If you’re like me, you avoid Black Friday like the Black Death. Too many people, too much consumerism, too much anxiety. However, many people look forward to the day as a way to save some cash on presents and household items.
However, there’s another camp of consumers that’s often forgotten about on this sale-happy holiday: Shopaholics.
For compulsive shoppers, the day can induce feelings of worry and dread. “To say Black Friday is a trigger is an understatement,” says Carrie Rattle, MBA, CDFA, a compulsive shopping specialist and the CEO and founder of Behavioral Cents.
“On holidays like this, there’s extreme advertising — triggers are written into ads,” Rattle explains. “You already have heightened emotions coming off the holidays, and then all this media is telling you to ‘treat yourself’ because you’ve been working hard, and to buy material items for your friends and family.” When you combine this with sales galore, it can be a tempting combination for an over-shopper.
Rattle notes that people with shopping addictions and compulsions are often dealing with tricky emotions such as fear or discomfort. “When those emotions start bubbling up, they try to self-soothe by shopping,” Rattle says. “For some, they seek out shopping specifically because it’s tied to good memories for them. Say, their mother took them out shopping on Saturdays because it was the only free time they could give them.” Others are using shopping to replace another addiction, such as alcohol or drugs, explains Brook McKenzie, the director of Clinical Outreach at New Method Wellness.
Rattle says that when compulsive shoppers buy trinkets, clothes, and appliances (especially on sale), they get a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which is released when we experience pleasure. But in the aftermath of the purchase, they start feeling guilty. The remorse is so overwhelming, they then feel they need another hit (or click of the “add to cart” button). This can become a vicious cycle that leads to negative outcomes such as unpaid bills, debt, and an apartment full of things you don’t need, McKenzie notes.
Ultimately, the best way to cope with a shopping addiction or compulsion is to seek out therapy and work through what’s triggering your over-shopping — and what emotions are tied to it. But, there are other things shopaholics can do on days like Black Friday to keep them from doing damage to their bank accounts and their mental health. For the record, most of the hacks will also work for those who are more impulsive than compulsive with shopping.
No matter why you want to stop yourself from spending this Black Friday, these tips are sure to help.
Ask yourself: “Or what?”
Rattle recommends asking: What’s going to happen if I don’t buy this? She notes that many shopaholics buy things for irrational reasons. In the moment, they convince themselves that they’ll be scorned by their friends if they don’t get them this gift or that they’ll be the only one they know without the snakeskin boots. “Shopping triggers play on imaginary fears that will never come true, so it’s important to ask yourself if your worries are realistic,” she says.
Do a media blackout.
McKenzie says you may want to go dark on social media during the week before for Black Friday until the Tuesday after Cyber Monday. This way, you’ll be less tempted by targeted ads and media about sales.
Try an online support group.
You can access the support group Spenders Anonymous online remotely. Being part of a group like this can help you feel less alone, and more like you have the support of others as you navigate this difficult weekend.
Think logically about sales.
Sales are often designed to give us a “now or never” attitude about our purchases. We think to ourselves: The price will never be better, so why not buy now. But that’s not always the case. Rattle says if you check the website Camel Camel Camel — which tracks products on Amazon and has information about when items are available for the lowest price — you’ll see Black Friday sales aren’t always the best. There are lower prices at other times, such as during summer.
Another thing to consider: “Are you really getting a deal if the charge sits on your credit card for a year at 19 percent before you can afford to pay it off?” Rattle says.
If you know this Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be difficult days to get through, make plans your friends and family so you won’t be tempted to hit the outlet mall alone, McKenzie suggests. You can also sign up to volunteer or run a 5K race during these days to keep yourself busy.
Sleep on it.
Shopping can be sensory overload, and the longer you browse, the more blurred your judgement will be. “Whether you’ve been surfing online for hours or you’ve been in mall lines since 6 a.m. on Black Friday, you’ve seen so many choices, you’re not capable of making a good decision,” Rattle says. Unless it’s an urgent item like toilet paper or food, sleep on it before you impulse buy.