Look in your closet. Do you have dresses and shirts hanging up with the tags still on? Do you have an assortment of last season’s (scratch that – last month’s) dresses pushed to the back of your closet collecting dust? Are you sick of every single item of clothing in your closet? Even the items purchased last week?

What about your dresser? Do you have drawers filled with clothes making it impossible to shut each one of them? Do you have  drawers you haven’t opened since last year filled with ‘old‘ shirts? Do you constantly find items of clothing shoved into little balls that you completely forgot you had? Oh, and after you do your laundry, do you have to fill your laundry basket up right away so you actually have room for the clean clothes in your closet and dresser?

Now, look at yourself. When did you get those shoes? That shirt? Those pants? That headband? Those earings? That necklace?

If 3 out of the 6 items you are wearing were purchased in the past week, you might have yourself a little problem. And if you answered yes to any and all of the above questions, you do have yourself a problem. And not a little one.

You, my friend, are addicted to shopping.

You are probably making excuses for your bad habits right now. Maybe you are afraid of laundry machines. Maybe you have tons of money and you don’t know what else to do with it than go shopping (because who cares about giving to charity, right?). Maybe you ‘haven’t been shopping in months’ (keep telling yourself that). Whatever the deal, you have a problem.

Of course if you’re into fashion and the worst one of them all – being trendy – you are screwed. You always need the newest blouse on the shelves at Nordstrom… and you always need to browse Urban Outfitters for a highly priced, yet super trendy dress that you will most likely only wear once and then shove into the back of the closet with the rest of them. And when you are bored with time to kill, you head to the mall to ‘get some new foundation because you ran out‘ and while there you ‘accidentally’ go into H&M and Forever 21 to scan their cheap jewelry sections… and if the line isn’t long, you will buy some new jewelery because even though you know you have enough (wait – you can never have enough)… it’s cheap… so why not?

Umm… wrong. You really need to take a minute and think about what you’re doing… Do you really NEED the items in your hand? No… probably not. So put them down and walk away! Here is our 12 step program for 20-somethings addicted to shopping:

1. Admit you have a problem. If you haven’t by now, shame on you. You deserve your debt and/or lack of savings.

2. Back away from the credit card. If you don’t have the money, don’t put it on a card to pay back later. What if your laptop breaks? What if you car dies? What if you lose your job? You never know when you’ll actually need to put money on your credit card that you now dedicated towards clothes you don’t need.

3. If you do have the money, it doesn’t mean you should spend it. As I said, you never know when you’ll need some extra money. And why waste money you could spend on things you actually need?

4. Make a savings account… or use the one you already have. You might be young, but now is the time to start saving. Eventually, you’ll want to live in a nicer place, maybe move somewhere new, maybe buy a car, house, the list goes on… And if you start saving now, the nicer everything you have later will be. So instead of blowing the last of your paychecks on shoes, shirts, and dresses… think again and put it in your savings account. Pretend you can’t even touch that money. It really will change your life.

5. For the first month or so of your ‘shopping detox,’ stay away (far away) from any mall, shopping plaza, TJ Maxx, sample sale, or online shopping site. You might hate it, but power through and soon enough you will be used to it. And once you have the extra money to throw around – or just to look at in your savings account – you won’t want to let it go.

6. Clean out your room and put new outfits together. I’m sure you have enough clothes, accessories, and shoes to wear the same shirt two days in a row and have no one notice because you made the outfits look completely different. Different jewelry, belts, shoes, cardigans, etc can make that shirt from 3 years ago look like you bought it yesterday.

6.. During this ‘detox,’ learn how to be a saavy shopper. (read the next 3 steps)

7. Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Just like I tell my boyfriend at Costco (home of the Chinese, land of the free samples) ‘just because it’s free, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it,’ I tell myself the same thing about low priced clothing and accessories at any store. Cheap things add up. Let’s say you spend 12 dollars on a shirt and 6 dollars on a new piece of jewelry each weekend for a month. That’s 72 dollars… AKA a few dollars more than my gym membership. So unnecessary.

