The MapleMoney Show » How to Spend Money Wisely » Shopping

Recovering from Shopping Addiction to Achieve FI, with Sara Rose Danesi

Presented by Wealthsimple

Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.

Have you ever been accused of being a shopaholic? Maybe it’s a title you’ve given yourself. People often get teased for their so-called shopping addiction, not realizing that sometimes, the addiction may be real.

Sara Rose Danesi, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and author of the blog, FITE addiction. Dr. Danesi writes about her personal struggle with a shopping addiction and the process for recovery as she pursues Financial Independence. She strives to empower others to experience the freedom of FI through financial sobriety. Sara joins me on the show this week to explain the different types of shopping addiction, and how to know when your urge to spend has become a problem.

At the outset of our conversation, Sara Rose clarifies that there is no formal diagnosis for shopping addiction. If there was, it would be considered a process addiction, similar to gambling. But formal diagnosis or not, it’s a well-known fact that overspending is something many people struggle with.

Sara Rose explains the different types of shopping addiction – we discuss shopaholics, compulsive shoppers, as well as compulsive returners – yes, there is such a thing. Sara Rose reminds us that just because someone enjoys shopping, it doesn’t mean that they have a problem.

She also talks about her personal struggle with shopping, sharing the strategies she uses to avoid overspending. If you feel like your shopping habit is becoming an issue, this is an episode you don’t want to miss.

Do you prefer to invest in socially responsible companies? If so, our sponsor Wealthsimple will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, cleantech, human rights, and the environment. To get started with Socially Responsible Investing, head over to Wealthsimple today!

Episode Summary

  • Is there such a thing as shopping addiction?
  • Gambling is the only process addiction that can be formally diagnosed
  • Overspending has been normalized in Western culture
  • Different types of shopping addiction
  • Just because somebody enjoys shopping, doesn’t mean it’s an addiction
  • The definition of a shopaholic
  • The shopping addict isn’t always the flashy shopper
  • Compulsively purchasing and returning items is a form of binging and purging
  • How does one combat a shopping addiction?

Read transcript

Have you ever been accused of being a shopaholic? Maybe it’s a title you’ve given yourself? People often get teased for their shopping addiction, not realizing that sometimes the addiction may be real. Sara Rose Danesi is a licensed clinical psychologist and author of the blog, FITE Addiction. Dr. Danesi writes about her personal struggle with shopping addiction, and process for recovery as she pursues financial independence. She strives to empower others to experience the freedom of FI through financial sobriety. Sara Rose joins me on the show this week to explain the different types of shopping addiction and how to know when your urge to spend has become a problem. 


Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Do you prefer to invest in socially responsible companies? If so, or sponsor, Wealthsimple, can help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, clean tech, human rights, and the environment. To get started with socially responsible investing, head over to today. Now, let’s chat with Sara Rose… 


Tom: Hi, Sara Rose. Welcome to the Maple Money Show. 


Sara Rose: Hey, Tom, thank you so much for having me. 


Tom: I wanted to have you on because you’ve dealt with something that’s a very interesting topic to me, shopping addiction. People always relate addiction to alcohol and gambling. And, at least on the surface, they’re a lot more common. But I really believe in this shopping addiction idea. I see it a lot. I probably even have a little bit of it myself, but I try my best to fight against it. Set us up with this. Can you explain what shopping addiction is? 


Sara Rose: Yes, absolutely. We usually think of substances when we think about addiction. However, there’s been a shift in the mindset and this recognition that there are other types of things we can be addicted to and have a compulsion towards. Shopping would be one of those things. Also, probably not surprising, the internet is one of those things that we can be addicted to. And gambling. So, whenever we’re talking about something outside of substances, we put it under this term of “process addictions.” That’s what we’re calling it now, a process addiction, in terms of a diagnosis. When you’re talking about something like alcoholism and other kinds of drug abuse, when you work with a doctor or a psychologist, you’re going to get a diagnosis. Now, with process addictions, there is only one process addiction that’s recognized—that can have a diagnosis and that is gambling addiction. That’s the very first one of the process addictions to be recognized as a mental health disorder. However, there’s a lot of research going on right now that is basically building up the case that these other processes, such as shopping addiction, will actually be recognized as basically something that we can treat as a recognized mental health disorder. 


