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HSFPP Weekly Update # 166—Compulsive Shopping

Message from Bob: Beginning this year, we will try a new feature with our Web Site Pick of the Week: if possible, we will feature a site that is not only directly related to our article In the New$..., but that also includes short video clips to enhance teenagers’ education. My students in this summer’s FAM 759 graduate course—teachers and 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences Agents—felt that videos or video clips would enhance the teaching of youth and adults as long as the videos were short or were broken into short segments. We don’t want to encourage short attention spans, but we believe that using a variety of media in addition to text will help teens learn the material.


Note to Educators:

Scale for activity quiz below:

0 True - You are a financially responsible person.
1-2 True - You are basically responsible, but should consider these red flags.
3-5 True - You are definitely headed down the road to financial trouble.
6+ True - You are in imminent danger of financial meltdown. Sign up for a financial education course in high school as soon as possible or contact your local 4-H agent.

Additional Activities for teachers in different fields to use are:

by Alex Lesueur, Jr., M.S.L.S., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension

Business / History / Computer Science Classes: Do a Google search of “famous shopaholics.” Business classes can focus more on the financial aspects: What were the individual’s habits and how did they get him or her into trouble? What happened to the person as a result? History classes can focus on what the times were like and what public attitudes were toward a given shopaholic or big spender; did this person’s habits affect history in any way? (Look at Marie Antoinette, for instance.) Computer science classes can focus on variations on the Google search for “famous shopaholics.” Try other search engines, other search terms, and other spellings such as “shopoholics.” Also try typing your search terms into the address box of your Web browser and pressing <ENTER>; what happens when you do this? Discuss current and future Internet technology. Are there any compulsions or preoccupations that are common among computer users, such as spending too much time on the Internet, or too much money on the computer?

Sociology / Psychology / Social Studies Classes: Read “You Might Be a Shopaholic,” at Focus your discussion on societal aspects of shopping such as the perception of men as collectors and women as shopaholics. In what ways are these perceptions true and not true? (Look at general clothes buyers vs. collectors of vintage clothing, ties, or Hawaiian shirts, for instance. How many are there of one, as opposed to the other?) Is there any sexism implicit in these perceptions? Psychology classes can look at the preoccupation, the tension, and the rush associated with shopping by shopaholics and collectors; when does this become a problem? Sociology and social studies classes can discuss the implications for society when a large number of people are overspending for whatever reason. Has the clutter that comes with overspending generated any new industries, and what does this say about our society as a whole?


Web Site Pick of the Week:

NBC provides an article, video clip, and quiz on compulsive shopping, with additional tips on how to control the spending habit.


In the New$... Compulsive Shopping is a Real Problem

by Robert H. Flashman, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension

Most financial education programs for teenagers don’t discuss all the ways that people get into financial difficulties. A variety of compulsions, for instance, affect people’s lives. My mother had the compulsive behavior of checking the stove and unplugging all appliances before leaving the house. I also do this for safety reasons, but my mother made one of us kids go back into the house even when she felt sure that she had unplugged every appliance and switched off all lights, a sure sign of compulsive behavior.

Another common compulsive behavior, shopping, affects a person’s finances. Within reason, it’s something that all of us need to do often; but much of our behavior related to shopping is unreasonable and harmful to our finances. You might ask, shouldn’t we splurge now and then? It all depends on individual or family circumstances and what you mean by splurging. You shouldn’t spend more than you have, go into savings, or put off investing in order to buy something you don’t really need; and you should never waste your money piling up things that you’ll never use.

Many of us blame poor money management, reluctance to defer gratification, or low income, all of which can be true for many people. Compulsive shopping, however, is a real problem for the 60 million consumers who are addicted to shopping; and, in many cases, their compulsion is related to depression.

Overspending affects both high- and low-income individuals, and it often begins during the teenage years. Shopaholics use this compulsion to try to fill an emotional void in their lives. According to Ruth Engs, Professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at Indiana University, “They believe that if they shop they will feel better. Compulsive shopping and spending generally makes a person feel worse.”

From “It Was Such a Bargain: Help for Compulsive Shoppers,” by Michelle Haas-Dosher: “Between 2% and 8% of adults in the U.S. are compulsive shoppers, according to Dr. Donald Black, a psychiatrist and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Of those, 80% to 90% are female. Studies show that females still make the majority of family purchases, and that shopping is considered a socially accepted female practice—you know, ‘retail therapy.’

“Women who are compulsive shoppers generally purchase clothes, shoes, and kitchen items. The small percentage of men who compulsively shop tend to splurge on computers, electronics, power tools, and even investments. (Male spenders more often tend to be compulsive gamblers.)”

Tips to control overspending:

Sources: Adapted from “How Can I Manage Compulsive Shopping and Spending (Shopoholism),” by Ruth Engs, RN, Ed.D, Indiana University, Department of Applied Health Science.
“It Was Such a Bargain: Help for Compulsive Shoppers,” by Michelle Haas-Dosher.


Discussion questions:

1.) After reading this week’s article In the New$..., how many of you feel you are compulsive shoppers?


2.) Are there things that you really want or need, but have not been able to buy because of too many small purchases? What could you do about this?


3.) For those of you who are not shopaholics, could overspending come from not having financial goals, a budget, or money set aside for financial emergencies?


4.) Do your habits keep you from reaching financial goals? Think about everyday habits such as smoking or stopping with friends at fast food restaurants every day.



This self-diagnostic test will give you insights into your "financial responsibility index." Answers: T = true and F = false:

____ 1. I do not have a budget

____ 2. If I have a budget, I don't have the discipline to keep to my budget.

____ 3. I have to ask my parents for money at the end of the week or month.

____ 4. I regularly stop by fast food restaurants after school.

____ 5. I often use this month's income or allowance to cover last month's bills.

____ 6. I can't imagine living without credit.

____ 7. I've never been concerned about money because my parents give it to me any time I need it.

____ 8. I don’t track what I spend on a regular basis.

____ 9. I don't have a formal savings program, so, in an emergency, I always need to borrow money.

____ 10. I do not put away money on regular basis to meet my short- and long-term financial goals.


Kentucky High School Financial Planning Program

The purpose of this Web site is to assist county Extension agents, credit union educators, and high school teachers in improving the economic well-being of our constituency, beginning with today’s students; and also, to assist teachers in Kentucky in meeting KERA’s goal that all students become technologically literate. Weekly Updates are provided by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, and are free to all educators.



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