Today I’d like to focus on a topic that can cause real anxiety in people who are addicted to shopping: what to do when you stop.
If you shop to ease anxiety or soothe grief, what will you do when you feel down if that outlet is no longer available to you? If you shop because it’s fun and you’re bored when you aren’t at the mall, how will you cope if you’ve renounced your principal source of interest? If you shop because you want to have the best, look the best, and own the most, what will define you if you put your credit cards in a drawer and quit spending?
None of us shops to excess for no reason. None of us overspends because we are simply careless in our habits. We need to shop, for whatever reason. Awareness of a problem is the first step toward finding a better way to live. The second step is to figure out what needs overshopping fills. The third step is to try other activities, mindsets, and connections that will fill those needs on for size.
What sorts of activities, mindsets, and connections can take the place of shopping? In his widely read and respected article “Spent”, published in The New Republic in 2009, Professor Amitai Etzioni suggests starting with, depending upon your personality and preferences, “communitarian activities” and/or “transcendental activities.”
Communitarian activities are those that establish connections with other people and the community. Volunteering, connecting with neighbors and friends, working with others to promote an idea, cause, or political candidate, or leading a Scout troop are all examples. The important components of communitarian activities are: 1) interacting with others in real time; 2) pursuing a common goal or good; and 3) being regularly engaged in the activity.
Transcendental activities are those that are spiritual, artistic, or contemplative. These activities are more focused on the self, on transformation and/or self-expression. Examples of transcendental activities are meditation, prayer, painting, yoga, reading, poetry, writing, philosophy, and even walking. These pursuits can be followed alone or with others. For example, although writing is a solitary activity, it can become a communitarian activity if you belong to a writers’ group, in which members share their work, socialize, and support one another. If you practice yoga and meditation, you are likely to practice on your own as well as attend classes or sittings. If you walk, you can walk alone or with friends.
Communitarian and transcendental activities often are more expenditures of time and energy than money. As Professor Etzioni suggests, you don’t need a $90 leather-covered Bible to pursue Bible study, designer workout clothes to take yoga, or $200 shoes to hike the neighborhood. While you are saving money, you are also making worthwhile connections with yourself and others, and maybe even doing something that safeguards the planet and its resources.