Announcement: Are you a Compulsive Buyer?

You’re Not Alone–
This Blog Can Help 

To Buy or Not To Buy? – it’s a question we ask and answer almost every day, and sometimes multiple times a day. For many people, it doesn’t cause a lot of inner turmoil, but if you are a compulsive buyer, it’s a high stakes question, and an affirmative answer can be devastating. Long trivialized as the “smiled-upon” addiction, thankfully, compulsive buying is coming farther and farther out of the closet, and the release of movies like Confessions of a Shopaholic is bringing the problem into the limelight.

We have reason to believe it’s becoming more prevalent. A study reported in the October 2006 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry suggested that about 5.8% of the U.S. population-more than fifteen million Americans-are compulsive buyers. A more recent study, published in the December, 2008 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that the number may be closer to 8.9%, more than 25 million Americans. And now with the economic crisis, compulsive shoppers are feeling squeezed. Some are unable to resist prices which have been slashed to the bone in the hope of luring reluctant consumers. Others, fearing for their long term job stability, are using the recession as the boost they needed to become more mindful about their spending. And between these two poles, there are a multitude of other responses that overshoppers are having to the current economic downturn, ranging from denial to absolute panic.

When we think “addiction,” what first comes to mind is most likely alcohol or drugs or eating disorders. Even though we know that shopping, when done to excess, can spin dangerously out of control, shopping is still seen by many as superficial, light fare. Strongly reinforced by society, shopping has become the classic mixed-message behavior. On the one hand, it’s promoted endlessly (and to the ends of the earth) by those who profit from it. On the other hand, it’s regularly the stuff of jokes. Shoppers are portrayed as self-involved, materialistic, and empty. As a result, compulsive shopping may be an even greater source of guilt and shame than alcoholism or drug abuse, which are seen as bona fide disorders, requiring treatment.

So why the mixed-messages? Given the fact that consumption fuels our economy, in order to promote the ceaseless stoking of economic engines, every one of us is targeted as a consumer. We are pushed, prodded, programmed to purchase. In 2006, 9.2 billion credit card offers went out to America’s three hundred million people-more than thirty offers to every man, woman, and child! Shopping itself has become a leisure and lifestyle activity; malls are the new town centers. We’re immersed, cradle to grave, in “buy messages” that, with greater and greater psychological sophistication, misleadingly associate products we don’t need with feelings we deeply desire.

Just check out the bumper stickers. “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Shopping,” trumpets an SUV in front of me. For those who enjoyed high school Latin, there’s “Veni, Vidi, Visa!” A largely female version is “New Shoes Chase the Blues,” while men weigh in with “He Who Has the Most Toys When He Dies, Wins.”

What I’ve learned from more than two decades of knowing, studying, working with, and writing about overshoppers-and from having been one myself-is that to change your behavior, you’ve got to change the way you feel about yourself and the way you go about meeting your authentic needs. It’s about understanding who you are, what you want, and what you really need.

In general, having more things means enjoying life less. Acquiring and maintaining objects can so fill up our lives and environment that there’s little time or space to use what’s been acquired. What we consume ends up consuming us.

In this blog, I’ll share what it means to be a compulsive buyer, how we can prevent overshopping, and what tools, techniques and strategies are useful for eliminating it. I’ll also keep you updated on current research findings, relevant books, and other timely information for overshoppers and the people who love them.

In the Upper Right Hand Corner you can see the various categories that I will be blogging about. These include the categories:

  • For Friends and Family
  • Proven Strategies
  • Research and News
  • Reviews of Relevant Books
  • Sound Bites
  • Tips for Tracking Spending

We’re always interested in hearing your thoughts, comments, and suggestions, which you can do at the end of any blog post.

Warm regards,
April Benson

Compulsive Buying Making You Feel Isolated?

Knowing That You’re Not Alone Can Make A Big Difference

Do you feel alone, isolated, ashamed, or gulity about your shopping problem. So many of us do, which makes it so much harder to tackle.

Knowing that you’re not alone can make a big difference. Although you might have a hard time finding people who can relate to your struggles, there are quite a few resources to turn to, so reports Jill Chivers.

Recently featured on the Australian television show “A Current Affair,” Jill talked about what inspired her to begin talking openly with hundreds of people around the world about her addiction.

Jill remembers all too well what it felt like to believe that she was alone in her fight against compulsive buying, so she began “My Year Without Clothes Shopping” to let her viewers know that there are actually many people in their same position.