Tom: Why do you think that is, that it’s not currently included? I’m just kind of wondering if sometimes overspending is kind of considered normal nowadays? 


Sara Rose: You definitely speak to that, particularly in the Western culture. It’s very normalized. In fact, there can be a lot of glamor. And this is what we’re striving for thinking about keeping up with the rich kids on Instagram. So I definitely do think that there is this minimization of the severity of it. That’s definitely one thing. Having people recognize it for what it is and what a serious impact it can have on somebody’s life is one reason. The other reason is we’re talking about the DSM—the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, which is what we use to diagnose. It’s very difficult to get anything in there and anything out of there. When it initially started, there wasn’t as much research so it takes a while to weed things out. And then there’s a pretty high bar and standard to get things in there. I imagine it will be there at one point along with other types of process addictions. But gambling addiction was the first one to show enough research to put it in there. 


Tom: Again, just from our own culture, I guess, something like gambling is maybe a little more obvious. You’re spending this money and likely walking away with nothing, but when someone shops, they’re just shopping, so it probably is a little too normalized. 


Sara Rose: Yeah, and think about some of the terms that we have for it, right? Retail therapy being one of the terms that’s used. And it is encouraged when you think about some of the advice that was given when… Oh, I was going to say, our country but you’re in Canada. 


Tom: Yeah. It’s similar, though. 


Sara Rose: Similar, though, right? Keeping our economy strong, that means spending money and exchange of goods. You’re on a very good point there that it’s normalized. And it can be difficult to say, is this really an addiction? Is this really a problem? Whereas with other things you can look very clearly at, like gambling where you can say, yes. And even in that I’ve seen some people maybe minimize the money that they’ve lost by saying, “I just do that because that’s fun,” but it can be pretty difficult to tease apart compulsive shopping—a shopping addiction. There can be a lot of justification around it. 


Tom: I guess when we talk about addiction, what really defines that? Especially when it comes to shopping addiction? Someone could make a bad purchase and may not have an addiction. Where’s the line there in what you would consider to actually be a shopping addiction?


Sara Rose: Again, because it’s not technically a diagnosis, nobody could actually say this is 100 percent a shopping addiction or not, because that doesn’t exist in psychology terms. However, we can look at what other addictions are. We can look at alcoholism and compare it to that standard. We’re probably going to see it affect you in multiple areas of your life. As with any other kind of substance abuse, do you have trouble abstaining? Do you say, “I’m not going to do this anymore? I really overspent so I’m not going to,” but you find yourself spending anyway or repeating that even though you intentionally decided that you wanted to stop. There’s also just that craving—that hunger for it. You’re thinking about it. You’re just itching to maybe get online, start browsing or go to the store. So there’s that craving or urge that might even be creating other problems in your relationship. You may notice that you’re having the big “obvious” financial problems, right? You’re struggling with credit card debt. There can be a lot of strong emotional responses to that adding to that part of it. So it isn’t just one thing, but we’re taking in the big picture of all the different, multiple domains and those characteristics of addiction. I will say one thing as well. And maybe this is one of the reasons why I’m kind of having trouble with shopping addiction. There is a debate in the community. Is it addiction or is it obsession? And so we’re still trying to tease that apart, too. That’s another really interesting question. There’s a lot of heated academic debate about what category we put it into. Ultimately, in the long run, what category we put it into isn’t as important as how is it affecting your life? And what are some steps that you can take to bring back some balance into your life to really feel like you have control over this? 


Tom: I like what you said there, too, however you classify it, it’s still a problem that starting mentally and affecting other things like your finances, your family life. And that’s where it starts to sound very similar to things like gambling or alcoholism, where it starts to seep into everything in your life. 


Sara Rose: Exactly. And just the emotional toll that starts to have on you. 


