The book To Buy Or Not To Buy, by April Lane Benson, Ph.D., published in 2008, explains how people fall into overshopping and gives excellent advice about how to get oneself out of this unfortunate pattern. If your overshopping has damaged your relationships, your self-esteem and/or your finances, then this book is for you. It’s also for you if you hunt relentlessly for bargains or if you constantly buy and return. If you’re an overshopper, you’re not alone. Dr. Benson states that a 2006 study conducted by the Stanford School of Medicine estimated that almost 6 percent of U.S adults were overshoppers- at least 17 million people. I can’t help but think that that number has gone up in the past dozen years. There are reports of overshopping growing in many countries around the world as well. Dr. Benson reveals that she used to be an overshopper herself, so her tone in the book is not preachy but one of “let me help you as I helped myself”.
She points out that overshopping is too easy. There are too many credit cards, too many malls, too many websites and too much advertising. In addition to all of these external influences that can drive overshopping, what internal need do people try to satisfy by spending too much? Dr. Benson tells us that when people overshop, they are attempting to fill an emotional need with material goods. She explains that people overshop to feel better about themselves, to feel more secure, to avoid dealing with things that are important, to express anger or seek revenge, to try to gain the favor of others with gifts, to soothe themselves or improve their mood, to project an image of wealth, power or attractiveness, in response to stress, loss or trauma, to feel more in control, to find meaning in their life or to deny death. Certainly these are important needs in our lives. Unfortunately, overshopping doesn’t satisfy these needs.
Dr. Benson advises the reader to keep a shopping journal. In it a person can document the specifics of their triggers- situational, cognitive, interpersonal, emotional and physical. A person can also note the specific aftershocks in each of these areas from their overspending.
Dr. Benson offers advice on several important factors. If you’ve been overshopping for a while, you probably have accumulated a bit of debt, perhaps a large bit. Dr. Benson offers advice about how to get your credit card debt under control. She asks the reader to look for what they are really looking to satisfy and offers advice to help the reader find it. She suggests more mindful ways to shop to remain in control of your purchases. She identifies cognitive errors that may be involved with your overshopping and suggests alternative ways to think about yourself and your life. She tells you how to deal with falling back into overshopping and how to regain control.
As you can see from this brief review, this book offers a way out of the misery that your overshopping may have gotten you into. If using the suggestions in the book helps you get to where you want to be, that would be great. If you think you want more personalized help, then speaking to one of the therapists at STA in individual therapy might be want works for you. In addition, coming this fall, I want to start a support group for overshoppers. You may already be following the twelve steps of Debtor’s Anonymous; this group at STA will focus on making the psychological changes that can also get and keep you on the road to a life back under financial control.

If you would like more information on overshopping, or would like help, call Specialized Therapy Associates at 201-488-6678 or check out our website