You can watch Jill on “A Current Affair” in the video below. In addition to reassuring  listeners that they aren’t alone, she also talks about the rising popularity of online shopping which can easily trigger compulsive buying.

In addition to Jill’s wonderful video, we’ve also included some other useful resources, put together by Debbie Roes of Recovering Shopaholic: Trade Your Full Closet for a Full Life:

These Shoes and Baggage Fit Most Shopaholics

Touched, tickled, and terribly impressed, I left last Wednesday’s performance of Cheryl Stern’s Shoes and Baggage feeling buoyed and hopeful that compulsive buying may yet really come out of the closet, and this time for good!

As this funny, poignant, and thoughtful one-woman musical odyssey opens, the audience is bombarded with a plethora of advertising images, sale signs and the like, flicking on and off a large screen in rapid-fire succession.

To see a 34 second promo video of the show that begins with these images Click Here 

From the show’s website: Shoes and Baggage is about the insatiable urge to purchase and possess beautiful things and the deeper feelings that propel this behavior. Actress Cheryl Stern takes us on a wild, hilarious, and heartbreaking ride, hunting and spending as she digs deep to understand her own obsession with shopping.

Over the course of the 75-minute performance, we see Cheryl portraying over two dozen characters including a Broadway actress, a shopaholic friend, a coach whose client is the host on the Home Shopping Network, and herself at a Debtors Anonymous meeting. Cheryl’s personal share at DA describes her actual overshopping and overspending story; “I have overspent my entire adult life because I believed I would somehow be saved by my big break someday. Drowning in debt, hemorrhaging money I don’t have… and so I’m here.” Each of these personalities, in her own way, illuminates the “secret yet relatable world of retail enslavement.”

Sandy's Gold Sneakers Were Never Comfortable and they went to an appreciate audience member.

My friend, Sandy’s gold sneakers were never comfortable. They went home with an appreciative audience member.

In a bold, brazen move to release herself from these chains, at the end of the show, she strips off her expensive silk blouse and pants, revealing her curvy, imperfect and beautiful body. Released from her psychological prison, confident and captivating, she dances across the stage, clad only in a sleeveless Capezio leotard.

During the post-show event, Cheryl invited audience members to bring an item that wasn’t working for them.  Audience members voted whether to return, sell, donate, swap, repurpose or keep the item!

Here’s Laurie, Cheryl’s publicist,  wearing a dress I bought  two years ago and   never wore. Yes, it even happens to me from time to time!  The audience suggested I try to return it.

Cheryl hopes to take her her shoes, her baggage, and her show on the road, if funding permits. Her courageous, sometimes zany portrayal will help countless others who suffer with this “smiled-upon” addiction, countless others who can never get enough of what they don’t really need. Cheryl easily convinces us there’s better company than Louis Vuitton, more to chase than the next big sale, and a true friend than the pitch person at HSN.

Cheryl and I have been in touch several times since the show and are actively collaborating to move our shared agenda forward!  We’re both painfully aware that something has to be done to stem the increasingly strong tide that is drowning compulsive buyers worldwide.


The emotional baggage that a compulsive buyer carries is heavy and cumbersome.  But effective, available resources that can help lighten your load are available. It’s never too late to begin. For a comprehensive list of resources, click here.

Common Fall Shopping Mistakes

And Fall Fashions Calling You?

Resources to Help You Resist the Pull!

The end of summer can be one of the most challenging times of year for overshoppers. Three compelling sources: end of summer sales, back-to-school deals, and the new fall fashions all come together at the same time to create the “perfect storm” for compulsive buying chaos.

A few years summers ago, I did a teleseminar with Debbie Roes, who wrote the blog, Recovering Shopaholic: Trade Your Full Closet for a Full Life. On the call, we discussed the three most common mistakes people make as a result of this seasonal pressure and offered many tools, tips, and strategies for successfully handling the strong August pull.

It was so well-received that I wanted to share it with you. To listen to that call, click here

Here is another resource that you can access immediately.

We’ve developed a very affordable, interactive text messaging program for overshoppers and overspenders.  The first of its kind, it’s a way to use technology positively, not to buybut to help those who overbuy online or in bricks and mortar stores.

For more information and to read what others have said about the program, visit

May those of you that are challenged by any or all of these seasonal pressures find these resources helpful and the strength to resist! In 2017, with many advances in technology including the use of Apple Pay, Chase Quick Pay, Paypal, Venmo, and many other easily accessible digital methods of paying, the urge to resist buying has only become more challenging. Please allow our resources and help strategies to guide you in your journey to recovery.

