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Dec 2013 by PCI College

Christmas Shopping “What, more shoes?” says he

“What, more shoes?” says he. “More CD.s? ” says she. “But that’s different!!” protests he, in anguished tones.

Inundated with media coverage of matters financial, Christmas is a time when ordinary people can feel pushed to breaking point in an effort to discriminate between healthy enjoyment of the festive season and the compulsive overspending which one sometimes feels is the reward for ‘being good’ throughout the year.

For most of us, Christmas shopping is a pleasurable experience as we pick up little treasures and knick-knacks for loved ones. Shops are abuzz, lights aglow, and tunes as familiar as old friends waft over the airwaves lending an air of reassurance and wellbeing.

Much has been highlighted in the media over the years as to the dangers of excess around the festive season. For the first time road deaths are down in number and a cultural shift around drinking and driving has taken place. We see that a combination of education in tandem with legislation can effect a change for the better, not only in people’s attitudes, but in behaviour too. So with these things in mind it’s worth spending a thought or two on how we are as a nation of consumers.

We are well aware from the media that we overspent during the so called boom years and now it’s payback time. Economists struggle with trying to unravel the global impact of our spending habits, and as many of us strive to see through the haze to our fiscal future many people are wondering, ‘how did we get here?’ As we are surrounded by advertising, telling us that buying will make us happy and consumerism has become a measure of our social worth and a way of life for many people, many are curious as to when normal consumer behaviour in a market economy crosses the boundary into the more sinister realm of addiction.

An addiction to shopping or omniomania has been recognised as a disorder as far back as Kraeplin in the early 20th century. As with more recognised addictions, shopping, which is an essential part of everyday life, gravitates into a zone where it no longer is serving a primary function. As with all addictions, shopping becomes the person’s main way of coping with stress, to the point where they continue to shop excessively even when it is clearly having a negative impact on other areas of their life.

As with other addictions, finances and relationships are damaged, yet the shopping addict feels unable to stop or even control their spending. The process of purchasing gives shopaholics a sort of euphoria, excitement, and "high"' that seems to give their life meaning, while letting them forget about their sorrows; but there is usually a feeling of disappointment afterwards. Compulsive shoppers are prone to shop in secret as the condition worsens, debt increases, and relationships with family members and friends become strained. Catalogues, dedicated television shopping channels, cybershopping, and online trading make the process of purchasing all the more readily available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and the fallout includes significant emotional, social, occupational, and financial consequences.

For most people shopping is a healthy experience which is purposeful, goal-directed and to be enjoyed as part of the Christmas atmosphere. It is only really when we start accumulating beyond our means or find ourselves hoarding secretly that we needs to pay attention to our spending patterns. Most of us have our little blind spot when it comes to consumption and can justify our spending on items that might seem unnecessary to others. Ponderings on ‘how many pairs of shoes are too many’, the author suggests, referring to the philosophical question of how many angels can dance on top of a pin-head for further illumination. As to how many C.D.s? Well that’s just pure common sense. It’s a matter of space really. . .

Antoinette Stanbridge
PCI College Lecturer

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