Sometimes we shop because we have trained ourselves—like Pavlov's dog—to shop. Our favorite store just happens to be on the drive home from work. So once a week we go in just to see what's new. We're never sure what we want to have for dinner, so we shop every day rather than once a week—and inevitably come out with items we didn't plan on buying.
The Internet is tailor-made for habitual shoppers. You can check the sales online just as easily and quickly as you can check your e-mail or your bank account. Marketers get this, by the way. Once they have you flagged as a habitual shopper, they do whatever they can to increase the frequency that you shop and the amount of merchandise you buy. Websites for instance, send out bulk e-mails noting that a new line has arrived in stores. Other retailers take a frequent flyer-type approach, where frequent customers are invited to trunk shows, preview sales, and special screenings of new items, even given discounts to bring them back.
How to Resist: Generally, there's a chain of events that leads you to buy. Think about it. If you always stop in the CD store on your walk between your office and your car, you've taken a number of steps. You left the office. You turned left. You passed by the window of the CD store, stopping to notice how the displays have changed since you walked by yesterday. You hear the latest Gwen Stefani playing on the pumped up audio system. You glance at your watch and see you really don't have to be home for another 25 minutes and you stop in, where you inevitably buy something. What could you have done instead? You could have turned right. You could have stayed in the office for another 15 minutes so that you really wouldn't have time to shop. You could have parked in a different lot so that you would have to take a completely different path.
The key to resisting is recognizing your behavior patterns in detail so that you can change them.
Read more about the other reasons people spend:
Entertainment | Mood Repair | Impulse | Compulsive Behavior
Go on to Step 8, Part 2: How to Protect Yourself and Start Saving Now