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How to curb your shopping habit to cut spending

Dec 29, 2011, 6 a.m.

A shopping habit -- notice the word "habit." Habit is closely related to the words "obsession" and "addiction," and for some, the thrill of shopping has become just that, an addiction. When does the fun stop and the guilt begin? While in the store, you focus on finding the perfect item. There is a feeling close to euphoria as you seek the item. Then you check out, leave and walk to your car. All of a sudden, feelings of guilt sweep over you and bring the fun to a quick halt.

If you have found this happening to you, it is time to learn a few simple methods to curb your shopping habit and cut down on spending. Even if you do not feel your shopping is out of hand, in today's economy, it is worth finding ways to eliminate at least some of the unnecessary shopping.

A runaway shopping habit substitutes for a human emotional need. Maybe it is a way to feel important or exert control in one aspect of your life. It may be replacing a more basic emotion, like the need for attention or love. For whatever reason, when shopping gets out of control, it invites both emotional and financial disaster.

The first step in controlling a habit is recognizing its negative outcomes. Sometimes that is enough. Suddenly, you realize the problem, and it immediately comes to a stop. For other people, it is a bit more difficult. Take an afternoon and analyze your monthly budget in detail. There are many helpful personal budgeting tools available online or as part of a financial software package. If you enjoy working at the computer, use a handy personal budget calculator. If not, use paper and pencil. Whatever works for you is what is important. Write down all monthly income, and then list all your monthly expenses. How much is left over? These are your discretionary funds, the ones you can spend on entertainment and items that are not necessities.

Notice that you have not factored in available credit on credit cards. This is because you are now going to leave them at home on your shopping trips! Ideally, you will even leave your debit card at home and carry only cash. There is just something about cash; it is simply harder psychologically to spend cash on unnecessary items. Many people have curbed their shopping habit by switching to using only cash. It is often the simplest and most effective way to put a quick stop to a difficult problem.

Shopping brings many people enjoyment, but if it is ruining your financial situation or leaving you with feelings of guilt, it is time to get control!

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