Five Ways to Curb Your Shopping Urge

by Katy on February 17, 2013 · 46 comments

The urge to go shopping can be stronger than Dwayne The Rock Johnson at a marshmallow lifting contest, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up and surrender all will.

The urge to shop, whether it’s the mall, thrift shops, garage sales or Etsy can be conquered. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s one day at a time, but in the words of countless cheesy 1970’s motivational posters, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

  1. Remove shopping for entertainment from your routine. Even if you go in with a just browsing mindset, you’re likely to come across something to buy. Sure, you rationalize that it’s a gift for someone else, but it’s still shopping.
  2. Take something you already own and bring it back to life. Whether you’re giving it a good scrub or just a fresh coat of paint, you can get that look at my new thingamabob endorphin rush from stuff you already own.
  3. Enlist a friend (or blogging community like The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group) to keep you honest. Talk about your goal to stop shopping, and get the help you need.
  4. Spend an hour or two decluttering an area of your house. Once you’ve made all the hard decisions about what to get rid of, (plus the realization of how much money you’ve spent of stuff you’re now getting rid of) the urge to bring new stuff into your house is decidedly dampened. For bonus motivation, watch an episode of Hoarders before decluttering.
  5. Go to your local library. The library is to methadone, like the mall is to heroin. ( <– SAT analogy, here!) You get that same awesome new stuff thrill without the monetary drain or cluttering factor. Because even if you lug home twenty tons of library materials, it will be going back.

Now you. How do you curb your shopping urges? please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie February 17, 2013 at 9:33 am

I log each purchase in the expenses section of my Filofax. It makes me aware of how much I have spent and how close I am to busting my budget. I check it when I am tempted to “just browse” in troublesome stores, and even helps when I have to shop because then I have my budget firmly in mind so I can stick to buying only what I truly need and can afford.

As for the “wants”, I have a phrase that I repeat to myself if I am faced with the urge to spurge. I take a deep breath and say, “One day, but not to-day.”


Katy February 17, 2013 at 11:07 am

“One day, but not today?”

I really like that.



Starr @ The Kiefer Cottage February 17, 2013 at 9:35 am

It really helps when you have no money. I hate window shopping when I don’t have the means to purchase anything, so now I don’t shop unless it’s for groceries or a very specified need.

If I ever feel tempted to purchase something, I tell myself that I’ll go back for the item at the end of my shopping. It’s a rare occasion that I actually bother going back for it.


marie February 17, 2013 at 10:02 am

Yup, having no money is the big one for me. Books being a weakness for me and having no library available is hard. I’ve been doing Paperbackswap online. I’ve got tons of books posted, and when I want a certain book I look it up and swap for it. Postage is the only cost!
Also living in a small town, there isn’t a lot of selection, so that squelches a lot of interest.
Portland is another weakness, If I still lived there, look out!!


Mary Kate February 17, 2013 at 11:07 am


I don’t know if you know about all the free eBooks available. For many years I borrowed almost all my books from the public library. About a year ago my husband bought me a Kindle Fire (for $150). Since then I have discovered that there are hundreds of free books available every day through Amazon. Sometimes they are only available for one day (I believe in an attempt to raise the sales ranking of books) but there are hundreds of them every day and most classics are always free. You don’t have to have a Kindle to read Kindle (Amazon) books. There are Kindle apps for the computers, tablets and smart phones:

I also am able to borrow eBooks from my public library (online).

The great thing about the Kindle is that I can carry hundreds of books with me.

I imagine the Barnes & Noble Nook is similar.


marie February 18, 2013 at 9:51 am

thanks, but now I want one. But I think the subject was not shopping!!!!! LOL


Heidi November 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm

If you have a smart phone you can download a Kindle app and a library app for free.
There is another ebook site called bookbub. I use this one and I get a daily email with ebooks yo purchase or get for free.


patti February 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

Maybe you can find good books at yard sales or thrift shops. Or see if friends want to start a book swap. Another idea is to find out when a library or community group is having a huge book sale and attend that and buy books (you can find out where these sales are held by googling this topic). We have gone to library book sales while on vacation and come home with ten or twelve good books to read. I have found books at church sales and in my church library. I keep a list of books I want to read so that I KNOW what I am looking for and can spot a good deal. I then put them on a shelf at home and always have something to turn to when the mood hits!My friends all love to read and we keep books going around,too. I guess you could say I am addicted to reading and where there is a will, there is a way!


