Confessions of a Shopping Addict

Hi. My name is Katie and I’m a shopaholic. It’s been 12 days since I last used my store card.

It all started so innocently, really. “Would you like to save an additional 15 percent today? You know the more you spend with us, the more you’ll save!” After years of avoiding credit cards, I ever so gradually flirted with the idea of my first store card to my favorite retailer and, two months ago, finally signed up. At first, it was pure bliss – buy now, pay later, qualify for discounts, accumulate rewards. In fact, the bliss had become a regular habit. Need to chill out? Go bum around my favorite stores. Just finished a tough week? Maybe there’s a sale going on. But sometimes my reasons for shopping weren’t always so leisurely. Feeling stressed out, discouraged or depressed? A new sweater would make me feel better! Feeling dissatisfied or alone? Maybe a necklace to go with it, too! And then I got the monthly statement…and it was clearly time to re-evaluate my relationship with shopping.

Millions of women are addicted to what is known as compulsive shopping. Compulsive shopping is “a pattern of chronic, repetitive purchasing that becomes difficult to stop and ultimately results in harmful consequences.” One study found that compulsive shopping is more common among women than men. Just this morning, The Today Show featured a mother whose shopping addiction has her teenage daughter concerned about losing their home. Compared to other addictions, shopping is a seemingly respectable habit and often goes under the radar in our lives. If you’re mentally running through your receipts right about now, wondering if you might have a shopping situation of your own, consider some of these overspending-signs:

–       Do you feel a rush of anxiety and excitement when you spend money?

–       Do you shop as a pick-me-up when you’re feeling down?

–       Do you buy things you don’t need or have multiple items that you’ve never worn?

–       Do you spend an excessive amount of time shopping in stores, shopping online, or thinking about shopping, perhaps at the expense of your other responsibilities?

–       Do you feel a sense of guilt, embarrassment or confusion after you’ve spent money?

–       Do you conceal your purchases from your husband, family and friends?

–       Do you spend more than what you’d planned to or have to return things after realizing you can’t afford them?

In her book, When Spending Takes the Place of Feeling, Karen O’Conner explains that “[Compulsive shopping] is a serious addiction for millions of women, every bit as serious as drug, alcohol, or food use.” She also describes some of the deeper reasons that drive women’s out-of-control shopping. For some women, shopping brings a sense of excitement. The temporary thrill we get from the swipe of our credit cards is a euphoric high. For other women, shopping lifts their emotions. Who hasn’t felt better by a trip to the mall after a tough day? And for some women, shopping masks a greater pain. It gives a fleeting fulfillment for those from emotionally distant homes. Or perhaps it provides a sense of self-worth by believing that they will be loved if they spend money on others.

Whatever the underlying reason, millions of women are shopping for fulfillment.

While chronic overspending and credit card debt are certainly manifestations of a shopping problem, they are merely symptoms of the cause. The solution to over-shopping isn’t in better financial planning, and a “Just Say ‘No’ to Sales” approach. In fact, you could stick to the most money-savvy, Dave Ramsey-approved budget and still have a shopping addiction. Or you could use just a petite-sized sliver of your financial pie on personal spending, maybe even completely denying yourself of everything but the basics, and still not solve the problem. Why?

Because the core of our shopping addiction isn’t about our money-management, it’s about our hearts.

You’re probably familiar with Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt 5-7).  Throughout Jesus’ message, He cuts straight to the motive of our hearts. And His words about money do just that! He warns us not to “lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (6:19-21) He also gives another sobering warning about money, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (v. 24).


But sandwiched in between these verses are these curious words: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (vv. 22-24) Perhaps you, like me, were wondering what eyes, lamps and darkness have to do with you and your shopping issues, almost as though Jesus got off-topic. But instead, He is cutting to the core of every issue with shopping and spending that you and I will ever face. The main issue isn’t about whether we have money, or how much we have, or what we spend it on. The deeper issue involves the perspective with which you and I view money, and how our devotion determines our direction. Our perspective is determined by where our eyes are fixed. And where our eyes are fixed, our hearts will follow.

The amount that we spend on things isn’t the primary measure of our hearts, but the affection thatwe give to those things is.

Our hearts are constantly being tugged toward the lure of the temporal, whether we’re spending $10 or $10,000. Before we ever had a problem with where our money went, we already had a problem with where our eye went. If shopping, thinking about shopping, or the next thing you want to shop for becomes the focus of our hearts and the source of our joy, we’ve set our eyes in the wrong direction and are enslaved to our own skewed perspectives.

