Compulsive Shoppers Tempted At Christmas

Brad Klontz
Brad Klontz

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Christmas shopping might be a chore to you, but it's downright hazardous for some people. The season that calls for gift giving is dangerous for people who have an addiction to shopping.

The holiday season is to compulsive shoppers what Thanksgiving is to overeaters. The temptations to shop 'til you drop are everywhere. Brad Klontz, the President-Elect of Hawaii Psychological Association, says, "The holiday season for a compulsive buyer is like New Year's Eve for an alcoholic." He says compulsive shopping is an addiction and 1 in 20 Americans suffers from it.

Joy Kamae is a shopping addict. She ticks off a list of her favorite things. "Gucci, Ferragamo shoes, Armani suits, Max Mara suits, Louis Vuitton bags, Prada. If you can imagine, there wasn't enough Gucci for me." She says she got into trouble as the manager if high end retail stores. She bought something every day.

Her debt is in the 5 figures. But now, says Kamae, she has a handle on her finances. Looking back, though, "It was stressful at times because yes, you need to juggle. You need to juggle finances, move your money here, your money there. 'OK, maybe I can pay this minimum payment.'"

Do you shop as therapy? Do your spending habits stress you out? Do you feel lost without credit cards? You may have a problem, says Klontz, who is the co-author of The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge: 5 Principles to Transform Your Relationship with Money. "You know it's serious when it has a major impact on your life, if you are unable to concentrate at work because you're always online buying things, or when people in your life are complaining to you that you're not spending enough time with them or you're not present."

Klontz's tips on how survive this season? Think before you buy. Consider professional help. And leave your credit cards at home.

"Research shows we spend 30% more when we bring credit cards," says Klontz. Kamae can attest to that. "I got rid of a lot of credit cards. I've minimized opportunity for debt."

Take a lesson from someone who really knows: "You learn this isn't the best way to live your life, worrying about finances so much," reflects Kamae.

Take this test: Are you a shopaholic? Do you:

  • Shop or spend money as a result of feeling disappointed, angry or scared?
  • Have emotional distress as a result of your shopping or spending habits?
  • Having arguments with others about your shopping or spending habits?
  • Feel lost without credit cards?
  • Buy items on credit that would not be bought with cash?
  • Feel a rush of euphoria and anxiety when spending money?
  • Feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed or confused after shopping or spending money?
  • Lie to others about purchases made or how much money was spent?
  • Think excessively about money?
  • Spend a lot of time juggling accounts or bills to accommodate spending?

You may have a problem if you say yes to 4 or more of those questions.

What to do:

1. Think about buying before you do it.

a. Is this something I need?

b. Is this something I can afford?

c. Am I trying to fill an emotional need?

d. If so, what would be a better way to meet this need?

2. Leave the credit cards at home (spend 30% less with cash)

3. If out of control seek professional help. It is an addiction and can be treated.