Spending spiral — it conjures up images of someone feeling out of control. Hair frazzled and pulse quickening as they tear through the aisles of the nearest department store, filling their cart with items they are not quite sure if they need, definitely didn’t plan for, and will certainly regret by the following morning. They come home only to hide the items in their closet for fear that their partner will catch them red-handed and demand to know how much they charged and why it happened again.
Shopping spirals don’t have to be as dramatic as this to qualify as out-of-control spending. We all make regretful purchases sometimes, and spending spirals can last mere minutes or an hour. But the damage can happen fast, and it can leave us feeling down. For example, the last time I went on a bit of a spiral was when I was out by myself one Saturday morning earlier this year. It was such a rarity that I had a full day free from any obligation, and once I was out, I just didn’t want to go back home. It was an impulsive emotional response to my situation that left me bouncing around from one store to the next, shopping for ill-thought out clothing items, stopping for an overpriced breakfast, popping into a Sephora, seeing a movie, opting for lunch out, and capping it all off with a cab ride home. If I would have paused and reminded myself that the items I was would barely fit into my tiny closet back home, I would’ve stopped there and went home. But, I didn’t.
According to an article on U.S. News & World Report, “More than 1 in 20 Americans have a shopping habit that jeopardizes their relationships or careers, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.” 1 in 20 people might not seem as problematic as you’d expect, but to think that for any of these, shopping may be the thing that jeopardizes their relationship?! It seems nutty — it seems like the easiest thing to change to save someone from themselves. But, a true shopping spiral is hard to pull yourself out of, and we’ve probably all experienced one. However, if we push ourselves to be more reflective and aware of how our behaviors and emotions influence the way we spend money, we might have a better chance of nipping them in the bud the next time around.
I talked to nine women about the last thing that triggered their own version of a “spending spiral.” Here’s what they had to say about it. Check it out!
1. “I got fired from my job. It wasn’t even a job that I liked all that much, but like, it paid the bills, was consistent and safe. One day, I got called into the higher-ups office and was told that my job was being cut (a round of layoffs because of budget cuts), and I had to go to my desk, pack up my stuff, and leave immediately. Imagine that! Pretty harsh way to do it, I thought (and it was three weeks out from the holidays). I was torn up about it, and I went overboard with planning Christmas, and I spent a ton of money on stuff I did not need. House decorations! Cookie-baking classes! Homemade gifts for friends! I just needed a distraction because I wasn’t having any luck with the job hunt.” — Mia
2. “My husband and I were having problems. I think I’m usually good with responding to conflict and tension well, but when I got into a really rough patch with my husband earlier this year, I started spending a lot. I guess I was trying to plan to do so many ‘fun’ things that it would make us forget the underlying issues we had…I was buying tickets to shows, planning weekend activities, drinking a lot, and buying expensive lingerie. I think I spent $800 in total before it got better…” — Jaime
3. “The puppy I was housesitting got sick, and I panicked. My friends were away for a week and a half on vacation, and I had their 8-month old puppy at my house. He started shaking and started throwing up something. Naturally, I freaked the fuck out, took him to the vet, spent a bunch of money on medications and stuff. He ended up being totally fine, but I was so stressed out by the whole ordeal that it literally prompted me to buy the expensive purse I was holding out on buying. I’m just thought ‘fuck it, I deserve this.’ Believe it or not, I spent the money I was saving up for a puppy to buy the bag because after going through that I thought to myself, ‘I’m really NOT ready for a dog yet.’ Hah.” — Monica
4. “I had a bad argument with my best friend. I just wanted fix it as fast as I could. I bought a plane ticket to see her, bought stuff for an ‘I’m sorry basket,’ and bought a few nice bottles of champagne. Needless to say it was a bad fight…and I needed to do a lot to make it up to her.” — Zoe
5. “Two words: work. stress. I guess the last time would have to be feeling stressed at work…that usually sets me off. When I have a really bad/stressful meeting with a client, I tend to overspend. It could be as simple as an expensive dinner with my boyfriend. I’ll text him when I’m on the way home from work and say, ‘Meet me at X restaurant.’ It’s not a ton of money wasted, but more than I’d usually spend on dinner and (one too many) cocktails. Usually I try to keep a very strict budget because I made like 32k a year.” — Liza
6. “B o r e d o m. Sometimes I shop in my lecture class…it’s THAT brutal of a class. I sit in the back of the room, and most people are on their computers doing something else anyway. One day, I went on a shopping spiral because we had a substitute teacher. I stocked up on all the fall and seasonal stuff I needed to decorate me and my friend’s apartment…sounds childish right?” — Beth
7. “I got a new job. I felt so proud of myself! But, when I got the credit card statement for the THREE pairs of shoes I bought that day to celebrate, I hit a new low point. I’ll tell anyone who asks how much I love shoes. I LOVE shoes, and I feel like I’m in a relationship with the pairs I have in my closest. (No, this is not a Carrie Bradshaw parody if your mind is going there.) l’ll be the first to admit it. Anyway, I read this article online that was talking about shopping addiction, which explained, ‘You’re particularly vulnerable if you’ve admitted to having an ‘obsession,’ like shoes or designer handbags. Just because your splurges tend to stick to one category doesn’t make them any more rational.’ <– Yeah, that’s me. I have to work on making that bad habit go away for good.” — Leigha
8. “I lost 20 pounds, gained it back, and couldn’t keep it off. What comes to mind is the weight loss journey I went through a few year back. When I couldn’t keep off the weight I lost, I was really hard on myself. But, on those rare self-care days I dropped hundreds of dollars on stuff to make me feel better — it didn’t.” — Kim
9. “My mom. (Sorry momma.) My mom taught me to shop and we’re bad when we’re together. Seriously, literally anytime I’m with my mom I tend to overspend. We both love it and feed off of each other’s energy. Yes, we’re trying to get better about it and sit our asses home and bake or something instead, but we have a long way to go.” — Blake
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