Tom: Now, on your on your blog, you had something interesting that I wanted to walk through and that was the different types of shopping addiction you see. Part of me that wants to—and I guess that’s probably the case with a lot of addictions, I just want to see them as excuses. I’ve seen people with these before where some of them kind of sound like reasoning, that they’re explaining away that it’s not a problem. If you could just start running us through that, we can talk through it. 


Sara Rose: To be clear, just because somebody shops or enjoys shopping doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an addiction. I think it’s easy whenever we look at some of these things on one end, minimizing it and on the other and being say, “Oh gosh, do I have a problem?” And if you have a partner who does not like spending money at all and tends to be very frugal, they may look at their partner and say, “You have a shopping addiction,” but maybe their partner doesn’t have a shopping addiction. That was one thing I forgot to mention so I wanted to make sure I circled back to that. 


Tom: So can we go through the different types? 


Sara Rose: Absolutely. The first one was probably going to be the one that most of us think about, which is the shopaholic or the flashy shopper. Think about Real Housewives. I’ve never seen Real Housewives, but I think I know enough of it in pop culture, and we’re probably talking about flashy shoppers, right? There’s the #richkidsofinstagram that was going on there. Have you ever seen the documentary The Queen of Versailles? 


Tom: No. 


Sara Rose: I highly recommend it. I think it came out in the early 2000s. It’s a documentary based on probably one of the wealthiest families. It’s a documentary on them and just the absolute compulsive shopping that the matriarch of the family was doing. It was very flashy shopping. But I want to digress into it a little bit because it gave me a different perspective because I was watching this family that had more money than you could ever imagine. And there is the scene where she’s just bringing in more and more stuff into the house—bags and bags of stuff. And in the garage she’s stepping over all these bikes and toys. And I was thought, “Oh my gosh, you don’t need any more,” I’m judging it thinking, “You don’t need any more stuff.” My heart was going out to her. But I took a step back and reflected on myself, saying, “I’m very wealthy by world standards in a privileged country and I’m probably doing the same thing.” This was just a blown up version of it. Anyway, I digress there. 


Tom: Just add to that then, when we talk about something like shopping addiction, it’s not really budget-based. Obviously, the problems become a bigger issue if you’re spending more than you make, but you can make a lot of money and also spend a lot of money and technically still be balanced. But there’s a still a problem there. It’s almost getting into hoarding if they’re just stacking purchases up in a closet. 


Sara Rose: Exactly. That is the “acquiring” and the “hoarding” piece of it. That can go hand-in-hand—the acquiring of it. Not just the shopping for it but acquiring of it. And the holding on to it, which can go into hoarding. It’s going to be pretty common that if somebody is hoarding, there can be some shopping addiction behaviors, but not always. Sometimes people just hold on to things that they already have. But it is very independent of income. As you know, I’m a therapist, and so I’ve worked with individuals that have very little income, but it’s more shopping through the thrift stores. Going out multiple days a week to the thrift store with money they can’t always spare—they’re still being driven to do that. You’re right, it isn’t based on income. I think that’s why most people think of the “flashy” shopper as an image of what that is. That way they can kind of overlook that it isn’t always just the flashy spending. 


Tom: If I can skip around your list a bit. The thrift store sounds a lot like bargain shopping. This is one I kind of saw as a bit of an excuse in reasoning where you say, “Well, I got 50 percent off this great shirt,” but you’re still paying the other 50 percent so it’s not free. There’s still money being spent that didn’t need to be. 


Sara Rose: Right, exactly. Was it money that was truly fulfilling a real need or purpose? Or could that money have gone somewhere else? That’s the bargain shopping, bargain hunting, for sure. 


Tom: The other one they skipped past was, compulsive. To me, this one actually seems like the more common one I would see with people around the office and such. I guess I always think of compulsion and addiction together. They just seem very similar. 


Sara Rose: Yeah, you’re right, Tom. And what they share in that similarity would be, basically, a way to cope. When we talk about any kind of addiction or compulsive behavior, it’s coping. Maybe coping that has an unintended consequence, but it’s a way of managing those emotions. Either escaping from emotions, sometimes accentuating positive emotions like, “I got this raise so I’m going to go out and I’m going to buy this handbag that I want it or maybe a new gaming console.” That’s taking and even accentuating a positive emotion sometimes. But I think if most of us are honest and looked at ourselves there’s probably going to be a time here or there where we looked for a little bit of “retail therapy” in that way to maybe avoid an uncomfortable emotion. 


