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Dr Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of The LightHouse Arabia.
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Tips to control compulsive buying behaviour

One of the biggest sources of stress in the UAE are financial pressures. Yes, cost of living may be higher than what you are used to, but for many people the financial stress is a result of them living outside of their means. Many people are admittedly over-spenders and say that rather than taking a realistic evaluation of their financial status.

Here are some tips to manage overspending:

Take responsibility

There are many things out of our control, but how you spend your money is not one of them. Admitting that you are experiencing financial difficulties or instability will be the first step towards gaining financial security.

Do not lose track

You cannot control what you cannot measure. As long as you are not tracking your expenses, you are giving yourself the opportunity to be reckless with money. Once you start taking note of every dirham you spend, you shine a spotlight on your finances.

Hold yourself accountable

Hold yourself accountable for your spending by telling family and friends that you are trying to spend less, and make a rule with your accountability partner.

Avoid malls when experiencing low mood

Spending can release dopamine, the pleasure neurochemical, so you might be tempted to venture into a mall for retail therapy especially when you are stressed, anxious, or experiencing low mood. It would be important to be aware of your mood before you walk into the mall.

Stick to a list and resist temptation

Before going shopping, list down everything you need – that is needed, not wanted – and be disciplined enough to follow the rule. If it is not on the list, do not buy it.

Apply a 72-hour rule

When you lack self-control, you can fall victim to making unplanned purchases on a whim. After the instant gratification of impulsive spending, come debt, worry and ultimately more spending. To avoid this trap, stick to the 72-hour rule.

Make deposits into your savings

We often think about saving half of our paycheck or big sums of money. Instead try saving a small amount every week. You can also consider having a jar where you drop in everything that is Dhs 10 or under at the end of the day. Before you know it, you will see that you are quite capable of saving.

Get professional help

Overspending can be as difficult to stop as any other compulsion or addiction, so do not be afraid to ask for help. If you’re using spending as an emotional regulation coping tool – to feel better or to aggrandise yourself – admit that you have a problem. Spending can be a symptom of low self-esteem, anxiety, depression or loneliness.

Dr Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of The LightHouse Arabia.
Dr Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of The LightHouse Arabia.

Money is something that can make or break everything from your mood and stress levels to your relationships and beyond. While not always easy to get quickly under control, setting clear goals and making promises to yourself on the above tactics is the best way to start regaining control of your finances and, thus, your wellbeing.


Key takeaways

  • Many people are over-spenders and say that rather than taking a realistic evaluation of their financials.
  • Spending can release dopamine, the pleasure neurochemical.
  • You cannot control what you cannot measure.
  • Overspending can be as difficult to stop as any other addiction.

Here are some common-sense tips to bring compulsive buying behaviour under control, at a time when it is the last thing you need getting out of control.