Compulsive Shopping: Money Management, Motivation, and Expectations


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Money management is key to overcoming compulsive buying. Image by cohdra

Materialism: Mood and Identity Connections 

Research has shown that materialists often have insecurities about themselves and their identities, as well as having more negative moods (anxiety, depression, and emotional instability). Thus, buying  appears to be a coping mechanism in response to negative emotions. Materialists often see a huge discrepancy between their current self and their ideal self and they feel that buying goods can get them closer to their ideal self or even transform them into it.

Since people buy to make their lives easier, improve their appearance, self confidence, and to increase pleasure, it is not a surprise that materialists develop compulsive buying habits.

Compulsive Shopping: The Study

In Study 1, Donnelly et al. wanted to determine “if money management mediates the materialism and compulsive buying relation.” The study, which included 1077 students, found that materialism was related to less money management and higher rates of compulsive buying. Their results shows that with proper money management, people can reduce compulsive buying by 34%.

In Study 2, Donnelly et al. wanted to replicate the findings from Study 1 and find specific behaviors of money management that are involved with material values and compulsive buying. This time, the study included 650 individuals, from online social networks and students. They found that materialism was still related to poor money management (specifically credit management), more emotional buying, more transformation expectations, and more compulsive buying.

Money Management, Materialism, and Compulsive Buying

The results of these studies support the idea that money management is a mediator between materialism and compulsive buying. This lack of credit management drives materialists to purchase above their means. In addition to this, buying for mood enhancement and transformation expectations will also lead materialists to compulsive buying.

Materialists use credit cards more frequently because it gives them a delay in financial consequences. They also show more positive attitudes towards debt and borrowing and are also willing to take on greater amounts of debt. Since credit cards can lead to more spending than cash or checks, and greater spending can lead to compulsive consumption, it is wise to understand how this can have an impact on lives.

Dr. Howell and his team have created a website that helps people learn about their spending habits and how their spending choices are affecting their happiness. Beyond the Purchase uses “peer-reviewed published psychological surveys to provide individual’s with personalized feedback, graphics, and practical happiness tips.”


Donnelly, G., Ksendzova, M., Howell, R.T., Sadness, Identity, and Plastic in Overshopping: The Interplay of Materialism, Poor Credit Management, and Emotional Buying Motives in Predicting Compulsive Buying. (2013). Journal of Economic Psychology. Accessed August 14, 2013.

Shopaholics Anonymous. Facts About Compulsive Shopping. Accessed August 14, 2013.

Landau, Elizabeth. Compulsive Shopping: When Spending is like Substance Abuse(2012). CNN. Accessed August 14, 2013.

Beyond the Purchase. Money and Happiness. Accessed August 14, 2013.

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