"I Waste my Entire Salary Online": How to Overcome a Dependence on Online Shopping

Oct 24, 2019



Pavel Khoroschutin

“I haven’t been to the shops in three years, not at all. Of course, I buy groceries at the supermarket by the house, like everyone else. However, I order all my clothes and shoes online. I started doing this to spend less. I used to go to the shopping malls very often; I knew when the collections were updated and when the sales would take place. I went to the stores when I was upset or had problems at work. Of course, on the day of my paycheck I also ran shopping. When I realized that I had bought the fifth blouse of khaki color this month and needed to borrow money from my mother again, I decided that it was necessary to do something about it. I started buying things only in online stores.

At first, this approach saved me money. Now I understand that I still cannot control my purchases and expenditure. I am inspired by the choice of my favorite blogger and buy the same costume as hers, or I see an advertisement for a pair of shoes and decide to buy them! The cupboard no longer accommodates all my purchases, and some things I have never worn because they don’t suit me.”

– Olga, 25, flower arranger

Online shopping addiction is a relatively new form of shopaholism that is spreading rapidly. This can be explained by the fact that the Online trade segment is growing steadily. Just look at the statistics: 55% of Russian consumers make online purchases at least once a month. [1]
Of course, one useful purchase per month is not a reason for panic. As they say, this is the ballpark number. Some people are so passionate about online shopping however, that they can easily waste most of their paychecks on things they don’t really need.
Why is this happening? What encourages unplanned shopping on the Internet? What if the habit of buying online becomes a stable addiction?


In this article let’s talk about how to define and get rid of online shopping addiction.

Dependence on online shopping. Is the plague of the 21st century?

The world of online trading is developing rapidly. Almost every day traders set new rules within it, although these rules are not always fair to buyers. In 2016 the users of the Habr portal teamed up to study the “honesty” of discounts during the largest sale on the AliExpress website, which is held annually on November 11. According to the results from the price monitoring of more than 400,000 goods during the previous two months, 28% of discounts were “fake” on the day of the sales. That is, earlier these goods were being sold at the same prices as the main sale, but a few days before the price had been raised and then dropped again. [2]


Meanwhile, in 2018 a student from China was hospitalized for acute stomach pains because she ate only quick-cooking noodles for three weeks to save money for shopping during Black Friday. [3] Another resident of the People’s Republic of China did not leave the computer all day and did not even eat in between making Internet orders. As a result, he lost consciousness and was hospitalized. [4] These examples prove that the fascination with online shopping is dangerous not only for mental, but also for physical health.

Causes of online shopping addiction

We have already discussed shopping addiction (shopaholism) and the causes of its occurrence. Dependence on online shopping is based on similar psychological mechanisms, but there are also some distinctive features. Here are a few reasons for consumers’ dependence on online shopping.

1.   Deceptive accessibility

Online sellers do everything to give customers a sense of availability of their goods right here and now. You can’t afford a new smartphone? Just fill out the questionnaire, get a decision from the bank in a minute and take away your new phone. Pay for it later but with a small interest. Such mechanisms encourage people to make more expensive purchases and to do them more often.

2.   Marketing mechanisms

The online trading mechanisms are such that they quickly direct the buyer to the decision to make a purchase. The expression of marketers – “customer funnel” – sounds really threatening from the point of view of psychologists. 

Just imagine how you step on the edge of the whirlpool and are rapidly drawn into the abyss. That’s exactly what happens. At first, you are just interested in a product. Then you see the same product on other sites – the contextual advertising “catches you up”. Then you get a letter with the subject “You’ve forgotten something,” “Special offer for you, Julia” or something like that. When opening the letter, you see that the product has suddenly become much cheaper. Many cannot resist the temptation and decide to buy it.

3.   Opinion leaders’ recommendations

Influencers deeply affect buying decisions. Bloggers with an audience of millions can convince people to buy exactly the same clothes, phone model or cosmetics that they choose themselves. Most of the products advertised by bloggers are provided free of charge to them. Of course, ordinary users of social networks cannot count on such generosity from major brands, but they cannot resist the purchase, especially when the favorite blogger gives his/her endorsement.

4.   No “physical” parting with money

All online purchases are made strictly on a non-cash basis. That fact alone facilitates the process of parting with money. When you do not pay in cash, it feels like you do not spend money. It is even easier to decide on spending if the card is connected to the cashback service or the store promises to “return part of the purchase with bonuses.”