Warm regards,

April Lane Benson, Ph.D.

Why Scrap Fasion?

Last Thursday, I spent the afternoon at the Lower East Side Girls Club in New York City and left feeling more inspired than ever to help people explore mindful consumption. In no way does anyone need to scrap fashion for lack of funds.

Let me explain.

Debra Rapoport, one of the advanced fashionistas I’d written about in “How Can Advanced Style Be a Retreat from Compulsive Buying” (July, 10, 2016) (Click Here), has done workshops at the Club and  invited me to attend a luncheon and fashion show there. Serving girls from 6th-12th grades, all of whom come from one of the poorest parts of the city,  the Club brings a world of opportunity to girls who most need it.

There are programs in science and technology; the girls gain meaningful employment experience. They train to become entrepreneurs, they build supportive peer groups  and learn to navigate the

complexities of life in the city.  The fashion show was one of a variety of opportunities in the arts, humanities and media that the Club offers to encourage the girls to tap into their creative passions.

The Club’s stated mission “ to break the cycle of local poverty by training the next generation of ethical, entrepreneurial, and environmental leaders” was fully in evidence at the fashion show, skillfully produced and executed proudly by the girls themselves.  Their sewing and material arts classes were the incubators within which, working with nothing but scrap materials, they fashioned well-constructed, whimsical,  cutting edge garments, worthy of any runway, without spending a dime.

Filled with joy, power, and possibility, the atmosphere was electric.  It reminded me of the thrill of using men’s neckties and other scrap fabric to make wearable art with one hundred and forty teenagers in South Africa last December.  If you missed what I wrote about my experience, “Tie-Ing Together Two Continents: Part I and Part II”, Click Here.
What could be a better illustration than this joyous event that mindful consumption in no way means scrapping fashion, whether you have the budget to afford designer clothes, live comfortably, albeit frugally, or you have to watch every penny and need to use scraps to fashion new garments?

complexities of life in the city.  The fashion show was one of a variety of opportunities in the arts, humanities and media that the Club offers to encourage the girls to tap into their creative passions. Here are two short video clips from the show:

Can’t find enough compulsive buying recovery resources? Open this treasure chest!

Have you ever run a Google search to see what compulsive buying self-help resources are out there, but come up with next to nothing? Shopping addiction is definitely a lesser-known, infrequently-discussed, and rarely-diagnosed disease, so finding information about and strategies to battle it can be a real struggle. Fortunately, Debbie Roes has gathered a great many resources, services, guides, and tips for anyone on, or just beginning, the road to recovery. Everything she discusses in this blog post will be invaluable to someone recovering from a shopping addiction. We’ve highlighted some of the most useful resources:

Advice and Information About Clothes Shopping and Wardrobe Management

So many compulsive buyers find that their Achilles heel is clothes or other fashion products, which is why these sections of what Debbie calls her “cheat sheet” are so useful. Even if clothes shopping is not your particular downfall, you can still use several of these strategies to suit your own overshopping tendences.. For example, tip number one in the “Specific Tips for Clothing and Related Items” section is “aim for quality over quantity,” which applies not only to clothes, but also to most other purchases. (If you want to read a bit more about how to develop an eye for excellence, read two of our recent blog posts, “Could reinvention solve your shopping addiction?” and “Time to change the way you approach personal style.”) Similarly, tips “Do a ‘closet audit’ before you shop,” “Determine your ideal frequency of wear,” “Consider having an item limit and/or using a ‘one in, one out’ strategy,” and many others will be pertinent to all compulsive buyers, not just those who overspend on clothing.

The “Other Useful Resources” Section

A bulleted list of tips and strategies to battle shopping addiction will always be useful, but enacting these new habits can be very difficult without someone or something to hold you accountable. At the end of this cheat sheet, Debbie lists several programs that may be just the reinforcement you need as you take on this new lifestyle, moving from mindless buying to mindful being. On our website, and in several broadcasts, we’ve introduced you to passionate and inspiring Jill Chivers, from My Year Without Clothes Shopping. Her own story is the subject of a short documentary, which can be found on her website.  Also included in this list of programs and resources is the very informative podcast “I Can’t Stop Spending,” as well as our very own Stopping Overshopping Text Messaging Program.

