How to know if you have an acquisition addiction

Some people have an addiction of which they’re not even aware. It’s not life threatening like drugs or alcohol or flirting with an angry man’s wife, but it’s dangerous nonetheless. It’s the addiction to the acquisition of “stuff.”

Like other addicts, people with an acquisition addiction rarely think there’s a problem with them. They’ll tell you that the problem is that taxes are too high, they are underpaid at work, the price of gas is ridiculous, the cable bill is out of control, and the cost of living is just generally too stinking high for the average person.

Many of the things they spend their money on are small, seemingly inconsequential items. But those small amounts very quickly add up, leaving the big things they’d like to have out of the questions. Some of these little things are like the drinks at the convenience store that cost $1.50 each, but if purchased in a 6-pack at the grocery store would amount to about 50 cents. It never occurs to them that the songs they download for only 99 cents each can add up to hundreds of dollars in just one year. Or that the new model phone they upgraded to for only $27 more per month adds up to nearly $1000 over three years. Or that the extra sodas and chips that were on sale at the grocery store add unnecessary dollars (and pounds) over a year’s time. Or that the additional movie and sports channels on the cable bill can amount to over $3500 in just five short years. Or that the new outfits and shoes that can run into the thousands of dollars over just a short couple of years. Or that the lunches out and the couple of nights out for dinner add up to thousands more than smart shopping and cooking at home.

Some of the worst drains on our accounts are the subscription items. We sign up for the box of dog treats and toys that arrive conveniently every month, the box of assorted make-up products (much of which wind up in the back of the drawer or in the trash because it wasn’t a good match for our complexion), or the magazines that are stacked up waiting to be read, and so on.

If asked about these things, those with an acquisition addiction are quick to point out, “it’s only 99 cents,” “I don’t know what I’d do without this phone–you can’t believe all that it does,” “we need to keep snacks in the house, and junk food is cheaper and easier than healthy food,” “the TV is our main source of entertainment–it’s the one thing we splurge on.”  And finally, there’s the mother of all justifications, “I deserve it!

What these addicts don’t know is that if they’d take an honest look at every quarter (yes, I said quarter) they spend, keep track of each expenditure, and rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how valuable the acquisition is to them 30 days later, they’d find that much of what they’ve spent their money on is inconsequential just a short time after the money is gone. We often can’t even find that thing we just HAD to have. Too often we are painfully aware of the newly added extra pounds that we didn’t need. And how many movies did we really watch on those extra channels?

More importantly, if they had taken that money and set it aside, they’d have found that in a period of just one year of deferred gratification, they’d have the money for a more significant purchase like the set of tires the car badly needs, that semi annual insurance premium that sneaks up on them, that winter coat they need, or the unexpected emergency expense.

By replacing the acquisition addiction with another activity that costs nothing–visits with friends, playing games, taking a walk, cooking with friends or family, and so on, we can actually enhance our lives, relieve some stress, and maybe even save up for a down payment on something that could go up in value after purchase (rather than go down), like a home or a rental property or some other investment, or on something that will make memories that last forever like a vacation to a place you’ve wistfully dreamed of going.

For those who justify their addiction by spending generously on others, consider that there are myriad ways to show kindness and generosity that don’t cost money. For 101 ideas, see my book, ACTS OF KINDNESS 101 Ways To Make Our World A Better Place.

You may have an acquisition addiction if three or more of these things are true for you (#10 counts for three on outs own).

If you shop to reward yourself
If you shop when you’re bored
If you shop when you’re sad
If you shop for fun
If you buy something for yourself when you’re shopping for others
If your closet is full
If you’ve taken over other closets
If you feel sad or angry when you can’t shop
If you receive packages more than twice a week
If you pay with a credit card without having the cash to pay the bill in full at the end of the month.

I’d love to hear your ideas for outsmarting acquisition addiction. Share your stories with others at

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