels guilt over them later? Bulimic shopping may be an extension of this type of thinking — only here, we try to cover up the regret by bringing our items for a refund, without ever really obtaining what we want. You should not purchase anything until you’re sure you want it and certain you can afford it. Start setting clear goals about what you’ll spend your money on, research your purchase before you buy, and once bought, follow through on your goal. When you make informed decisions about what you buy, and make good use of them, you’ll be less compelled to return them, but moreover, happier with your purchase.

4. The Bargain Shopper. Bargain shoppers impulsively look to buy items on sale they don’t need just because they’re a good deal, according to Terrence Shulman of Shopaholics Anonymous. Like the Thrill Seeker, they find fulfillment in the hunt for discounted goods. The goods themselves are of little importance. They’ll scour bargain bins, thrift stores and garage sales for anything they can get for cheap. But in convincing themselves that they’re making frugal decisions, they don’t realize that it’s actually wasteful. Many bargain shoppers display signs of hoarding disorder, placing a higher value on goods and items than what they’re really worth.

What to do: Instead of helping to save money, bargain shopping can encourage debt when taken too far. Take a long look at what your wants and needs are. Can you honestly live without that sale item? If there’s any doubt, pass on it and move on, without excuses. Try going for a month buying only what you need. Start developing a personal budget to find ways to save money — above all, start cutting back on unnecessary purchases. Spending on sale is still spending. Bargain shoppers who use this approach may find that less truly is more when it comes to their spending habits.

Video: Turn Bargain Shopping Into Bargain Savings

5. The Co-Dependent (or Approval-Seeking) Shopper. Buying gifts for others can be a selfless act, but when it becomes obsessive, it becomes selfish. “Compulsive gifters” may shower loved ones with gifts out of love or generosity. What the co-dependent shopper might not realize is that doing so is a desperate (and expensive) attempt at gaining love, acceptance or approval from others through material items. What’s worse is if the recipient is more than happy to exploit the giver for their spending, enabling their addictive behavior.

What to do: Approval-seeking shoppers should take note of the saying “Money can’t buy love.” Start finding ways to show love for them without the need to spend — through your actions, through your words. But more important, start finding ways to build your self esteem without needing validation from others. What are your good qualities? What achievements are you proud of? Do your loved ones recognize them? Do they meet you halfway and meet your needs? When you respect yourself, others will respect you for it, without the need for expensive gifts. Find your own likes and dislikes, as well — don’t let others dictate how you spend money, just to seek their approval.

“Researchers from the University of Florida reported that between 2 percent and 8 percent of the U.S. population spends money compulsively, and the average compulsive spender is carrying $23,000 in debt,” said Coffey. And it’s a problem that can signal other problems, exacerbate debt, strain relationships, or worse. Don’t feel ashamed to admit you may have a problem. Talk to a friend or family member about it, or, seek out professional help from a mental health professional. Many experts recommend the 12-step program Debtors Anonymous for CBD support and healing.

Photo credit: rick