This way you can spend 20-30% more than you had planned. [5]

5.   No “live contact” with the seller


There is no seller on the Internet who follows you around while you are looking at the goods on the shelves. Nobody asks if you need some help, and no-one makes appraisal judgments about how perfect a thing suits you. This creates an imaginary sense of freedom and personal control of choice, making it easier for you to make a purchase.

Signs of online shopping addiction (real stories)

Dependence on online shopping includes signs of shopping and internet addiction. These include an uncontrollable desire to make purchases, a loss of control over time and the constant need to be aware of new products and sales, etc.

Here are some examples of how online shopping addicts behave.

1.   Frequent purchases of unnecessary things

“I think there’s something wrong with my daughter. She became engrossed in making small purchases on the popular Chinese platform so much, that she wastes half of her salary there. She constantly buys hairpins, brooches, handkerchiefs, and stationery. You should have seen her eyes shine when she brought another banderol and started unpacking it! I asked her what’s there, and she said: “I don’t remember now.” Then, instead of joy and anticipation, there is concern and confusion on her face. At times like this, I can see that she ordered this next trinket in some kind of a daze, and now doesn’t need it…”

– Olga, 47, accountant

Frequent purchases of trifles on the “paid and forgotten” principle are the first red flag. The desire to buy something to lift the spirits can be a sign of developing dependence.

2.   Loss of control over spending

“My sister is an Instagram follower of a blogger girl. The blogger either has so much money that it can grow hairs, or just big brands send her clothes. Every day she shares dozens of stories of the unpacking and fittings of new outfits. My sister tries to copy her style. She uses her links and promo codes to buy the same things, some being very expensive, which she clearly cannot afford. They do not always suit her, because her type and constitution are different. At first, she borrowed money from me. When I tried to convey to her that this situation is not normal, she stopped. I thought she had come to her senses, but it was not so: she obtained a credit card and now she’s using it to pay for her purchases.”

– Julia, 32, economist

Often people dependent on online purchases spend money excessively, run into debts and exceed limits on their credit cards. They may experience severe anxiety or even become depressed from the inability to make another purchase.

3.   Frequent unplanned purchases

“My husband constantly “hangs around” in Internet communities on autotuning. They have their own world there: they share finds on Chinese sites and resell each other some dubious frills for the car’s interior. At first, I did not worry and even rejoiced that he had a passion. But this month he ordered sliding glasses and a roof-rack… the second one. These are quite large purchases, which we did not account for in the family budget. Now I need to explain to my son that he will have to wear last year’s jacket. It would be something like: “Son, it’s okay that the sleeves are short, but at least your dad now has a new trunk that can hold an extra 10 liters!”

– Regina, 39, doctor

The addicted person cannot resist the temptation to make a profitable purchase. At such a moment he/she forgets about any sense of responsibility to the family and brings a deficit to the joint budget.

4.   Frequent conversations about shopping

“Lately my friend has been sending me links to online shopping sites increasingly frequently. The links are accompanied by words like “look what an awesome skirt I ordered at the sale,” “this handbag is just incredible,” “look at these cool jeans – I’m buying them!”, and things like that. I think that she is obsessed with online shopping. Haven’t we got anything better to talk about?

– Polina, 21, student

The addict has an urgent need to share the impulsive joy of shopping with friends. It’s like he/she constantly needs approval and confirmation of how the new purchase was successful and profitable.

5.   Trying to get rid of stress through shopping

“If you were in my apartment, you would think I was a very well-read person. I have many motivational books and best-selling novels. But, alas, I either did not finish them or have not even started. I’ve signed up for mailings from several bookstores. I always receive offers with discounts. I open them when I am feeling down (and this happens often). When I see the difference between “price for all” and “price for you,” it sends me crazy. I begin to admire the design of the cover, read the reviews, imagine the smell of a new book. I think that after I have read this book, I will become a time management goddess, I will learn to invest, learn English in half an hour, etc. But then I regret that I have spent so much money, and when the books arrive, I end up not reading them. It’s been like this a few times, not just with books. I will buy something online and then don’t know what to with it.”

– Tatiana, 37, manager


A shopping addict often decides to make another purchase when in a depressed state, hoping to stifle the stress with the positive emotions from a hotheaded purchase. However, joy is soon replaced by the awareness of spent money, and the feeling of shame or guilt for an ill-considered decision.

How to understand that you are addicted to online shopping (test)

From the statements below, choose those that are typical of your behavior.