Tom: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Another interesting one, just in tying it to things people might understand more is, bulimic. I’ve made the comparison before. A lot of times when you’re trying to improve your money situation it’s also very similar to things like weight and health, you’re tracking things, trying to improve, trying not to get into different fads and such—just kind of sticking to basics trying to improve. I see a lot of similarities when it comes to weight and finances. 


Sara Rose: Yes, absolutely. The bulimic—that’s not my word. I’m trying to remember exactly who called it “bulimic” initially but it was taken with this idea of where they might call it “binge and purge” shopping. So, with bulimia, it’s going to be eating a lot of food, bingeing on a lot of food and then regurgitating it. With compulsive returning, you’re going out to buy all of the things and then you come home and maybe you regret what you did, realized you really couldn’t afford it so you go and return it. Sometimes people, when they do this, will say, “Well, I’m really not in financial trouble because I don’t keep all the things I bought.” However, we have to consider to the amount of time that went into that and how much time it takes to return it. I write a lot about this from a personal perspective as well. I’ve really struggled with the binge and purge. There would be a point, early on, when I was working on my recovery where I became very anxious because I knew there would probably be a point where my returns were no longer accepted. You can get to a point where some stores will start to bar you from purchasing or being able to return things. They have a way to track that. So I wondered, how close would I potentially be to that? That made me really sit down and think of what kind of situation I’d be in if I couldn’t return all the things and I had to keep all of them. That would be very financially stressful for me. 


Tom: Yeah, you’d be in an even worse situation where you bought something with the crutch of knowing you could return it. Your purchases could get larger and larger and you just keep thinking, “I’m just going to return this, potentially anyways.” Then, all of a sudden, you can’t. That would be so much worse if your purchases were increasing as it went. 


Sara Rose: Exactly. It’s very much a snowball in that way.  


Tom: The time is interesting. As someone that has about four items (just out of coincidence) that’s been dreading standing in line at Costco to return… We’re through  Christmas and everybody is returning things— I’m just going to wait. To make that part of my regular day is not something I could personally do. So, yeah, it’s very interesting to think about it that way. It’s, at the very least, time and mental energy. It may not be truly affecting your finances on any major level but you should value your time—and there’s probably gas involved in everything so that’s a very interesting one. 


Sara Rose: It’s funny you mentioned the returns. I read somewhere that for retailers, the day after Christmas, they lose money because everybody is returning their gifts, which means a whole new conversation, another conversation about gift giving. 


Tom: Exactly. 


Sara Rose: Actually, maybe I’ll tie that in a little bit. Some people can deny they have a shopping addiction because they’re not buying for themselves, but gift-giving for other people. 


Tom: Oh, for sure. And again, it’s one of those ways to deflect it, right? They get to go shopping so they’re kind of filling that need. But if it’s not for them, it can be seen as being okay because they have to buy gifts. But do you have to buy that many for Christmas? And then maybe it’s overboard over what most people would do? 


Sara Rose: Yeah, and it’s hard too, especially if it’s somebody love language. If you know the love language is gift-giving and it’s not for the love of anybody, you’re causing yourself financial stress. Your loved ones wouldn’t want you to be in that position, and it certainly isn’t good for you. 


Tom: Now your next one is trophy, I’m not sure what that is so you’ll have to explain that one. 


Sara Rose: That’s being a little bit more focused on finding the perfect thing. Maybe you are looking for the perfect TV or computer. Let’s go with a computer, the perfect computer. You spend all this time comparing the specs, looking at reviews, finding and picking apart every single thing, thinking that you’re going to find that one thing that’s going to make it the perfect computer. And you think, “Once I have this, I’ll never need another one again,” or, “This will be the perfect one.” That creates a little bit of the situation too, because is anything ever really going to be perfect? No. But even if you do find the thing you’ve been looking for and get it, there’s always going to be a “next” thing you are going to look for. That’s more of the pursuing of it. The excitement almost comes in looking for the thing, obsessing over whatever it is that you’re looking for. Does that make it a little bit more clear? 