Kate@OrganizationforthetypeB February 17, 2013 at 10:14 am

No money is definitely a factor. I LOVE the library. Love it.
Also, my husband and I do this-
If I want xyz thingamabob, that costs $xyz, is it worth the X amout of hours I have to work to pay for it?
For example:
Shirt $20
if I make $10 an hour I have to work 2 hours to earn said shirt.
And usually, NO, a new shirt, shoe, thingamabob is not worth the working hours of my life. 🙂


Linda in Indiana February 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Totally agree about the number of hours you work…is it really worth the trade off of the item that may just be a passing fancy?Makes you step back and question it. I once heard…and now sometimes use this to satisfy my desire “to own” something…I pick it up, hold it (if small)….pretend it is mine for awhile…short while…then put it back…..then someone else can store it, clean it, maintain it, pay taxes on it, etc. Satisfies that “gotta own it thing” lots of times. Then after I return home and think about it, I rarely return for it. The planned ahead purchases are usually the only ones that remain in our home for much duration….so I don’t like to waste our life energy on something that is just going to need to
find a new home soon after purchase.


Katy February 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm

That’s great. My line is:

“Pick it up, appreciate it, put it back.”



Joanna February 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm

This works for me too! That shirt/ picture/ whatchamacallit is so not worth 1.5 hours at work. I especially try to think about the parts of work that I dislike. 😉


Kate February 18, 2013 at 7:41 am

yes! I should try picking up and appreciating it in my imagination first before putting it back. I do that at the grocery store.. “mmm chocolate..” people think i escaped the looney bin but my butt thanks me later 🙂


lindsey February 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I am sorry, this would SO not work for me and chocolate. If I see chocolate I have to run by it or it jumps into the cart. Luckily, my husband loves to grocery shop and will keep to a list, so most often I just send him. You must have a lot of will power to put it back.


canuck66 February 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I find that If I want to shop it’s because I’m lonely and I’m really craving human interaction. At those times I really have reach out and have someone over for coffee or go visit. Going to the Mall sometimes can trigger my own creativity to make something at home (from stuff I have) which is good, however if I’m weak I can be tempted to buy even if it is only for a dollar two, If I listen to my grandfather who said, “look after your pennies and your dollars will look after themselves” I’m usually safe. I apply this to places like Value Village and the Sally Ann. The one weekness I have is clothes for my son. After looking at his drawers I came to the conclusion his only needs are socks, underware (abit tight) and shorts (play and swim.) I will have to buy runners and sandles later. If anyone has any suggestions for me I am open to them.


Karen February 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm

to declutter,I set a kitchen timer and take out a section of my hanging clothes to sort through. Or I take a stack of T-shirts from the built-in shelving and sort according to sleeve length. Saves me from going through a whole stack when I’m looking for one particular thing.

When I shop it is ALWAYS from a list. Not on list, not going into my cart.


Kim Stewart February 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm

One by one I have opted out of promotional emails. If I don’t see it I’m not tempted. The emails that I do choose to continue receiving, I only open if I truly need something. Do I miss some deals? Absolutly but its a better deal to not by it all!
Also, I keep a list of specific things we do need on my phone so that when I find it on Freecycle, Craigslist, thrifting or yardsaling I do get it which keeps me out of stores!


Alyssa February 26, 2013 at 10:14 am

This is HUGE. It’s bad enough to have the temptation from the email, but it also clutters your mind. If I need to buy something online, I always look for a coupon code. UNSUBSCRIBE! You won’t miss it!


Kim Stewart February 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Buy not by! Hate typos!


lisa February 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I’ve (over)shared this before, but…

If you find yourself buy-buy-buying, even in thrift stores, consider getting your mental health checked out. I got a diagnosis of bipolar disorder almost exactly a year ago, and now that I am free of hypomanic and manic episodes, I’m also free of the desire to buy crap I don’t need. Plus, as I dug out all the crap, I found a few treasures among the trash–just like shopping!


Joanna February 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Thank you for sharing this…I know it is had to put yourself out there like this. But you make an excellent point- excessive shopping could be a sign of bipolar, depression, and obsessive behavior. Even on a non-clinical level, we often shop to fill emotional needs. Ask yourself if you’re shopping because you need it or because you’re bored, depressed, angry, etc.


chris February 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm

every day i try to pick a little corner or a small drawer somewhere and work on it; i have no like minded folks in my area so i rely heavily on your internet presence; it’s hard sometimes because i volunteer at a local thrift store and see so much terrific stuff that i just “had” to have, but i tell myself – one thing in – two things out and that works really really well for me


Katy February 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Slow and steady wins the race!