There’s a lot of good advice out there on overcoming compulsive spending. Cutting up the credit cards, leaving your wallet at home when you shop and joining a twelve-step program can all be helpful decisions. But, as Jesus’ words teach us, controlling our circumstances still won’t change our hearts. So how do we break the cycle of addiction that keeps our shopping habit from going out of business? Here are a few places to start:

–       Exchange it. We need a different kind of transaction to take place in our lives. That starts by acknowledging our shopping addiction for what it is – loving material things, giving in to our impulses and appetites and our attempting to satisfy a need apart from God. In exchange, God gives us His empowering grace to break the cycle of addiction.

–   Get a personal consultation. Ask the Lord to reveal your heart and the motives behind why you shop.Perhaps you would benefit from the help of a Christian counselor to get to the core of your overspending habits.

–       You can’t have just one. Don’t try to go solo or willpower your way to breaking a habit. Open up your life to godly accountability. On your next shopping trip, bring a trusted friend with you who will help you keep from purchasing more than you’d planned. Invite someone to ask you about the time you spend shopping online and consider staying off store websites for a while.

–       Return it. What do you have in your house right now that you could give away to someone else? (I can think of a few things myself!) Not only does giving away things help us simplify our lives, it also helps to free us from the anxiety that often comes with acquiring more and more things. (For more on this topic check out “The Discipline of Simplicity,” in the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.)

–       Play Dress-Up. This is a fun one! Find some friends who are willing to contribute items from their closets and trade your clothes and accessories for a month at a time. You’ll get the variety of wearing different things. But even more, you’ll have to entrust your own things to others. Should something come back a little worse for wear, you’ll be reminded that it’s just stuff after all!

While I may be a recovering shopaholic, the more I confront it the more God frees me of from shopping for fulfillment. There are days when I’d rather spend an hour browsing online rather than face the discouraging mass of reading yet to be finished.  I’m realizing that the thrill of the “new” wears off as I wear it out the door, and doesn’t take away feelings of loneliness. And as much of a fun escape as it might feel in the moment, spending the day at the mall won’t fix the worry I feel when I don’t trust God with my circumstances.

It isn’t easy to confront why we do what we do. But it is the start to a whole new way perspective. The price for our freedom from compulsive shopping has already been paid. (2 Cor 5:21) And we can’t max out on the grace that we need to overcome our addictions.  Christ has provided all the fulfillment we could ever need. (Col. 2:10) We don’t need to shop for it.

Katie McCoy is pursuing a Doctorate in Systematic Theology at Southwestern Seminary. When she’s not studying for her classes (a rare occasion!), she loves hanging out with friends, eating sushi, learning new words and is currently a political news junkie. Connect with Katie on Facebook or Follow her on Twitter!

16 thoughts on “Confessions of a Shopping Addict”

  1. Rick says:

    Good article! Just to add a real-life example to encourage folks to really listen – I am a pastor and know a woman dealing with the aftermath of her covetousness-addiction. She kept giving into the lust to buy to the point where she embezzled money from her company to support her habit, and is now serving 2 years in a Federal Penitentiary. I counseled her after it was already in court, and her husband and child are now missing her a lot! I urge your readers to seek the Lord””””s help for repentance and His forgiveness and grace!

  2. Sue Dot says:

    Comforted by the christian aspect of your website. Being a regular buy & discard culprit, I know I am letting God and myself down each time I do it. Also too my spouse; plus being on fixed income, I need to break this habit soon, or we will be in a terrible mess. Online shopping is the main temptation, together with charity or thrift stores; of which there are plenty in the UK. Thank you for taking the time to read.

  3. Bunees says:

    I use shopping to make myself feel better about almost anything. I just go on these shopping benders when I start spending like crazy because I am bored, lonely or dissatisfied.

