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I’m 34 and I have a serious issue – I’m an impulsive shopper

People who identify as compulsive spenders need to identify what their triggers are.

AntonioGuillem/iStockphoto.com

A gutsy reader of this newsletter seeks help for a problem with impulsive shopping. "I was able to dig myself out of the deep rut of owing over $10,000 at one point," she writes. "I have since then brushed up on my financial habits, but still suffer terribly from impulsive buying."

Her question: How can I reframe my mental outlook and attitude toward impulsive shopping?

For help, I consulted Laurie Campbell, CEO of the non-profit agency Credit Canada Debt Solutions. "We have clients quite often who identify as compulsive spenders," she said in an e-mail. "We live in a consumer-driven world which in many ways promotes and congratulates this behavior."

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Ms. Campbell said impulsive shoppers often experience a positive feeling, almost like a high, which may be followed by regret or remorse for overspending. Her agency may suggest counselling to get to the root cause of overspending, along with financial goal-setting. Compulsive shoppers may never have set goals and thus have no vision of how they see their financial future.

People who identify as compulsive spenders need to identify what their triggers are, Ms. Campbell said. "What happens before they go shop? A stressful day, insecurity, a feeling of loneliness?"

There are some practical ways to curb impulsive spending, like keeping your credit cards out of reach. One suggestion I've heard is to freeze them in a block of ice. Cutting up your cards is a last resort option.

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Rob's personal finance reading list…

Beware the long commute
A recent British study found that a 20-minute increase in commute time is equivalent to getting a 19-per-cent pay cut for job satisfaction. Long commutes are often the price paid for affordable housing in the distant suburbs.

Seven habits that add years to your life
A well-rounded list that covers physical and emotional habits. Potential to live not only longer, but healthier and more independently.

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What's wrong with eating leftovers?
The Washington Post reports on how Americans are throwing out their leftovers instead of eating them. Leads to massive food waste, which means money waste as well.

The cult of rich people
Here's a list of things rich people do and don't do every day. There's a brisk business in lists like these online – obviously some people think the wealthy are a model for us all. This particular list tells us that the wealthy work hard, read a lot self-improvement books and floss their teeth. And they don't buy lottery tickets.

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