LOGGING on to clothes retailer Asos at midnight, Yasmine Camilla quickly adds £1,900 worth of dresses and boots to her shopping basket and checks out.
When the parcel arrives two days later, her heart races with a mixture of excitement and regret as she tears open the bag and looks through her purchases.
This is Yasmine’s third delivery in the space of just one week, having already ordered a £300 indoor swing for her children Callum, eight, and Amber, six, plus a pair of £500 boots.
Yasmine, 38, a project manager and freelance content creator, says of the fashion buys: “They were totally unnecessary
“We were in the middle of lockdown so I didn’t need to buy fancy clothes.
“But after the kids had gone to bed, I’d spend three hours browsing internet shops.
“I was spending money on stuff I would probably never wear.”
Yasmine’s late-night binge was not unusual for her, though. She developed a shopping addiction after coming out of a long-term relationship in 2019 — racking up £38,000 worth of debt on credit cards and buy-now-pay-later services.
Sold car to help pay
She says: “Before my relationship ended and Covid hit, I could spend anything I wanted.
“I’d happily put £3,500 on a credit card for a family holiday to Portugal and not think about how it would be paid off.
“I had a good job then and was earning well so felt that it didn’t matter.”
But 2020 hit Yasmine hard and instead of saving she started spending, sometimes thousands of pounds a day — despite her freelance work drying up entirely for eight months during the pandemic.
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Yasmine, from Penge, South East London, managed to keep on top of her household bills and rent but confesses her sprees got worse while she was bored at home during lockdown.
She says: “I would spend £500 on two pairs of boots from Irregular Choice.
“They were on sale but I have never worn them and they’re both still in their boxes. Buy-now-pay-later made things easier as well. Paying something off in instalments would make it seem cheaper.”
Her addiction did not stop at clothes, though.
She also splashed out on a fashionable Peloton exercise bike for £2,300.
She says: “I saw it on social media and had to have it, but I haven’t used it loads and now I just hang my clothes on it.”
She paid £600 for a piece of art, too, and £400 on a mirror after seeing it on Instagram — even though friends showed her a similar one for £50 from B&M.
Takeaways were another huge expense, with Yasmine blowing £5,000 on Deliveroo in a year. She says: “I loved to order expensive sushi. Pizza Express was a treat as well. I’d order my groceries via Deliveroo because I couldn’t get any supermarket delivery slots.”
In July, Callum asked if he could have his own bedroom and not share with his sister, and Yasmine started working out how much it would cost her to convert the loft — but realised she had built up £38,000 in debt.
She says: “I felt shocked. I froze. It was nearly £40,000 — that felt huge. It was a trigger moment.”
58% of compulsive shoppers have worryingly large debts
She immediately started cutting back and sold her Peugeot car for £5,000, choosing to borrow her nan’s car instead. She also sold some clothes to recoup funds, gave up Deliveroo and cut her grocery bill from £500 a month to £150.
Now Yasmine has paid off £7,000 of debt and shares her story regularly on TikTok.
She says: “Many have attacked me for having so much debt and being careless — and they are right, I was.
“But others have told me I am brave for breaking the taboo.
“I’m proud of myself for working my way out of this and hope that in two years I will be debt-free.”
Research has found around five per cent of Brits are shopping addicts — and 92 per cent of them are women.
Psychologist Sarah Gregg, author of Choose Happy: Easy Strategies To Find Your Bliss, says: “Signs of problematic shopping behaviour include excessively thinking about shopping, frequently buying more than can be afforded and investing too much time and energy into shopping, adversely impacting on other important life areas.
“Shopping may seem harmless because it’s just clothes, but an increasing body of evidence suggests that shopping addiction has the same behavioural symptoms as chemical addiction, including craving, withdrawal and loss of control.”
Fashion student Yasmin Welch has so many clothes she has to wade through black bin bags full of them just to get to bed each night.
Yasmin, 19, says: “I know I have way too much stuff, but I just can’t help myself.
“My room has become a giant wardrobe. I’ve been forced to stuff everything into bin bags because my wardrobe is overflowing, which I hate.
“I like to be organised so my dad is building me a shed for all of my overflow.
The crazy thing is, I will never wear all of this stuff. There are dozens of items in my wardrobe that still have tags on. I’ll never get rid of them.
“People have told me I need help but I do what I do because I love it. If someone doesn’t like that then it’s on them.”
Yasmin, from Harwich, Essex, buys around 15 items of clothing a week, mainly vintage designer pieces that she picks up at car boot sales and charity shops.
Battling for space
She says: “If I do miss a car boot, for whatever reason, I find myself getting anxious in case I’m missing out on amazing finds — I get FOMO [fear of missing out].”
Her best find was a pair of Chanel 2003 sunglasses she picked up in a house clearance for £1.
She says: “My heart was racing. It was such a thrill.
“I wear prescription lenses so I couldn’t keep them but I sold them on for just over £200 which helped to fund future sprees. I also bagged a Gucci bangle for £3.”
Yasmin’s father, Daniel, 48, who refurbishes cars and sells them on, is worried about her spending and has asked her to start paying her way at home.
She says: “I’m hoping to get a part-time job. I would rather work more than give up shopping.
“I do worry about how much I am spending — currently I have about £3 to my name and there are times when I will really struggle and have to ask my parents for a loan.
“I have been in debt to pay-later sites a few times, only by about £50 — but as I’m only 19 that is quite scary.
“But I have no plans to cut back on spending.
“I’m just going to work harder to be able to keep up my habit. I am now applying for weekend jobs to fund my shopping addiction, as well as selling my own T-shirt designs online, which brings in around £400 a month.”
Daniel confesses that while he supports his daughter’s enthusiasm for fashion, her mammoth collection has left him battling for space in his own home.
