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Home / Articles / · Archive / News & Columns /  Feature | Shopaholic: Once buried in debt, these shopping addicts are digging themselves out. Page 4
News & Columns

Feature | Shopaholic: Once buried in debt, these shopping addicts are digging themselves out. Page 4

By Carolyn Campbell
Posted // December 10,2008 - I Found It on the Shopping Network
nhspace=5A compulsive shopper has enough challenges dealing with strip malls and discount stores on nearly every corner. Then there is the seemingly safe lure of cable television shopping shows, with their knack for cozying up to shoppers, alone, in their homes, day and night. Lewis Galway, a Salt Lake City licensed professional counselor with decades of experience in treating substance abusers, says that Home Shopping Network and auction Websites like eBay play off the vulnerability of compulsive shoppers.

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“eBay says ‘win’ this item, when you don’t really win it; you have to pay for it. And they say, ‘don’t lose this item,’ when you haven’t actually lost anything; you just didn’t buy it,” Galway says. All shopping shows speak the language of addiction, adds Workman. Catching viewers at weak and lonely moments, program hosts will chat with call-in customers, building them up for engaging in a little “retail therapy,” Workman says.

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Most purchases online or on television must be made with a credit card—not a problem for most people, who have rational relationships with money. But, Workman says, compulsive shoppers look at credit cards differently than cash. Plastic evokes a different psychological response. It’s as if using a credit card isn’t really spending in the same way as handing over cash—there isn’t the same sense of responsibility.

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Caitlin attended her first meeting of Debtors Anonymous on a Sunday afternoon in 2005. Once she faced her debt honestly by writing down her incoming and outgoing money, she says, “I was able to stop any new and unsecured debt.” Caitlin has remarried, paid off about half of her debt and is able to make payments according to the plan she worked out with her creditors.

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She finally has enough money to pay her other monthly bills, such as groceries and necessary clothing. “I also have a lovely car. It was a huge miracle,” Caitlin says. Now, instead of giving in to the urge to make an irrational purchase, she waits 48 to 72 hours. She tries to determine the difference between a want and a need. “I did make a purchase of four CDs,” she says. “But I’d had them on a wishlist for three months.”

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Angela now has been a member of Debtors Anonymous for three years. She has paid down her $60,000 debt to $6,500. During her financially strapped times, she worked in customer service for a medical firm. She has remained in the same field but now works in the sales department. Angela now earns three times her former income, which has helped her overcome her anxieties over money and her status as an “underearner.” She says she’s building up her cash reserves to allow her to live independently for six months. “If I stop attending meetings and abandon my record keeping and spending plan, I will be right back where I was, like an alcoholic who has a single drink,” Angela says.

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She still attends DA meetings and calls on her “pressure relief” group if she needs to review her spending plan or feels herself slipping. While she could pay off her debt more quickly, Angela feels it’s vital to continue paying it off at a set rate every month. “It’s important for me to learn the lesson of paying it off so that I won’t be tempted to do it again.”

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