In my book 30 Days to Taming Your Stress, I list 30 ways to address stress, including controlling your finances, setting boundaries, exercising, releasing unrealistic expectations, delegating, saying no and a host of other actions. There are numerous choices available to you to reduce stress—other than spending money!
2. Anger. Shopping may help you work off a little steam; however, if you peel your anger onion, at the core of it you may find you are angry with yourself. Perhaps you tolerated someone's bad behavior, failed to speak up, put yourself at risk, disappointed God or indulged in a number of other regretful acts.
Before you run to the mall, get in touch with why you are feeling the way you do and deal with the root of the issue. Repent, if necessary, or confront the people involved.
If face-to-face is not possible, then write a letter expressing how you really feel about what has happened and what changes you desire. Ask God to give you His words and His wisdom so that you can be direct, honest and godly in your approach.
3. Boredom. Television and Internet shopping companies thrive off the boredom that drives buyers to indulge their fantasies. The best way to combat boredom is to invest time in meaningful diversions that move you toward your goals or make life better for others. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a crafts class or other class of interest at your local community college. They are usually low-cost and short in duration and are a great way to meet new people with common interests.
- Host or teach a class at home on a subject of interest to those in your circle of interaction.
- Volunteer with a church or other charity to visit nursing homes, hospitals, orphanages or shelters. I used to get great satisfaction from just combing the hair of elderly people who never received any visitors. The staff will welcome your support, and the patrons will never forget your act of kindness.
- Keep a supply of blank notecards. Send a word of encouragement to someone who needs it (for example, your minister, a college student, a mom with small children or someone who is ill). Helping others is personally rewarding and usually requires little more than your time.
Even if your expenditures seem to be minor, beware. Those frequent discounted purchases can really add up.
Anne, a receptionist, visits the 99 Cents Store when she is bored. She rationalizes that her spending is relatively harmless since the items cost so little. She doesn't want to face the fact that her regular $5 to $10 purchases exceed a few hundred dollars during the course of a month.
Remember that boredom spending is just a temporary cure. The thrill of the purchase will fade in record time, and then you'll need another fix. This vicious cycle is sure to keep you in a financial pit.
4. Depression. Recall the last thing you purchased with the hope that it would cheer you up? Did it? If so, for how long?
I know I'm treading on sensitive ground here, but if you are depressed, it may be because you have become the center of your world; you have focused all your attention on how things are affecting you. If you dare to step out of the spotlight and shine it on someone else, you'll find amazing results.
See the list above for possible activities that may refocus your attention. Also, consider getting a psychological evaluation by a medical professional.
5. Insecurity. When you are unsure of your inherent worth as an individual, you may buy things you think will impress others. One of my counselees, Lucy (not her real name), drives a pricey BMW but cannot afford to go out for Sunday dinner even at an inexpensive restaurant.
"I want a car that's a good investment," she lies to me and to herself. The truth is that her entire self-worth is wrapped up in sporting the car around and being admired for owning it. It is her only asset besides her clothes.
If you are like Lucy, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to stop living a lie and to begin spending at your affordability level. Value the intangible assets that you bring to the table such as a sense of humor, integrity, dependability, perseverance and so forth. Don't be like Haman, the insecure Persian official who needed the king's horse, the king's robe and association with a noble prince to feel honored (Esth. 6:7-9).
Rather, adopt the mindset of the Proverbs 31 woman: "She perceives that her merchandise is good" (v. 18, NKJV). This woman was not dependent on outside validation; she knew inwardly that her merchandise (what she brought to the table) was good.
6. Frustration. Thwarted plans, unmet expectations or other unfulfilled desires can send you running for mall therapy—unless you have totally embraced the truth of Isaiah 14:27: "For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?" (NIV).