8. Invest in quality items rather than a bunch of cheap items. Rather than scoping out Forever 21 on a weekly basis like my college self did, I wait around until I have enough money saved up to get things I’ve wanted for a while. A dress I will wear more than once… a bag I’ve been dying for… a pair of nice boots that I will have for years… Such things are much better to spend money on than a bunch of cheap, trendy dresses that you’ll never wear again.

9. Buy things you NEED/have wanted forever… not things you want… and not impulse buys! There’s a big difference between wants and needs. And I know you might think of all clothing and accessory purchases as ‘wants,’ but they’re not. Let’s say you’ve been dying for a red skirt for months… However, every time you go looking for one, you always head home with 2 shirts and a pair of shoes – NOT a red skirt. To keep this from happening, I write a list in order of things I want the most so I don’t succumb to impulse buying while shopping.

10. Buy something because you LOVE it. There is a big difference than lust and love… Lust is for the impulse shoppers… and love is for the fashionably money-savvy shoppers. The best way to know if you love something is to go home, sleep on it, and if you’re still thinking about the item the next day or two, go buy it. Of course, only buy it if it’s something you’ve been dying for/have saved up for.

11. Don’t buy things because they are cute, trendy, awesome, cheap… buy things because they look good on you! This means try things on. This means try not to shop online. This means get advice from friends. And this also means to be honest with yourself. If you don’t think you look good, you won’t be comfortable in it, so don’t buy it… because you’ll, like, never wear it. But if you think you look good – and you feel good – and you have the money – and you’ve really wanted something like it for a while – get it!

12. Once you have completed your detox and shopping lessons, start shopping again! Just not as often. If you love shopping and you let it go, you will become depressed. So just like weight watchers encourages you to still eat what you love but less of it, in this program we encourage you to still do what you love… just not as much. Now that you’re not shopping all the time, you won’t be super sick of every item of clothing out there. You will have a better idea of what you really want because you won’t be seeing new stuff all the time. You also will be used to having more money in savings and for life in general, and that will definitely be hard to let go of.

As someone who was painfully addicted to shopping, I have toned it down a lot in the past year by following the above steps. I still buy things (every girl has to), but not nearly as much. I rarely charge to a credit card – and when I do, I make sure I have the money. Having extra money and being able to save has been a great experience for me. It has made me realize that you can still be trendy without breaking the bank. Yes, you really can. So, 20-somethings, what do you do to curb a shopping addiction? And if you haven’t done anything yet… will you now?

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Samantha is a typical 20-something who owns way too many clothes and is openly addicted to Pretty Little Liars. She used to like bagels, but then she found out she was gluten free. Now she loves them. #shewantswhatshecanthave. After graduating from Ithaca College way back in 2010, Sam started up this really cool online magazine/blog that you're reading, which now consumes her life. If you want to grab a drink with Sam, just ask her. She hasn't yet learned how to say the word "no." Watch her rise to (Internet) fame on Twitter at @samanthamatt1 and @forever20tweets.

6 Responses to “The 12 Step Shopper’s Anonymous (SA) Program” Subscribe

  1. jane doe March 28, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    I think it’s ironic that at the end of this article is an ad for 50% off J Crew.

  2. Facebook April 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Hey samanthanicole, I like your Amazing): site. Great content.

  3. Nemo December 2, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    thank u, I’m a guy but this helped me a lot to not feel alone, I do the same with clothesc electronics, shoes, omg!!!

  4. Aly April 5, 2013 at 1:35 am #

    Wow this is so crazy. I love shopping and the way I feel when I shop I’m glad I wasn’t alone maybe this wil help!

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  1. ‘Money Problems?’ You’re Not Alone. « Forever Twenty Somethings - March 21, 2012

    [...] out, just so they can day drink the next. And even worse, if you’ve got a 20-something who is addicted to retail, they may even stay in watching whatever shitty reality show is on TV just so they can afford that [...]

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