  4. Ndaambe says:

    As a preacher’s kid,I grew up with little information about spending and this ruined my life so badly when I was exposed to income.immediately after I got my income,I would go fro shopping moving from one store to another without thinking of my basic wants.The funny part is,after spending I would become so depressed, feel guilty and would want to take the things back,I couldn’t control myself.This became so ugly and that’s when I realised that I’m a shopaholic.
    I would skip giving my tithes for month and spend.I would buy stuffs and keep them for months without wearing them.
    The bible says that we should seek the kingdom of God first and the rest become a gift from God,I asked myself this evening what’s happening to me and my answer was”shopaholic ” .immediately I googled and bumped into your article.I believe shopaholic is not just a normal addiction, but some force of darkness that drags God’s children into poverty and all sort of financial hardship and barriers.I’m seeking for help from his word and I will do that from now on in Jesus name.By faith I’m not a shopaholic but a saver.I will donate whatever is there to get rid of this all the stuffs that used me through this addiction.Thank you so much for this wonderful article.It helps me and wakes me from this wicked dream”shopaholic”.God bless

  5. Sheryl Feley says:

    My husband emailed this to me today. At first I was irritated that he would assume I was addicted to shopping. We have been arguing a lot lately because of finances. He works A LOT. Always has. Not because we don’t have money but he thinks we don’t have money so we NEVER do things. If we do he makes it horrible because he’ll complain about how it costs. With all that said, I started feeling well if you’re not going to have fun with me I’ll have fun myself! So the shopping started. I was bored. It was entertaining and some of it was out of being hurt. Hurt because work and having a certain amount in the bank was more important than being with me. I look at shopping as therapy. It’s a social thing for me. I get to dress up and talk with other women about decorating, crafting, etc. I get lonely and because of the type of work my husband does I live in areas that are very remote. He’s out if town as I write this reply. I’m not justifying what I do. I know that a lot of what I purchase I don’t need. We’re getting ready to move again so making friends and working isn’t really an option. I hope you can understand how this became a problem. It’s like my friend because it’s there when i need it. Unlike my husband, my family, or my friends. I realize I have a problem but I’m not sure if I want to say goodbye to it. Please pray for me. Thank you and thank you for sharing.

  6. Ginny says:

    I can identify with this so much. I can remember me having this problem even when I was a child. I have always felt inferior to others because they had more than I did. The cost has been very high. I am 68 years old and a widow. I think I lived in denial for a very very long time. . God has been so good to me and I don’t think I have appreciated any of it because it was never enough. Now as I said I am 68 old and will probably lose everything I have. I see no way out. I have repented and asked God to forgive me and I’d ask for Grace. But why should He I did this to myself. Please learn from my my mistakes. It will save you alot of heartache.

    1. Rosemary says:

      Addicted to buying clothes. At 54 I still do it. I feel guilty all the time I do it. Cause I make my children suffer. I’m a child of God Jesus help me. I did it yesterday and I have messed the house budget. Rosemary from kenya

  7. Dj says:

    I just bought a pair of 720 dollar shoes. My third pair. I have over a hundred pairs of shoes. But I pray, I fast, and go to church. I make myself feel better by saying its just shoes and I can work and pay it back. Or I say at least I pay my bills. I always thought it was just a past time. Not realizing that I was being deceived. I was living in darkness. I believe God kept warning me. God in his grace prompted me to find this page. Jesus, help me. I don’t want to replace you with material things. I don’t want to lose heaven for temporary things. I acknowledge my sin. Help me to remove this desire. I surrender but I need your strength.

  8. SD says:

    I came across this site because I am looking for help. I’m a thrift store shopper and lately I find myslef making excuses for shopping. I am currently engaged to an awesome man who has more self-control than I. I make excuses to shop for him also. I am no longer making excuses for overindulging in shopping. I can identify with everyone on this panel. Compulsion, lonely, I can pay it back. I have a few extra dollars in the bank (shopping for others, shopping for the church) Honestly, I shouldn’t be shopping at all I plan to get married soon. I have compass this mountain before and I believe with the Grace of God and everyone praying with me. I will maintain my deliverance. Let us keep each other in prayer. Ladies we can do this! God bless you all

  9. Amie says:

    Hello all,
    I am so glad to find this site as I was really looking for biblical sciptures to help and guide me with shopping addiction. I think I know rhe root of my problem but just in denial.. part of it is the guilt of single parent and always feeling the need to fufil or fill a void.

  10. Bonnie says:

    December 17, 2017

    Hello All,

    It’s Sunday Morning and I lay here reading everyone’s comments. I have had a spending problem for years. My husband would help me and pay off the debt. I would promise to never get in debt again. But here I am again stressing because I have maxed out my credit cards again. I haven’t been to church for a long time. I feel God is fed up with me too. I spend because it makes me feel good. I was raised very poor and that has affected me my whole life. I am a domestic violence survivor. I have been to counseling many times. I feel like the biggest looser . I have considered suicide because I feel I am such a burden to my husband. He is a retired banker so he is very cautious on his spending. We are the total opposites. He drinks and gets extremely drunk at least 4 times a week. He doesn’t feel he is an alcoholic. My father was a raging , vicious alcoholic. My husband is oposite. He’s never mean, but it’s hard for me to deal with sometimes. I know my heart is broken and until I repair it I will struggle with my addiction to shopping. As I said earlier, I haven’t been to church in a long time. After reading everyone’s comments . I am going to get ready and go to church this morning. Please pray for me that God hasn’t given up on me and will heal my heart.