D February 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

1. I unsubscribed from all emails from online retailers. That way I’m not tempted by the free shipping or X%off.
2. I don’t go shopping with my spouse because he says “if you want it just get it!” He’s a total shopping enabler.
3. I don’t go to the stores where it tend to over-shop (I’m lookin at you Target) unless I absolutely have to.
4. I started tracking my expenses. If I spend money on anything via cash, check, debit/credit card, it gets written down.
5. NEVER go shopping hungry anywhere, especially the grocery store!


K February 19, 2013 at 9:35 am

I’ve also started tracking my expenses, but so far, it’s mostly groceries.

For retail emails, I send everything to a folder via a filter, so I don’t see it unless I go look at them. That way when I do need to do some shopping, I can look to see what deals are current, but they’re not in my inbox tempting me.


Renee CA February 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Thanks. Great ideas. Love the one about decluttering. Some days, though……..I’m getting better.


Joy @ Joyfully Green February 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Such great tips! I’m addicted to the library as well–it’s totally cured me of my addiction to magazines. I also use it to test-drive books for myself and my kids–if we really, really, really LOVE a book and “can’t live without it”, we’ll buy it…after we’ve returned the book, we wait a month or so, to see if we even remember it (rarely!) and still want it. Or, if I find that I’m reading a book and just want to underline the heck out of it because there’s so much I love about it, then I know I should just break down and buy it (eventually).

I’ve also made a decision that I want to spend money mostly on experiences, not on more stuff. (I wrote a post about it here: Luckily, my husband is on-board with this, so we are definitely spending a lot less money on things. It’s freeing, actually.


Lilypad February 17, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I also “test drive” books from the library—what a great way to put it! And if I or my son loved the library book enough that I think we need our own copy, then I’ll put it in my cart on It’s there, so that I don’t forget it—but some things have been in there for literally years. If I see a good price on a used copy on Amazon or anywhere else, I may bite. But otherwise, I bide my time until I have enough gift cards from Swagbucks to make it appear magically, for free. My son has also learned delayed gratification on books this way, and he often forgets about something that he would have “had to have” if we’d seen it walking through a book store. Solution: don’t browse at book stores. (My crack houses.) When we first started homeschooling, in the name of education we bought a ton of books that now are not well-loved and need to be taken back to the 2nd hand book store and cashed in for something else.
I do get such a thrill every time I walk away from my library carrying an enormous bag of free books! The last 2 times, there were more than I should carry (I have a bad back) but I could not leave any behind. They are giving away free books there, people! 🙂


tna February 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I do have a shopping weakness. I like to shop at Goodwill the day they start their new half price tag sale. Like today. I needed a light weight jacket for spring and found a blue cashmere zip hoodie for 2 bucks. I also found some J Jill linen capris for 1.75. I didn’t really NEED those.
When I got home I pulled a few things from my closet to take to a shop that buys clothing. My closet remains pretty minimalist and I always make my money back and then some when I sell my clothes but still….it is unnecessary shopping that I ENJOY on a regular basis. What to do.


Diane February 18, 2013 at 5:13 am

Just spent yesterday revamping my closet and wardrobe…refashioning my ill fitting tops into modern wear with just a sewing machine!


Carla February 18, 2013 at 6:46 am

For me, I make efforts to not be ‘wanty’. I decide what I need and then go out to find it. I just don’t go shopping at new stores and I don’t go shopping unless I am looking for something. I don’t look at fliers, I don’t watch tv (well online but fewer ads) and in generally stay away from ads as much as possible. I also adjusted my mind set: if I do go out to browse because I am looking for something we need (like a sink or toilet when we were replacing these in our bathroom) then I consider a successful trip to be one where I don’t buy anything. Seriously, it is great to feel this kind of glee leaving the store empty handed. If I am looking for something big like that, I don’t make decisions at the store, but at home.

I do keep a mental list of things would be good to have at home and think about those as early as possible so that I have time to find them in my visits to thrift stores. And I try to be patient. For the last year a wicker basket for our cube shelf was falling apart, but it still worked so I just kept looking in thrift stores and ta da! found one the other day at one store for $1.75! so exciting.


Katy February 18, 2013 at 10:18 am

I love it when that happens!



Dianna February 18, 2013 at 8:28 am

The best way for me is to stay out of the stores. Stay home and work on a project or something. I also unsubscribe from sale alerts and emails.


Diane C February 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

The one that I don’t see on the list yet is: NO TV! No cable, no rabbit ears, no nuthin’. I do have a lovely flat screen (that I bought from a serial upgrader) and an inexpensive DVD player, but all my movies come from the library or Swap-A-DVD. We’ve been so busy so far this year that we’ve only watched one movie. Score!