He says: “Despite the fact that it’s just me and Yasmin in the house, we’re running out of space so I’ve built her an outbuilding for her rather large collection of clothes and handbags.
“She loves the charity shops for bargains and when the car boot sales are open I sometimes dread how much she’s bringing back.”
Yasmin adds: “I’m hoping my mammoth wardrobe will be the thing that will earn me money in the future as a stylist.
“It may be cheesy but fashion is my passion and, in my eyes, every single thing I add to my wardrobe will help me to my dream career.”
HOW TO STOP SHOPPING
- AVOID TRIGGERING TV: Even though you may not know it, there are likely to be things that trigger you to shop. Start a journal and document in it when you feel compelled to shop. Is it due to anger, boredom or maybe sadness? Do you feel the urge after you’ve watched a particular TV show or maybe after hanging out with a certain mate? By seeing a pattern, you will find yourself preventing impulse shopping.
- USE ONLINE WISH LISTS: Many online sites, like John Lewis’s, and Amazon, have a wish list facility. Here you store things you’d like to buy but are not yet ready to put in your cart. A way to beat addictive shopping is to leave items on this wish list for one month before returning to them. Just finding and moving an item to the wish list gives you a mini-burst of euphoria, which often passes even before an item is delivered. You’ll find you can barely recall why you wanted it in the first place, and reject it.
- TAKE 30-DAY CHALLENGE: Beat temptation at its own game and buy nothing new for 30 days. Work out what you would have spent and put that money to one side. As a reward, treat yourself to one thing you really want at the end of the trial or keep that money towards a bigger goal, like a holiday. You might be surprised at just how much you have saved, and this will hopefully lead on to you extending that challenge to 60 days, and then longer.
- SCREEN YOUR EMAILS: Shops and websites are designed to make you buy via their direct emails, often daily. These reminders of sales and discounts can drain your resolve to quit shopping. Unsubscribing to these emails is super-easy – often just a link at the bottom of the email – and once this is done much of your temptation goes away, along with those intrusive emails.
- SWITCH TO SWAPPING: The buzz you get from shopping can be garnered from swapping. Every-one has stuff they don’t use or wear. Get your mates round for nibbles and drinks and ask each person to bring a large bag of items they no longer want but are good enough to pass on. When you all swap, the obtaining of new things will give you a dopamine boost, plus it helps the environment and starts healthy, new habits.
- SKIP THE AUCTIONS: Many shopping addicts find auction sites a huge temptation. The thrill of a bargain, on sites like eBay, makes us spend more than we should – especially in the last, frantic minutes of a bidding frenzy. That buzz keeps us coming back for more. Regular site users often have a long saved search list and this feeds into shopping addiction. Put notifications for things you want on hold. If that feels a step too far in the early days of quitting shopping, reduce them to a maximum of five items and ensure they are things you really need.
- FREEZE YOUR CREDIT CARDS: Cutting them up is an aggressive action and often impractical. Most accounts have a freeze option that is just a button click away on your online account – and there to help you stop overspending. Log on, click to freeze your card and don’t return to it for three weeks. This allows you to feel the pain, then hopefully mange to move on from it.
- SELL YOUR CLOTHES: Have a thorough clear-out of anything you don’t wear any longer. Donate items to charity and, if you have expensive items, sell them. Then make this work for your addiction- kicking, by giving yourself a goal of how much you can earn before you are allowed to treat yourself to something new. Only spending what you earn motivates you to find more items to sell and starts you re-evaluating the worth of money again.
- GET SAVING INSTEAD: Dopamine is the reward hormone that kicks off in our brain as we buy something. It is often higher in that moment than when we get the item home. While on your no-spend challenge, put the saved money into Premium Bonds. This investment product enables you to be entered into a monthly draw where you can win between £25 and £1million. You will get that longed-for dopamine hit as you anticipate what you may win.
- TRY CONSCIOUS SPENDING: Shopping addicts often spend emotionally. This is reactive – it happens because we want a treat, reward or comfort. Sadly, this means your spending is controlling you. Be more proactive and take back control by conscious spending. Decide what really will make a difference to your life, take some time over choosing it, do price comparisons, look for discount vouchers and then buy the thing that you really need. Plan on only ever spending money this way.
5 SIGNS YOU’RE A SHOP ADDICT
PSYCHOLOGIST Sarah Gregg reveals the telltale signs that your innocent sprees could be a dangerous habit . . .
- YOU OBSESS OVER SHOPPING: Most of us think about shopping, but addictive behaviour is marked by frequent, obsessive thoughts about it. This can include spending a lot of time planning a shopping trip or thoughts of shopping just popping into your mind.
- YOU SHOP TO CHANGE YOUR MOOD: Shopping addicts use the behaviour to modify their mood – to enhance feelings of happiness or to soothe negative emotions. They need to increase their behaviour – in this case the amount they shop – over time to get the same satisfaction as before.
- YOU’VE HAD UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS TO CONTROL OR CUT BACK ON SHOPPING IN THE PAST: Non-chemical addictions are also prone to relapses. Some shopping addicts may have identified that their shopping had become problematic and may have managed to stop for a while but without any long-term success.
- YOU’D FEEL DISTRESSED IF YOU COULD NO LONGER SHOP: Shopping addicts will generally be upset at the thought of reducing or stopping the behaviour completely. They may notice that they become grumpy or stressed when told they can’t buy what they want.
- IT IS NEGATIVELY IMPACTING YOUR LIFE: Shopping addiction can become time-consuming and negatively impact on daily obligations. It creates conflict and reduced focus on other important life areas.
- Follow Sarah at @thepowertoreinvent and you can also visit thepowertoreinvent.com.