I often get parcels and realize that I don't need the things I bought any more.
I make purchases on the Internet, using a credit card. I also borrow money from friends, relatives, etc.
I subscribe to the mailing lists of stores and regularly review them
I spend a lot of time on online shopping sites, visiting them several times a week
I can't close the website of the online store until I make another order or add something to my wish list
I regularly read product reviews, watch video reviews and follow bloggers' shopping
Sometimes I just need to order something to make myself feel better.
I often share my findings in online stores with a friend
I often don’t remember exactly what I ordered by the time the parcel arrives.
My family is worried about my financial situation.

If you marked 7 or more statements, you should think about learning how to control your purchases on the Internet.

How to overcome online shopping addiction on your own

You can learn to control hotheaded decisions regarding online purchases on your own. Here are few methods and tips from psychologists.

1.   Analyze your purchasing behavior

Think about your past purchases on the Internet and try to understand what motivated you to commit to them. In what temper and condition were you and how did you feel afterwards?. It is important to find the “trigger” that pushes your  uncontrolled spending. Most likely, the addiction is based on a psychological problem or a need you are trying to fill. This should be worked out separately.

2.   Monitor your time on the Internet

Admit it frankly, how much time do you waste in online stores, consuming branded content in social networks and watching Youtube videos about products? Instead you could spend the same time on educational and professional portals, read blogs about self-development and watch channels about travel. There is a lot of useful information on the Internet that would help to improve the quality of your life. 

Make an approximate plan of how much time during a day that you will spend browsing useful resources and responding to friends’ messages and seeing what they share with you. Visit online shopping sites no more than once a week.

3.   Limit the flow of advertising information

We live in a saturated media space, and it is impossible to completely protect ourselves from the influence of advertising. However, we may limit the flow of advertising on the Internet. 

Install a special browser extension that will block pop-up and banner ads. 

Remove online shopping sites from your browser bookmarks. 

Unsubscribe from promotional e-mails or set up your email so that all store emails are placed in a separate box, which you can view no more than once a week.

4.   Make a list and set a shopping limit

At the beginning of the month, make a list of necessary purchases and set a limit on the amount you will allow yourself to spend on unplanned shopping. Follow this list for a month. At the end of the month, analyze your spending. This is easy to do with a special mobile app, which allows you to enter information about purchases daily, dividing them by category.

After a while, you will learn to better control your habit of buying unnecessary things.

5.   Be critical

Identify a list of criteria that the item must meet. Try to soberly assess all the pros and cons, and correlate the price with useful attributes instead of brand image. Avoid such advertising incentives as “bestseller”, “shock price” etc.

6.   Don’t shop online alone

If you know that during sales your ability to think critically is greatly reduced, you can ask for help from a loved one. Discuss a potential purchase with someone whose opinion you trust.

7.   Focus on other hobbies

Find interesting activities that will also require material resources but will bring you more benefits than online shopping. For example, start attending a swimming pool or a foreign language course. Investing in health and the future will be much more important than the immediate desire to buy something.

8.   Set aside some of your income for a bigger target


You may think that it is not worth dreaming about buying a personal apartment or travelling abroad, and small purchases can brighten up your life at least temporarily. Try to give them up and set money aside for a bank deposit. Remember the famous expression: “Who cares how old your sneakers are if you’re walking in them in Paris?” Time will pass, and you will make your dreams come true and will be proud of yourself because you have made the right choice.

How to get rid of addiction with psychology: 7Spsy behavior modification technique

Unfortunately, not everyone manages to overcome a persistent addiction without qualified help from a psychologist. Most addicts do not realize that their behavior is not the norm. They are convinced that they can stop at any moment if they feel a real threat.

If you realize that you (or someone close to you) has a shopping problem, don’t despair. You may have a lot of work to do on yourself, but the correct approach will help you to get rid of addiction.
The 7Spsy behavior modification course will help you to change this pathological behavior model and teach you how to spend money more efficiently. It is a patented, scientifically proven method based on theories of the founders of behavioral psychology: I. P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner and A.A.Ukhtomsky. 


The work is carried out remotely under the careful supervision of a psychologist and is completely confidential. During the course, you can consult the psychologist via a convenient communication channel: by phone, e-mail, or online chat. The method allows you to achieve results within 6 weeks.
The 7Spsy behavior modification technique will allow you to learn how to distinguish short-term desires from real needs, to properly allocate expenses and enjoy just necessary purchases.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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