Monday, October 20, 2008

During my years of writing about and working with folks who have trouble saving money and who are prone to overspending, it became increasingly clear to me that some folks literally get addicted to spending. Now a new study, published by professors Nancy Ridgway and Monika Kukar-Kinney at the University of Richmond and Kent Monroe at the University of Illinois, sheds even more light on this topic and has found that nearly one in 11 American adults can be classified as compulsive shoppers.

According to the study: “Compulsive buying is defined as a consumer’s tendency to be preoccupied with buying that is revealed through repetitive buying and a lack of impulse control over buying. This measure includes dimensions of both obsessive-compulsive and impulse-control disorders.”

In addition to causing severe financial hardship - especially in households not earning high incomes - shopaholics can cause other family problems, such as marital discord, stress, divorce, depression, materialism and poor self-image.

This study found that shopaholics report positive feelings when they go out and make purchases.

Unlike other studies on shopaholics, this one was better able to also identify high-income shopaholics who don’t necessarily cause their families to end up in financial ruin due to the sizable cushion that the household’s high income provides.

Here’s the test the study’s authors developed to identify compulsive buyers. Answer each of the following six questions on a 7-point scale: Strongly Agree-7, Agree-6, Somewhat Agree-5, Neutral-4, Somewhat Disagree-3, Disagree-2, Strongly Disagree-1.

• My closet has unopened shopping bags in it.

• Others might consider me a “shopaholic.”

• Much of my life centers around buying things.

• I buy things I don’t need.

• I buy things I did not plan to buy.

• I consider myself an impulse purchaser.

According to the study’s authors, a score of 25 or higher identifies people who are considered compulsive shoppers.

Because denial is a significant problem with many addictions, folks who may have a compulsive shopping problem also should have someone who knows them well answer these questions.

Write Eric Tyson via e-mail:


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