How My Compulsive Spending Led Me to Discover Effective Coping


Emily Ito

One of the paintings I worked on over the course of a few evenings.

Emily Ito , Section Editor

For a very long time, my favorite pastime was online shopping. With the convenience of a simple button, I could buy entire outfits and furniture sets from the comfort of my own home. I not only get to remain in my pajamas, I get to browse through the Urban Outfitter’s website tucked comfortably in my bed. Everyone can attest to the easy nature of digital spending. Jayden Hawley (11) is amongst many students who “do a lot of online shopping and prefer it over making trips to the mall.” While 24-hour online shopping seems to be one of modern day’s greatest gifts, I have come to realize that this blessing comes with its fair share of drawbacks.

Over the course of four months, I spent a total of $689 online shopping. I purchased everything from jeans, to sweaters, to bedroom decor. I had my debit card linked to the Urban Outfitters, PacSun, and Amazon websites, making every transaction easier and easier. When I was stressed with school or angry with a friend, ordering clothes provided me with an intense comfort and helped me through a difficult day. It came to a point where I was ordering a new shipment every week.

While my non-stop shopping sprees provided me with momentary relief, I would have to face the music of my careless spending. After school one day, I went to my mailbox and retrieved my latest delivery. While I was ripping into the pretty pink package, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a white envelope with a large, red, Bank of America stamp. My bank statement had arrived, and my jaw dropped to the floor as I read my remaining balance.

I’ve spent copious amounts of money during shopping sprees in the past, but this statement demonstrated that I set my highest spending record done in a single sitting.

This form of shopping had pulled me into a rabbit hole of binging on buying.

I realized that the bank statement was a wake-up call. Beyond just showing me that I needed to curb my spending, I was forced to finally address my compulsive behavior and the deeper reasoning for my excessive buying.

Given the non-existent balance of my bank account, my dad disconnected my card from the various stores and withheld my access. I considered my father’s restrictions unreasonable and unnecessary because I didn’t have an addiction or an extreme problem.

But one evening, I was in an intense emotional state, stressed about the three exams I had the following day. I found myself taking a break but having difficulty in gaining relief from my anxiety. I then was able to identify a correlation between my emotions and my spending. Extreme upset would lead me to shop carelessly, using retail as a constant form of therapy.

Without the ability to shop, I had to look elsewhere for comfort and support. I needed to find an activity that would help calm me down.

And that is how I discovered the therapeutic qualities of art. I can not say that I am particularly artistic. I can not draw, I am not creative, and my painting skills are questionable. Yet in times of extreme distress, I found that coloring, painting, and doing crafts have been an incredibly effective method of regulating my emotions. I find school extremely stressful and thus, at least once a week, I am completing a coloring worksheet, a new painting, a piñata, or a scrapbook.

While doing a craft may appear to be a waste of time during a busy school week, I believe that discovering a way of effectively dealing with anxiety is one of the most important skills I acquired. Unhealthy coping mechanisms have been a constant in my life and thus I am excited to have realized a healthier way to self-soothe.

By expanding my horizons and finding a solution to distress that is effective and productive, I see improvement in my mental health. It also doesn’t hurt that my bank account is slowly recovering.

Online shopping is in no way a condemned activity, but using it while not thinking clearly can prove to be very destructive. While I continue to online shop, I do it for leisure or necessity rather than comfort and therapy. Finding a more conducive method of coping has proven to be a great change in my life.