It-wasnt-just-excessive-spending-it-was-more

It wasn’t just excessive spending, it was more.

Written By Jacelyn Chia, Singapore

Ask any good Christian where their comfort comes from and their answer would be Christ. My source of comfort starts with C too, but I’m afraid it’s something else: Clothes.

It started when my peers started buying clothes online, and I was curious to try it out. I soon got hooked. Whenever I felt bored or stressed, I would scroll through websites like Zalora, Lazada, Ezbuy etc. almost instinctively, send images of what looked good to my friends for approval, then click on the “Add to cart” button.

When I was particularly stressed or frustrated, I would purchase items that caught my eye. I was just 16 years old then. Not being rich nor having my parents fund my shopping sprees, I would skimp on my meals in order to save enough money to go shopping. I also stopped tithing so that I could use the money for online shopping. Soon, I stopped going to church altogether, as I felt like a hypocrite—although my lips praised God, my heart was far away from Him.

I didn’t think that my spending habits were reflecting deeper underlying issues in me, and believed that it was common for teenagers to be obsessed with online shopping. It was only when some of the friends whom I sent screenshots of my purchases to started making comments like, “Eh, don’t shop so much lah”, that I started to evaluate my spending habits.

That’s when I noticed how guilty I would feel about my purchases: I would cut off the price tags to remove any evidence that they had just been bought. I kept my purchases in my bag before entering my house so that my parents would not question me about them. And I was aghast to realize that I did not even wear some of the new clothes I bought.

One day, I decided to start adding up my expenses. I got to just three items before I started cringing. Ashamed, I now realized that I had a real problem with excessive spending. And I knew I had to do something about it. I googled for tips on how to curb my spending habit, surrendered my credit and debit cards to my mother, and started to go out of the house without bringing any money. The first time I left the house penniless, I felt most anxious. I found myself evaluating the clothes of people I saw and thinking about whether or not to buy them.

I confided in a friend, who told me to think about the root causes of my habit of impulsive and excessive shopping. That’s when I came up with this list:

  1. I seek acceptance and approval from others through my possessions.
  2. The thrill of shopping removes negative feelings I experience, albeit temporarily.
  3. The ability to buy makes me feel powerful as I am able to make a decision or choice (to be in control).
  4. I believe that my purchases will make me happy.
  5. I believe that clothes make me look good.

With this list in mind, I then decided to try to find replacement behaviours that would meet the needs I had listed above (advice found on Google). I decided to paint, draw, sleep, and finally—start attending church again.

I went back to church the following Sunday. My Sunday school class was studying Romans 7, and Romans 7:4-8 struck me, as it mentioned the freedom Christians have from sin. I had been feeling like I was stuck and could never quit this shopping habit, but the verses reminded me that with God’s help, I could be set free from sin—in this case, excessive shopping, which hindered me from things like quiet time with God and fellowship with believers.

Slowly, I started to realize that all the needs that I was trying to meet through shopping could only be fully met by God. I decided that I wanted to change, as I did not want to be stuck in the vicious cycle of spending.

The Bible provided the solutions to all the needs I had; this time, I did not have to Google for solutions to my problem.

1. I seek acceptance and approval from others through my possessions. 
God accepts us as we are because Jesus died for us. (Colossians 1:21-22)

2. The thrill of shopping removes negative feelings I experience, albeit temporarily.
God grants us the peace that the world can never give. (John 14:27)

3. The ability to buy makes me feel powerful as I am able to make a decision or choice to (be in control).
No matter how much I try to be in control of things, God’s plan will always prevail. (Proverbs 19:21)

4. I believe that my purchases will make me happy.
Remembering God’s faithfulness to me can bring me greater joy. (Psalm 92:4-5)

5. I believe that clothes make me look good
I am a child of God, and that is independent of my appearance. (John 1:12)

Please pray for me as I am just beginning my journey of quitting my shopping addiction. Let’s be careful not to use any hobby or activity to meet our emotional and spiritual needs, as they will definitely fail. Only God can fulfill our greatest needs.

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