Explaining Why People Turn Into Compulsive Buyers

In order to completely recover from compulsive buying disorder, you need to get to the root of the problem and explore why you started spending in the first place and what is maintaining it in the present. At the very beginning of her material, Debbie lists the eleven overarching reasons from my book which explain why most people begin to buy compulsively. Once you’ve read through this list, one or more of these reasons will resonate with you. Knowledge is power and becoming conscious of how, when, where, and why your shopping problem began will enable you be on the lookout for these rationales coming up again and again.  And if you’ve begun to do the targeted work that programs such as the one in my book, To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop, you will find your way out of the problem.

These are just three of the sections in Debbie’s comprehensive resource list; reading all of it will provide you with more effective ammunition in your fight. You can read it in full here, and make sure you also check out her additional resources page for even more books and recovery programs. Whether you’re just beginning to tackle the addiction or you’ve been recovered for years, this complete list of services and tips will help keep you on track.

Afraid of missing out on a purchase? Be savvy to the advertising techniques that get you to spend

Imagine yourself walking into a store, any store: The products are likely displayed in a beautiful array, near the front windows; there are sales people scattered around to help you with anything you need; and there are bright advertisements hanging from the ceilings, pasted on the walls, on stands near the checkout, that scream, “Sale!” “Limited time only!” and “Only a few left in stock!” Are these bright notices just space-fillers to capture your attention, or do they have a more crafty purpose?

I recently read an article in Shopify that discussed all the tactics a company will use to trigger a shopping binge in a customer. Though the intended audience of this piece was business and marketing people, I thought there was a lot we could learn from what people in the industry had to say so we could become more wise and savvy to realizing these advertising tricks.

When you see those signs hanging in a store—the “Sale!” “Limited time only!” and “Only a few left in stock!” ones—the company is playing off of a shopper’s fear of missing out. Create the illusion that the product is scarce and a person is more likely to purchase it. The same thing operates on the internet, where companies will have count-down tickers that can be very persuasive in getting you to add that item to your shopping cart. After all, if a person goes home or logs off to “think about it,” he or she runs the risk of coming back to find it already being taken, right?

Not necessarily. Though the writers of this article urge companies to use these scarcity illusion tactics responsibility, we know all too well that many—if not most—companies will actually utilize these tricks on a daily basis.

Don’t get caught in the trap; make sure you know what to look for. Here are the ads and sales that should immediately make you suspicious:

  • Limited time offers
  • Limited quantity
  • Limited quantity/limited price
  • Flash sales
  • Product page countdown timers
  • Timed shopping offers
  • Copywriting tactics, such as “Going fast!”

If you want additional help, or feel like you really need someone to talk you down from a potential buying binge, consider our very affordable personalized text messaging program. You get targeted texts every day and can also access the program 24/7 for immediate help. It’s another line of defense, as you’ll receive texts that are informational, directive, benefit-oriented, motivational, and inspiration, all the while training you to become a more mindful shopper.

If you would like to read this article in full, you can do so here, and remember: Being a savvy shopper is the first step to being a healthy shopper. Be suspicious, and don’t let the fear of missing out cloud your shopping judgement.

Is online shopping the next danger zone for compulsive buyers?

It might be easier to kick our shopping addictions if the temptations existed only outside our of homes, but with the growing popularity of online shopping, we’re not even safe there.

Though there are several papers that focus on compulsive shopping, not as many have factored into their research the impact of online shopping. However, I recently read a paper by Susan Rose and Arun Dhandayudham that focused on just this. They explored some of the positive and negative feelings people experienced when online shopping, and how might these emotions trigger a compulsive buying binge.

This study cites seven variables that can predict the likelihood of someone developing an online shopping addiction: low self-esteem, low self-regulation, negative emotional state, enjoyment, female gender, social anonymity, and cognitive overload. The main finding of their research was that, just like with regular shopping addictions, the actual experience of shopping online may provoke enough negative behaviours that a shopping addiction is induced.

These results weren’t necessarily surprising, but important to be shared nevertheless. If you have any clients (or perhaps you yourself) whose main downfall comes when shopping online, sharing these findings with them may be beneficial to their treatment plan.

Clothes shopping your downfall? Time to change the way you approach personal style!

When it comes to overspending, clothes are the downfall for many. We see an ensemble in a store window that we think we don’t already have in our closets, or justify our spending sprees because what we purchased was on sale or bought second-hand.

