LifestyleRising above temptation: The battle of shopaholics against rising prices and online discounts

Rising above temptation: The battle of shopaholics against rising prices and online discounts

Shopaholism in the era of inflation has serious consequences.
Shopaholism in the era of inflation has serious consequences.
Images source: © Getty Images | Space_Cat
4:33 AM EST, January 29, 2024

Standard advice for shopaholics is straightforward: avoid shopping centers, think multiple times before purchasing, only buy what is truly needed, and save money.

"I can't resist the urge"

Magda came from a wealthy family and started receiving generous pocket money at a young age. "I grew up in a rich household where money was never an issue. My parents ran a successful business and I was an only child, which says it all. Ever since I was a kid, I was accustomed to spending money. My father always believed that money should be used to bring enjoyment," Magda says.

She started shopping online as a teenager. She explains, "I've ingrained it from my mother that everything could come in handy one day. Whenever I see a promotional offer, I think it's worth having. In high school, I began buying clothes and cosmetics online. After moving out and living with my fiancé, I had to limit my purchases due to space constraints. But when AliExpress debuted, my old habits resurfaced."

Despite a worsened financial situation after spreading her wings, Magda still struggles to resist compulsive shopping. "I shop and then I feel guilty. The thought of missing an opportunity when I see a promotion overwhelms me. I often find things in the house that I don't even remember buying," she admits.

Her partner is aware of her addiction and insisted she go to therapy. She attended two sessions and although some temporary improvements were made, the problem persisted. "I'm aware that there are a lot of traps like the 'buy now, pay later' schemes. It's fun until the bill arrives. With the soaring prices, I sometimes hesitate before making a purchase but eventually, I give in, even when I'm overdrawn."

"Prices increase daily"

According to a 2019 CBOS report, over one million people in Poland aged fifteen and above—three-quarters of whom are women—are affected by shopaholism.

Last year, online spending exceeded PLN 111 billion or approximately USD 27.3 billion, with products making up 56 percent of all purchases and services making up the remaining 44 percent ("Online Servicing Trade in Poland 2022. E-commerce Market Analysis and Development Forecasts for 2022-2027").

"Shopaholism involves compulsively relieving emotional tension through uncontrollable and needless shopping. Despite recognizing the futility of their actions, sufferers often cannot stop themselves. They accumulate emotional tension, including a sense of danger, which heightens the compulsion to make purchases to obtain temporarily relief," says Damian Kasza, a neuropsychologist at the MindHealth Mental Health Center.

Inga, on the other hand, prefers spending on E-books, subscriptions, and online courses, which seem affordable at first glance. "But when you start adding it all up, the costs rack up considerably," she concedes.

Despite earning an average wage and living alone, 25-year-old Inga is in debt due to her excessive spending. She insists that her propensity for spending is inescapable due to the incessant price hikes. "I have access to all kinds of courses. I've yet to begin a lot of them, but I convince myself that I'll finish them eventually. Even though I currently have two unpaid credit cards, I continue to tell myself that I am investing in my knowledge and self-development, which will pay off in the future."

How do shopaholics deal with inflation?

"I make do by breaking down payments into installments or deferring payments. It's not easy living paycheck to paycheck," shares Inga. Despite considering therapy, she hasn't made the decision yet. "I'm optimistic that I can overcome this on my own. On the bright side, at least I don't waste time loitering in shopping malls."

In the context of inflation, psychologist Damian Kasza explains, a shopaholic's values and priorities differ significantly from that of a non-addict. As a result, high prices and the costliness don't discourage them from making compulsive purchases. While they may feel discouraged temporarily, these factors do not prevent the accumulation of emotional stress, which shopaholics mitigate through shopping.

Research conducted by Michel Lejoyeux in 2000 reported that compulsive shopping often co-occurs with mood disorders (21-100 percent), anxiety disorders (41-80 percent), substance abuse (21-46 percent), or eating disorders (8-35 percent).

Damian Kasza agrees that shopaholism has far-reaching effects, including emotional, financial, and professional damage, as well as a negative impact on familial and social relationships. He underscores that high prices won't deter a shopaholic, who will find ways to indulge in their addiction regardless of the consequences. "High prices might intensify feelings of guilt in those already ridden by guilt and seeking therapy," the expert emphasizes.

Both Inga and Magda admit being addicted to shopping and continuously feel guilty about their habits. Despite moments of success, they aspire to be content by indulging in 'window shopping' – a term used to describe the act of looking at items in retail or online stores without actually purchasing them.

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