Tom: I could see that applying even to smaller items. The way you explained it, there is a problem with anything, whether it’s something you’re buying or even something in your career—it’s this ides that the next thing is going to make you happy. It’s kind of concerning because even if it does make you happy, you’re always going to go on to the next thing. I could see that sort of applying to almost anything new, even irrelevant of price. Just the idea you keep thinking this thing is going to make me happy, and now this other thing is going to make me even happier. You could just kind of keep going with it. 


Sara Rose: That’s such a good point. We do that in so many ways. But you’re right, nothing permanently makes you happy. There’s always going to be the next thing. 


Tom: Yeah, yeah. Especially stuff. Stuff doesn’t really make you happy. 


Sara Rose: Well, if it did I would be a very happy person. 


Tom: Now, the last one on your list was collecting. This is one I’m sure I am very guilty of. Less now, more before. I had CD collections, video game collections, comics, and sports cards. I’ve talked about this on the podcast before. Most of that stuff I’ve either sold or I still need to sell. It’s just been sitting in boxes. And speaking of hoarding, I’m still carrying the stuff around for decades in some cases. And again, going back to what I’m just calling excuses, I know it’s not the nicest way to phrase it, but it was me saying, “Oh, well, this is a collection.” In some cases, the comics and sports cards are going to be worth more. And with the CDs, DVDs, and video games, at least it was back to that idea that this was going to make me happy. But either way, I was definitely a major collector. 


Sara Rose: Mm-Hmm. That does tend to break down along gender lines as well. People who are socialized (more male) tend to consider themselves more as collectors. 


Tom: Doesn’t surprise me. When I think of everything from sports cards to comics and everything—coins and stamps, they’re probably all more male. 


Sara Rose: Right, that’s exactly it. And the attachment. Even though maybe we know it didn’t really make us happy, we still become attached to those things. You don’t always have to get rid of all of it. Sometimes it’s nice to have some of those things if you enjoy it. But it sounds like too, that you’re talking about how it just feels like it’s weighing you down and maybe it’s more than what you want to think about or manage or pack up and move to the next house with.  


Tom: Exactly. The fact that some of this stuff has sat in boxes for multiple moves, multiple years—and you said weighing down—that’s exactly it. I feel like I’m in A Christmas Carol where you’ve got the chains on. It is a lot. There’s nothing better than a move to realize what things you don’t really value. If things are still sitting in boxes and you’re tired of moving them, it’s probably time to move on from those. 


Sara Rose: Yes, you’ve got to let go of some of those things. 


Tom: Most of it, and mentally all of it. It’s more of a time commitment. I’ve got boxes of CDs, but do I want to spend a lot of time to get a quarter a CD? So I’ll have to figure that out soon. It’s definitely something where I know I don’t want it but what’s left, I still have to deal with even though this goes back to my college days when there were things like CDs. I just don’t value them at all now. And unfortunately, no one else does so it’s not the easiest thing to get rid of. 


Sara Rose: I just had that conversation this morning with my husband. He was said, “What do you think about CDs?” I told him, they’re the new 8-tracks. Let me go. 


Tom: I had someone just tell me recently that I should hold on to them a little longer until the next records, where people consider them something of actual value. I don’t think it’s going to happen so I’ll just get rid of them. 


Sara Rose: Yeah, they probably have the same shelf life. We shall see. 


Tom: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Did I cover that enough on my own on the collecting side or is there anything else you need to add to that one? 


Sara Rose: In terms of collecting, again, all this stuff that we’re talking about, if it’s something you do enjoy and feels like is serving some sort of purpose, by all means, do. But if you find that you’re starting to become disillusioned with it and it’s no longer something that’s serving you, then find a way to let it go. 