  11. Grace Pan says:

    I have been struggling with over spending for years.. i could purchase over 100 tops and pants in a month time, then i realized its not pleasing God and i stopped, but the sin is still rooted in my heart and its never gone. The desire to shop for appearance and material never ends, its like a monster hiding in the closet and poking me all the times.I thought the situation once got better after i went to a full time missionary training, it did get better. but after i finished training and threw myself back to this material world, my old habit came back and the battle started over again. my eyes glued to mobile shopping app day and night and cell phone became my best friend, i couldnt help with it, we are all sinners and if we leave GOD’s words, we are dragged into this sinful world so quickly. I tried to listen to sermon and read bible everyday, only when God’s words fill up my heart, my earthly desires can be tampered

  12. lc says:

    this was so simple but helpful and I know im a mess with my finances I have been for a long time and I would ask God for stuff and then I would say to myself how you gonna ask Him to bless you with that when you dont even have self control with what you have right now. how you handle your right now will qualify you for what you want next that is better than your right now and its like I know my mess and I know I need help but then I would just self sabotage and spend because im mad at myself for messing up and its like girl what are you doing its crazy how the battle between your new man and your old sinful man and how the enemy will do all kind of deceiving and tricks to keep you from becoming what God called you to be and its even crazier how sometimes its. not even the enemy doing it, its yourself helping the enemy do his own job but glory to God who loves me/us the same in sin and out and who is with us through it all I am ever encouraged to get free from this bondage that im going to fast and consecrate myself to the Lord and incline my ear to Him and accept the process of deliverance because I realized one of my issues too was that I would want it to happen quickly or simply and I would just sabatage myself in the process but that is not so and the more you sit in the process and accept the lord’s chastening and direction and the fight and mess of getting free the more you will value your deliverance of it and your freedom and it will keep you from going back and you won’t be as the scripture says, like a dog that returns to its own vomit, because you’ll be like I went through all that its no way im going back.. so I pray as I prepare my body and heart to fast and consecrate that God shows me my freedom and I accept his direction and I have a spirit of obedience to overcome me and I believe him only as Abraham did when the lord told him to get out from his tent and count the stars and to leave his fathers house. and im so thankful for this little blog and the comments and even though I dont know you people im going to be praying for myself and all of you and those who suffer with this bondage and that we will all get sooo free that we can go back and free others without getting enticed or infected back into it.

    thank you and Glory to God

    1. Rosemary says:

      I fell so blessed with your post. Please for us, we need to be free, its a bad habit. I have God is good his mercies are new each morning. I want to be free I’m hurting my children with this addiction until sometimes there is no food. God bless you. May I kindly ask you to be my friend so that we support each other. I’m 54 a mother, stay at home mum and a Christian from Kenya.

  13. Bonnie says:

    Rosemary, I would love to be your friend. I hate this addiction. But we can make it! God will guide us, we have the strength inside us to overcome. God Bless you!

  14. Peter says:

    I know this is a women’s web page and also a view towards women, but I as a man, believe this is very common for us too. I am a husband and a father of two and still have issues that arise of spending. When I was single and on my own, being I had very little knowledge passed down from me from my parents on how to spend money, save money, and give money back to the LORD; I suffered greatly. I have never been rich, and still stand under the poverty level in the United States, but that still never stopped me from spending. I feel my roots come from being lonely, not having a good foundation, and not looking at money as it belongs to God. I now though am not lonely being I have a wonderful family, but my habbits still try to come back from my single years. All things belong to God, that includes money: he gives it, he takes it. I guess in a way I’m glad I’ve never been super rich, or I’d end up in a worse condition. That being said, I found this site and it spoke out to me, I will make this, money doesn’t need to be who I serve. I think what bothers me the most is that I can’t remember the last time I gave to charity, or “gave back” to God what he has blessed me with. I see this web post and realize that’s my first step to fully recovering, giving back. Thank you for putting up this post.