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How to Set and Keep a New Year's Resolution to Quit Compulsive Shopping


Updated October 15, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

January 1st is the best and worst time to quit compulsive shopping. It is the time of year when everyone tends to buy things they don't really need in the January sales. But if you can do it in January, you can do it any time!
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: A lifetime

Here's How:

  1. It's great to set a date for your resolution, such as January 1st, but remember that changing addictive behavior happens in stages, rather than in an instant. After making the decision to change, you need to prepare sufficiently to make the action stage successful.
  2. Don't wait until December 31st to start restraining yourself. If, like many compulsive shoppers, you are also a hoarder, the holidays are a great time to clear out your unwanted purchases. Return any items you can as soon as possible, since returns, particularly for full price, can be more difficult in January. Give away any stockpiled items such as holiday gifts, or contribute items to your local Christmas fund, which will give your unwanted goods to needy families.
  3. If you still need to do some Christmas shopping, limit yourself to spending $10 per person, or to giving hand-made gifts. If your family and friends genuinely care about you, they will understand that you have a problem you are trying to solve. If it helps, you can ask them to make a donation to charity instead of buying you a gift.
  4. Take stock of your financial circumstances. Evaluate your debt, and figure out how much you need to pay off each month to eradicate it. Make a plan for how much of your income you need to spend on basic living expenses each month, and see if you can divide your debt by 12 and break even by the end of next year by paying off that amount each month. If you need help, contact a credit counselor or Debtors Anonymous.
  5. Prepare yourself emotionally for the change, starting well before the new year. Start to develop a healthy self-image based on maturity and responsibility. Remind yourself about things you like about yourself that don't depend on spending money -- your intelligence, sense of humor, or other internal characteristics.
  6. Use affirmations to keep you on track. Post a sign on your fridge saying, "Every day that I make wise spending decisions, I am becoming more and more responsible for my own happiness."
  7. Don't completely deny yourself the pleasure of spending. Give yourself a modest allowance -- $100 maximum -- each month (after paying for your basic living expenses and towards eliminating your debt), and plan ahead for one special purchase per month, such as a new item of clothing.
  8. Make a list before doing any shopping, including grocery shopping. Don't buy anything that is not on the list. If possible, don't shop alone.
  9. Find alternative ways of enhancing your self worth. Borrow and read books from your local library, teach yourself meditation, or take up volunteering for a cause that appeals to you.
  10. Keep track of your progress. Each month you stay free of compulsive shopping, indulge yourself in a special experience that doesn't cost money.


  1. Remember that compulsive shopping is generally shopping that is unnecessary. As you clear out the things you don't need, you will start to appreciate the things you do need.
  2. People who shop compulsively often experience euphoria, similar to that experienced by drug users. But pleasure can be experienced in many everyday situations. Start to notice what makes you feel good, without the intensity of shopping.
  3. If you slip and buy something you don't need, don't stash it away. Return it for a refund as soon as possible, and don't buy anything else with the money.

What You Need

  • Pen and paper -- to write affirmations, shopping lists, and to keep track.
  • Scissors or a modern paper shredder, to cut up credit cards.
  • Some imagination -- to think of alternatives.
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  5. Quit Compulsive Shopping - How to Set and Keep a New Year's Resolution to Quit Compulsive Shopping

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