I’m Veronica Grace Taleon, Program Manager at Stopping Overshopping, and I wanted to share some interesting information with our community. An article in Darling Magazine took a new approach to the issue of filling our closets with unneeded materials. Rebecca Jacobs, who once claimed to have an unhealthy relationship with shopping, now helps women fight the urge to splurge as a “style coach and teacher.” Her philosophy is that our issues with overspending go so much deeper than seeing an item, coveting the item, and then purchasing the item.

Reforming our bad spending habits is important, but if we want to silence the temptation to buy something whenever we see it, we must reinvent the way we approach our own styles. In her article, Rebecca Jacobs gives three main tips:

If you go clothes shopping, think about how you want to feel in that piece of clothing. When you’re thinking about how you want to feel in your own skin and how you want to be perceived by others, focusing on an emotion that will last—such as self-assurance—will help ensure that the piece stays in your wardrobe longer than one season.

Next, you need to raise the bar on your standards, or what Rebecca Jacobs calls “our style zone of genius.” This does not mean that we need to spend an arm and a leg on only the top, trendiest pieces, but we do need to find a few favorite brands. Look in your wardrobe now and note the pieces that you love. What brand do they come from? Are they a certain color or style that you think is particularly flattering? This fashion research will help you find the pieces that suit you best. The next time you go shopping, keep these particular pieces in mind; you’ll ensure that you’re spending your money on something you know you’ll love, and you’ll be able to further define your style.

Finally, we need to love what we already have. If you followed the previous two steps, this will become easier as time goes on because by then you’ll have constructed a wardrobe filled with pieces you chose mindfully, that you feel confident in. Your closet may feel smaller than it did before, but don’t worry about running out of options; there are always to “expand” your closet without buying anything new. For instance, you can spend an hour one weekend afternoon sorting through what you already have, mixing and matching tops with bottoms and skirts you didn’t think about pairing up before.

So if you’re confronted with the urge to splurge, or are overwhelmed with the thought of throwing all bad shopping habits out the window, consider tackling the challenge with Rebecca Jacobs’ approach first. Don’t think about how each purchase will improve your wardrobe; think about how it will improve your style. Will it help you project the image you want it to? Are you settling for something you may not be happy with? And finally, have you considered creating “new” ensembles from the pieces you already love in your closet?

Could reinvention solve your shopping addiction?

Could reinvention solve your shopping addiction? A recent article on BBC took a very interesting perspective on the fashion industry and overconsumption.

This is the first time I’d ever read about fashion companies—even really big names, like H&M and Zara—that were trying to find a model where they could promote sustainability by creating blends of recycled clothing. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I really support this idea. There’s something about it in the post I wrote “Can Advanced Style Be a Retreat From Compulsive Buying.” Additionally, during my recent trip to South Africa where I was a counselor at Camp Sizanani, I led a program that taught kids how to repurpose old materials—such ties, shoelaces, and other fabrics—into wearable art.

This message of recycling what we already have is particularly pertinent to those trying to recover from shopping addictions. What we already have, at least as far as material possessions go, is usually way more than enough. Continuing to buy compulsively harms us and the environment, and since you can never get enough of what you don’t really need, it’s an endlessly frustrating and ineffective solution.

Trends fly in and out; many of us feel it’s justified and appropriate to update our wardrobes every season. Americans add 11 million tons of textile materials to landfills each year. While the BBC article doesn’t specify the population that it’s referring to, it does offer the following statistic: Wastefulness results in about 60 percent of all clothing being consigned to landfills. It’s a very good sign and quite commendable that the fashion industry is investing in research and innovations for textile recycling, as well as trying to create a “circular economy” that eliminates all waste by turning our leftovers into something new. In fact, last year, about 20 percent of H&M’s clothing was made of sustainably sourced materials, and one company, Dutch Awareness, envisions producing 100 percent recycled clothing blend in the near future. Furthermore, some companies even have a policy that encourages people to bring in their old clothing to be recycled by offering discounts on future purchases.

Jill Chivers recently wrote a blog post about the impact of “fast fashion” and has shared a video that I found particularly interesting. You can watch it below.

To read the article in full, click here, and the next time you go to the mall or get online to shop, ask yourself the tried and true six reminder card questions, and now add a seventh: Will this very likely end its days in a landfill or is it likely to have another few lives? See if your favorite brands are working to support sustainability. If necessity is the mother of invention, consciousness is the mother of reinvention…and might just resolve your shopping addiction.