Are You a Shopping Addiction Enabler?

When you shop with friends, are you encouraging each other to overspend?

Writing The Inspired Shopper really got me thinking about how I buy fashion. Currently I have a moratorium on most mainstream brands, and am buying only from those with ethical (but not sustainable) accreditation, as well as secondhand clothes.

Recently I went clothes shopping with a friend in Acland Street, a tourist precinct near St Kilda beach that is famed for its cake shops, but in recent decades has succumbed to commercialisation. We wandered into one of those overstocked stores that sells obscure brands made in China and has prices that scream ‘sweatshop’. I didn’t buy anything myself, but when my friend held up a bright red fitted jacket and asked me what I thought of it, I found myself encouraging her to try it on.

While I was still completing The Inspired Shopper, I visited my dentist for a check-up and clean. I mentioned that I was working on the book as I was getting seated on the dental chair, and this gave my dentist and her dental nurse permission to discuss their shopping lives – I listened avidly, only able to nod vigorously, as tubes and drills were stuck in my mouth! The dental nurse confessed that her friends often encouraged her to buy expensive items that she often regretted when she got home.

Shopping with friends is a recreational pastime that never loses popularity. It’s fun, uplifting and a great distraction from whatever problems we’re dealing with. But friends can exert undue pressure on you to buy something, particularly when it comes to fashion. This can be difficult to resist, but often it’s their own agenda they’re pursuing, not yours.

Why does this happen? I think the human tendency to help other people spend their money actually starts with empathy rather than greed. Perhaps your friend is urging you to purchase that bright orange sundress because she’d like to buy it herself but it doesn’t suit her; or perhaps it’s beyond her budget and she knows that you can afford it.

Or perhaps your friend is addicted to shopping and, like a heavy drinker who needs to get drunk with others, wants a spendthrift companion to justify her own overspending.

In my case, the red jacket didn’t fit with my ethical beliefs, but I was still willing to encourage my friend to buy it.

My friend doesn’t have a spending addiction – in fact, she’s pretty careful with money – and neither do I. But what if she had had an addiction? Can friends shopping together encourage each others’ compulsive buying habits? Are you more likely to overspend if you go shopping with a friend?

The answer to the last question may be yes. According to retail guru Paco Underhill, women often spend more time and money when they shop with a friend than when they shop alone. (This is especially the case with teenage girls, who spend more money when they’re with a group of friends.)

It doesn’t have to be that way – when you’re shopping with another person it’s possible to have fun even if you arrive home empty handed. Here are some tips:

* Give yourself a breather before buying. If you're out shopping with friends and you see something you think you want to buy, ask your friends what they think, but don’t buy the item; ask the store to put it away for a few hours. Wait until it’s time to take a coffee or food break and then use the time off to decide whether you really want it.

* Use the day purely for recreation, not buying. If you think it might be too hard to make a buying decision with friends around, you could decide to simply enjoy the socialising and browsing aspects of the day without buying anything. If something catches your eye, you can always ask to have it put away for a few days, and return later to buy it if it still feels right.

* Try the ‘broken record’ technique. If your friends are insistent about you buying something, you can calmly refuse, without changing your tone or expressing anger, every time they insist. Each time you have to repeat yourself, change the wording slightly, eg ‘Thanks for your input, but I’ll have to think about it’; ‘I value your opinion, but I just don’t feel like buying that’.

* Shop with friends who are in touch with their intuition. It’s sometimes possible to harness the intuitive energy of others to make better decisions. I have a friend who is quite intuitive, and when I’m having trouble making a decision, she lets me know what her intuition is telling her; this sometimes helps me get more in tune with mine.

* Get into the habit of shopping with friends at thrift shops and recycle stores. Because the choices made at these stores tend to be more individualised and you have to hunt for goods that are right for you, you’ll probably put less pressure on each other to buy.

* Let other people make their own decisions. It’s important to let go when you think that a friend or loved one is making a poor shopping decision. Offer your opinion if it’s sought – and if you’re sufficiently close, even if it’s not – but let the other person make up their own mind.

* Look at your own motivations when shopping with friends. If you sometimes play the role of shopping addiction ‘enabler’ yourself, ask yourself why you want your friends to spend their money and whether you need to work on your own attitudes to spending.

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like How to Distinguish between a Good and Bad Impulse Buy.

No comments :