We’ll discuss compulsive versus impulsive shopping. Most of us are not strangers to unplanned spending. Another study of 2,000 individuals found that the average person spends around $5,400 annually on impulse spending and that nearly everyone makes a mistake of this kind once in a while.

People often use the terms impulsive shopping and compulsive shopping interchangeably, but they’re actually very different. While impulsive shopping is purchasing an item because it looks good or because it is inexpensive, compulsive shopping describes a serious mental problem.

What is compulsive shopping?

Shopping is not just an expenditure problem. Instead, it’s an addiction of compulsion that causes someone to overspend.

According to Harvard Medical School, up to 20% of the population (or 5% of the population) suffers from compulsive shopping. Most compulsive buyers are females, and this tendency can lead to more severe psychiatric problems, including anxiety and depression.

Signs of compulsive shopping

The Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale is used to identify people who may have a genuine shopping addiction.

Causes of compulsive shopping

Compulsive shopping can occur for many different individuals. For some individuals, compulsive shopping is the result of perfectionism or the need to be in control.

For others, it’s a similar condition to OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Finally, others may use compulsive shopping to fill an empty part of their lives.

What is impulsive shopping?

On the other hand, impulse shopping is the act of purchasing something that you did not intend to buy. This can include ordering takeout when you intended to cook at home to spending too much at target when you shoped for shampoo.

Signs of impulsive shopping

It is easier to identify impulse purchases than compulsive purchases. If you make a purchase you didn’t plan on making because you were overcome by an urge, then you have made an impulse purchase.

Causes of impulsive shopping

Impulse shopping can occur for a variety of reasons, some of which are completely harmless. For example, impulse shopping may be caused by poor planning. You head to the supermarket without a list and end up purchasing your favorite foods impulsively.

In others cases, spontaneous shopping sprees can serve as a way of coping with other emotions. People often go shopping to tackle (or, more accurately, avoid) other emotions they might be feeling. You have a frustrating day at work and attempt to distract yourself by ordering some things from store.

The pace of shopping has greatly increased with the advent of digital marketing. You can now avoid going into a store by being tempted by marketing. Opening one’s email inbox or checking social media notifications may be all it takes to encourage someone to spend.

Compulsive vs. impulsive shopping: Tips to tackle both

Compulsive shopping and impulsive shopping are two different disorders, but there are some steps you can take to overcome both.

Notice your spending habits

The first step in overcoming poor spending habits and bad money is to recognize that you have them.

By tracking and defining your expenditures and needs, you can find where you can waste your money. If you’re overspending, you can find which spending habits are driving you off course.

Compulsive Vs Impulsive Shopping
Compulsive Vs Impulsive Shopping

Get to the root of the problem

Once you know there’s an issue, try to find the source behind it. It might be easy to see the cause of your excessive expenses.

We can easily identify when we’re attempting to get over a bad day by shopping. However, compulsive shopping sometimes results from deep-seated problems.

Stop using credit cards

Using credit cards also makes it easy to overspend. Cards allow you to spend money that you do not have. Rather than being limited by the money in your account, you can overspend.

This also applies to the “buy now, pay later” options. If you overspend frequently, avoid using your credit card. This will create a natural spending barrier for you.

Avoid temptation

Every day, we are surrounded with temptation. A person with impulsive or compulsive shopping habits may find the temptations too great to overcome.

In that case, you should avoid them altogether.

Use a waiting period for spending

Accelerating impulse purchasing is very in-the-moment behavior. At that time, you feel a sudden urge to spend money, and you make a purchase even before you have a chance to bargain yourself out of it.

A lot of people save their money by setting aside a specific amount of time before purchasing anything they want. If you see something you want to buy, try to wait at least 24 hours before purchasing it.

By the time your waiting period has expired, you may not want the gadget anymore. If you do still want it, you know that you were not impulsive in purchasing it.

Channel that energy somewhere else

If you feel that impulse buying happens a lot, it may mean that you are using purchases to fill a void elsewhere in your life.

Rather than hoping for sufficient willpower in the moment, try to fill your time with other productive activities. If you have had a bad day and feel the desire to relax, start a new project instead.

Seek the help of a professional

There are numerous techniques you can use to spend less. But if you’re unable to stop compulsive spending, you may need some help from an expert.

If you feel that your spending on shopping is negatively impacting your life, you should seek the support of a mental health professional. They will help you identify the cause of your spending and develop coping strategies.

Compulsive vs impulsive shopping: The bottom line

Once you know the difference between compulsive vs impulsive shopping, you will be more aware of your spending habits. Almost everyone has succumbed to impulse buying at some point.

If you find yourself unable to resist the urge to go shopping, the suggestions listed below can help you avoid it in the future. But the more significant the cause of compulsive shopping is, the harder it will be to overcome it.


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