Tom: The reason I wanted to run through all these ideas is I’m hoping that if people find themselves in one of these situations that they’ll recognize it, whether it’s as strong as an addiction or they see a little bit of something in any of these different types we went through. What can they do next? How do we combat this? What are the steps to fight addiction in general, but especially shopping addiction in this case? 


Sara Rose: Probably how much in depth you go into it is going to sometimes depend on how much in the depths of it you are. Could you have a little bit of a shopping problem? Sure. Or could you have something that is really tearing you apart at these different scenes of your life? The amount of work that you’re going to put into it is probably going to be proportional to what you are struggling with. My recommendation, one of the techniques that I have come up with is, basically, a journaling process—a daily check in with myself. I am very intentional each and every single day about if I’m going to be shopping or not. And if I’m going to be shopping, exactly what I’m shopping for. Maybe slowing down and even adopting that kind of practice for yourself briefly to see if it makes a difference for you. Of course, the first part is being honest. That you want to try and do something different. Then you can start that journaling process which has different components. One of them, for sure is, if you are going to be shopping, you want to figure out what it is you are shopping for, and why you want to purchase that thing. You also want to be very strategic in terms of how much time is going to go into looking for that thing. Because clothing is definitely a difficult one for me, I have certain times of year where I shop. I know that I’m within that window and that’s when I do my shopping for clothing. All of it comes down to strategy. When I think about shopping—we are going to make up fake statistics here because all statistics are fake, right? Let’s say, 90 percent of managing your shopping is going to happen before you even enter a store, before you even go online to your favorite shopping retail website. So 90 percent of it is going to be that reflective work. Being very intentional about knowing exactly what you are going to buy. Ten percent of it is going to be what happens when you’re actually there making the purchase. It’s going to come through—and this isn’t going to surprise you, actually having a budget and being truthful with yourself about your budget. Also, being mindful that you’re not saying, “Oh, I’m not going to spend anything on this collection,” or whatever it is, because then you can set yourself up for bingeing. You’re restricting for so long and then you’re going to binge and you’re going to feel bad about it. None of it is really about extremes in any way. It’s about sitting down and being very decisive about how you’re going to manage it. On my website I have different articles that talk about those different things that I would encourage somebody to journal about every single day and then make that commitment every day. In many ways, it’s just one day at a time. “I’m not going to shop this day. I’ll decide what I’m going to do the next day,” and that’s very much what the process is about. Just knowing that this isn’t a shopping day. Maybe tomorrow will be a shopping day. But when it is, I’m going to be very thoughtful and diligent about what that will look like for me. 


Tom: I like that because whether it’s addiction or not, I definitely have an urge to shop sometimes. I do that a lot now where, if it’s a big purchase, don’t make the decision right. If you see something and suddenly decide you think you might have a need for it, even though you weren’t even thinking about it previously, it’s probably better just to go home and sort of spend some time and just think about that instead of making the purchase. 


Sara Rose: I love that. The pillow test, right? If it just popped into your mind, go home, sleep on it, put it to the pillow, see how you feel the next day, or maybe even longer. Most of the time, you’ll completely forget about it. I’ve done this with items where I’ve been in the store and had this urge just pop out at me and I’ve taken a picture of it. A lot of times I’ll even completely forget about it, but I take a picture of it. I think taking the picture just allows me to walk away from it a little bit. Now, that could backfire on you if you’re somebody who then kind of scrolls through your camera roll, sees it and says, “Yeah, I really want that thing,” where it retriggers the urge. But for me, having those pictures actually reminds me, “Oh yeah, I saw that thing. I took a picture of it. I never really thought about it again until I saw it on my camera roll, and I have no desire for it now.” So that helped me see other impulse purchases in the future differently because, look at all these things I thought I really, really wanted in the moment. But now that I’ve walked out of the store and I spend a day or two, I’m really not interested in that thing. 


Tom: That’s interesting because I was doing that, but not for that reason. I’ll often see something in Costco and take a picture of it because I want to get a picture of it and the price. I figure I’ll wait till I get home to make sure that’s actually the best price and see if I really want it. For me, taking a See if I really want it. For me, taking a picture was almost a little bit more research. But just thinking back on it now, I’ve probably bought less than half of the stuff I’ve taken pictures of. So it was working, but it wasn’t the reason I was doing it. 


