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How Many Pairs of...

How Many Pairs of Shoes Do You Have?

Pause for a moment. Take a deep breath, gather yourself, and think. How many pairs of shoes do you have? This might seem like a strange question to ask yourself, but take it seriously. Imagine your closet ... start counting on your fingers ... they’re starting to add up now, aren’t they? Remember the racks of women’s shoes you bought last year and hid away because you didn’t have enough space? Those count too. If you’re like a lot of people, the truth should be dawning on you that you have many more pairs of shoes than you could possibly use.

How many shoes do you use regularly? How many do you really need? If you subtract that number from the total you own and still have a lot left, why are you buying more?

This question does not apply to shoes alone. In contemporary society, people are using credit cards to buy inessential things they don’t need, and then running into huge amounts of unmanageable debt. Shoes illustrate the problem, but they’re only one of many items people buy that they do not need or use regularly.

Why do we do this? Many people have a problem known as “compulsive shopping.” Compulsive shopping is an addiction similar to gambling or even drug or alcohol addictions. People shop to get a “rush” or “buzz” that gives them immediate pleasure and helps them cope with feelings of loneliness, sadness, and isolation. These feelings often increase during the December holiday season, when people might feel isolated from family or seasonally depressed. Compulsive shopping increases accordingly during this time.

Compulsive shopping can destroy lives. Credit card bills add up, and with interest debt loads can balloon to the point where they’re out of control. People can lose their homes, their savings, and put their futures at risk by continually compulsive shopping.

Think back to those sexy shoes. Why did you buy them? Were you feeling sad, lonely, and bored one day? Did you decide to seek comfort with a trip to the mall? Did you see the shoes and get an immediate flutter of pleasure, a high that took you away from your depression?

If so, you have nothing to be ashamed of. In retrospect, your behavior might seem silly and superfluous. You might feel embarrassed and too ashamed to share your problem with another person.

If compulsive shopping is a problem in your life, you are not alone. You are part of a community of millions of people. The best thing you can do is seek help. You can talk to a professional therapist or psychiatrist, or you can just seek out a level-headed and compassionate friend who will understand your problem and help you make better decisions.

You should destroy all credit cards except one—for emergencies, and pay for all new purchases with cash or a debit card. Keep a meticulous budget. Allow yourself some money to spend for pure pleasure. Just not more than your income will allow. As time goes on, that closet full of shoes (along with your debt load) will get smaller. You will become happier, more financially sound, and feel proud of your good money management.

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