The phrase “spending addiction” might conjure up images of adults happily swiping credit cards and swimming in bags of merchandise, but the reality is that kids make up an increasing percentage of addiction cases. If you see these warning signs in your kids, it might be time to have a heart to heart about their spending habits.
1) Your child returns items frequently.
It’s normal for kids to take products back to the store once in a while if the items are defective or not what the children expected. Kids who hit the service desk on a routine basis, however, often aren’t using enough rationalization in their decision-making process. They easily give in to the emotional urge to buy in the moment, thinking about the pros and cons of the purchase only in hindsight.
2) S/he heads to the store or online retailers when feelings are strong
Research studies suggest that shopping addiction, similar to other forms of addiction, can affect levels of mood-altering chemicals such as serotonin in the body. When your child is stressed, scared or anxious, shopping can affect how much of the chemicals their body produces, triggering the “reward centers” of the brain. They typically feel better after shopping as a result. In this way, shopping can be your child’s way of self-medicating through or coping with something that’s difficult for them.
3) S/he consistently exceeds a set budget.
Kids with shopping addictions often know how much they are allowed or supposed to spend in a week or month. The problem is that the impulse to buy becomes so powerful that it causes them to push the figure aside. They might ignore it by telling themselves (or you) that they’ll figure out how to come up with the extra money they need later, even when it’s clear that making up the difference would be logistically difficult or even impossible given the resources and time they have available. If you push them to stick with the budget, they might insist that it’s the budget that needs fixing, not their spending habits.
4) S/he can’t seem to keep track of money-related records.
Children with shopping addictions often purposely “lose” or resist organizing documents such as receipts or statements. By avoiding the evidence of their spending, they don’t have to face the fact they have a buying addiction or acknowledge any of the uncomfortable emotions that might be driving it. Keeping everything in disarray also makes it easier to avoid consequences, as you cannot prove how much money they’ve dished out.
5) S/he buys huge amounts of stuff without a clear purpose or way to store the goods.
Sometimes buying many items or aiming for bulk quantities is pretty smart, as it can get your kids discounts or eliminate extra charges for things like shipping. Even so, there should be intent for each purchase. If your child can’t answer you when you ask why they bought something, it says that they made the buy based on impulse, not based on a good plan. In the same way, overflowing shelves or closets can mean they’re losing the ability to buy based on practicality and are buying instead based on their immediate need to feel good.
6) S/he doesn’t tell you about purchased items.
Children who have shopping addictions occasionallyhide things they buy, either because they are embarrassed at their problem or because they think they will get in trouble for how much they’ve spent. This issue can tie to using others’ credit or debit cards or stealing cash, as well.
7) S/he complains about what s/he has.
For someone with a shopping addiction, there’s never enough, and what is available simply doesn’t make the cut. Your child might gripe about perfectly good products, and s/he might come off as being ungrateful for what she or your family has. S/he might drop hints about things that “need” to be replaced or upgraded, obsessing over advertisements.
A shopping addiction can make it hard for kids to develop the sound money habits they’ll need to stay financially stable later in life. For this reason, it’s imperative that you don’t ignore the symptoms of the problem if they’re present. If you need help talking to your children about their lack of spending control, many excellent, certified counselors can make both you and your kids feel more at ease.