Sara Rose: That’s awesome. So, we’re coming to similar conclusions here. 


Tom: Yeah, I definitely like that idea. It’s just an easier way to walk away from it. And if you go home, sleep on it and decide you really want it—and if you’re like me, you’re also able to compare it on Amazon and stuff like that, too, if it’s a purchase you really want to make, that’s fine. But at least you’re doing it in a slightly more reserved way. You’re thinking about it and making sure that’s actually something you would value to own. 


Sara Rose: Yeah, not buying it just in the heat of the moment. 


Tom: As someone that’s been in the retail industry for decades, if you’re in a store, it is designed to get extra money out of you. If you look at all the little expensive things at the till and stuff like that, they will get that extra money as often as possible before you get out the door. So if you have a shopping problem, it’s hard to get in and out of a store just on your list alone. There are a lot of things working against you. 


Sara Rose: Being in the retail space, are you familiar with that research that if they can get you to pick up a product, you’re 30 percent more likely to buy it? 


Tom: I haven’t heard it that way, exactly. But certainly, yes. Things like sale items on the end of aisles and all the little quick decisions that are at the till and stuff in any kind of retail location. It’s all pretty well designed to increase the purchase you’re making. I don’t think any retailer wants you to go in and just buy the thing you wanted if they can get you to buy more. 


Sara Rose: It would be a poor business model on their part. Well, also too, just knowing as well that there’s nothing wrong with wanting something. Our brains are very much wired to want things—to light up at the prospect of an exciting new thing. So there’s nothing wrong with anybody if they want things or they walk into the store and these things are enticing because your biology wants to be enticed by these things. And there are very smart people working there, working very hard to try to make you pick up the items and buy them. This isn’t any commentary on somebody’s personal willpower or some people being better than others. This is just how we are. We are driven to want new things and bringing more of that awareness into it, will go a long way. Some of that comes through the journaling and the reflection. 


Tom: Yeah, I definitely like that. Something I’ve mentioned many times in the past is this idea of deciding what your values are. And even if it’s a big-ticket item, if you’ve taken the time—and the journaling would definitely sort of prove this out—if you take the time and still decide this is truly something you would use and get the full value of, then there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to beat yourself up over every purchase. But at least you’ve taken that time to think it out and decide that this is something important to you and is worth the money that you’re about to spend. 


Sara Rose: Yes, exactly. Value-based spending. Uh-Huh. 


Tom: Exactly. Well, thanks for running us through all this. Again, I hope with these different types, if someone is maybe unaware of their current situation, maybe they see themselves in any of these a little bit, hopefully, this will help them think about next steps they can take to improve it. If they’re seeing any conflict in family or friends—any of these things where you’re spending and your finances could become a problem, hopefully, they’re listening and they’ll take some steps towards it. 


Sara Rose: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Tom. 


Tom: Thanks for being on. Can you let people know where they can find you online? 


Sara Rose: Yeah, absolutely. You can reach me at my website, FITE stands for financial independence, transition early. So that’s at I’m also on Instagram @fiteaddiction. It’s the same on Twitter. I’m on Instagram more. I really haven’t figured out the Twitter thing. Maybe I’ll get there eventually, but you can pretty much reach me on those domains. 


Tom: Great, thanks for being on the show. 


Sara Rose: All right. Thanks, Tom. Take care. 


Thank you, Sara Rose, for your insight into the psychology of shopping. Just like anything else, moderation is key. You can find the show notes for this episode at If you have a moment, head over to our YouTube channel, and subscribe there as we’ll be getting back to releasing never-before-seen content, soon. Either search for Maple Money or go to and subscribe today. Thanks, as always, for listening. I look forward to seeing you back here next week.

With shopping addiction, there is this debate in the (academic) community - is it an addiction, or is it obsession…in the long run, what category we put it into isn’t as important as how it is affecting your life and what are some steps that you can take to bring back some balance. - Sara Rose Danesi Click to Tweet