Many people love to shop, perhaps women slightly more than men, but you need to be careful because excessive shopping can lead to financial disaster. So how do you know when your addiction has gone too far? How do you pay down the bills after you've shopped till you drop? CNBC's Sharon Epperson, author of the book “The Big Payoff,” has tips on how to kick the habit.
Are you a binge buyer? Does retail therapy make you feel better after a bad day? How often do you hit the mall or shop online? How much are you willing to spend to make yourself feel better? Shopping without ever thinking about the costs is a big problem. It may even be an addiction. A study by the American Journal of Psychiatry found one out of 12 people (nearly as many men as women) are compulsive shoppers — and their shopping habits often damage their work, relationships and finances.
If you’re juggling credit card bills and pouring money into finance charges just to be able to shop a little more, your spending has probably spun out of control. You may not even realize how much credit card debt you’ve accumulated, or how many other bills went unpaid as you added another pair of shoes to your shelf. Did you think about how much you could have socked away in your retirement nest egg, or for your kid’s college education, or put into emergency reserves, if you’d saved just a little of that money you spent? You need to stop financing your future. To do that, you have to change the way you shop.
1. Know what you have
Look in your closet or around the house before you shop. If you have enough shoes, dresses, kids’ clothes or electronics to last you for the next year — or at least for this season — stop! You don’t need to buy another couple of outfits from Gymboree for the kids, a new gold chain or purse.
2. Carry a shopping list
Make a list of what you plan to buy and what you plan to spend on each item before you shop. This should help stop impulse buys.
3. Put items that you want to buy “on hold”
Put items that you want to buy “on hold.” When you’re shopping and see an item you want, don't buy it ... yet. Ask the store to hold the item for you for a day or two. Take another spin around the mall — or better yet, go home, and come back only if you really want it and need it. Again, this can help curb impulse buying.
4. Don't be a sucker for sales
I get coupons for sales at Lord & Taylor every week. As soon as I think I’ve found a bargain, the store often slashes prices another 15 percent. If I don’t really need the dress or the earrings, I don’t buy them. I tell myself “There will be more sales.”
5. Bring cash, leave the plastic
Take cash, check or a debit card with you when you shop. Leave your credit cards at home. If you’ve racked up loads of credit card debt, you not only need to change the way you shop, you need to work on changing the way you handle your finances.
6. Track what you spend
Face it. Don't fudge it. Write down everything that you bought this week, this month, and how much you spent. Don’t round the numbers down. Put down the exact price. You need to see where your money is going.
7. Cut up your credit cards
If you’re in credit card debt, you don’t need to be tempted to spend more on credit. Use cash, checks or a debit card. Online shoppers who don’t want to put purchases on a debit card may want to get an American Express card. You need a charge card that forces you to pay the full balance each month. American Express also offers online tools to help you track your spending.
8. Pay off credit card debt
Make a list of all of your credit cards, the balance due, minimum payment due and interest rate. Put the card with highest interest rate at the top. Plan to pay off that balance first. Talk to creditors about lowering the interest rate if you promise to make payments above the minimum amount due every month. If they agree, call other creditors and see if they’ll do the same.
9. Seek financial advice
Talk to a financial advisor or credit counselor. Big spenders aren't usually good savers. You may be jeopardizing your retirement and other financial goals with your spending. Work out a plan to balance paying down your debt and saving for the future.
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