Katy February 18, 2013 at 11:16 am

We watch TV, but I don’t think it effects our shopping habits.



Su Mama November 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm

“Serial upgrader” — what a great expression!


Tracy Stone February 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm

You stole my idea! I watch Hoarders and it freaks me out, so I go clean out something. I’m still amazed at all the stuff I have.
I try to go to the store (like Target) all by myself because I can usually just get what I need and get out. I’ve been there recently with a friend and my sister and I spent much more than I would have if I’d been alone.
I’ve been working on unsubscribing to e-mails. It’s very easy to order online. Too easy. If I don’t see it, I don’t order it.


chris February 20, 2013 at 2:23 am

several folks have talked about having all their commercial/sales emails go into one folder on their computer so they don’t see them – how do you do that? i love that idea


K February 20, 2013 at 11:34 am

It depends on what email client you use. In Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird, they’re called Filters.

Set up the folder you want to use, and then create a filter that sends emails to that folder. In Outlook it will walk you through the creation, not sure about Thunderbird.

I tend to use filters that say “emails from (address)” even though I need to add new ones every time they change their marketing system. I also have the filter mark the emails as read so I don’t even know if I have new emails in the folder unless I specifically look.


chris February 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

excellent! i will do this right now – thanks for the info


Karen February 21, 2013 at 9:43 am

Talk about luck. My husband WON a basic Kindle last year. I refer to a “Kindle Buffet” website that reviews the latest free offerings on Amazon and posts those with the highest ratings. Daily. Using that Kindle has kept me from thinking about shopping, so it’s a win all the way around.


Debbie February 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm

We had to move out of our house for 8 months during a major renovation-basically the house was falling down around us. Anyway, after paying for storage and physically helping to move all of our junk I am happy to say that I have no desire to shop. Packing and unpacking and paying for dumpsters, etc was a major wake up call. I realized that I had wasted a ton of money over the years purchasing toys, books, and clothing, and gadgets that were probably enjoyed once or twice. My kids do not miss their stuff, much of which was donated to many happy families. I still have about 6 boxes to go through but getting rid of stuff has made my family very happy. Occassionally my daughter and I will stop into a local thrift store, but only when we are dropping off donations. This particular store donates to a local animal shelter. Your blog helps me keep on track, so thank you.


Alyssa February 26, 2013 at 9:50 am

Oh man, I needed to read this post Sunday morning before I went shopping. I made a coupon returns yesterday as part of my shopping hangover penance.

I love shopping, and I love decluttering and moving toward a more minimalist lifestyle, and the two are CONSTANTLY fighting each other. Exhausting, really.

I’ve found what helps me are to have attainable, short-term goals. I’m getting married in 14 months, and while I know that’s looming, it’s much easier for me to focus on the more current things, like buying a wedding dress within the next 3-4 months. Once I set a financial goal, I dominate it.


BethD November 23, 2015 at 12:47 am

I put clothes in storage boxes seasonally so out of sight means they aren’t as familiar when I pull them out again. When I feel the urge to shop I craft so I have something new.


Betty Winslow November 23, 2015 at 5:19 am

During the years when we were stone broke, I stayed out of stores, malls, etc. since seeing things I wanted (or even needed) that we could not afford made me resentful of my situation, not a happy way to live.
I adore garage sales and thrift shops, but I find staying away from them unless there’s something specific I am looking for means fewer things bought just because they were cute/cheap/handy/might need it.
It snowed for the first time this week, so I went through all my scarves, hats amd gloves/mittens this morning, to see what (if anything) I needed. Got rid of two hats I never did like and found the black gloves I was looking for the other day. I’m thinking about getting rid of several pairs of brown gloves, too, since my current coat is dark blue. What do I need? Nothing. And if I make myself another hat with the gorgeous yarn I just bought, I need to give away two.


Betty Winslow November 23, 2015 at 5:24 am

Oh, and I forgot to mention a way I can allow myself to browse in Hobby Lobby or the local bead shop without impulse buying – I park as far from the store as I can and then lock my purse in the trunk before I go into the store. All I take in is a pad of paper and a pen. I list things to buy in the future, ideas of things to make, write down titles of craft books to look for at the library, and draw pictures of stuff I may try to duplicate at home with stuff I already have. If I find something I absolutely have to have, I have to walk all the way out to the car, get my purse out, and walk back. Cuts way back on impulses!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: