A spot of retail therapy can be enjoyable, and shopping is an essential part of life for the majority; we all need to buy things! It’s important to point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the ocassional shopping trip; I think many of us do.
However for some, it can become a slippery, extremely spendy, slope fast. Living in a consumerist society, opportunities to spend are everywhere, and what was once an enjoyable activity, can become a habit, and then over time, a compulsion if we are not careful.
Is shopping a hobby?
This is a tricky question, and one that is likely to cause a few disagreements, depending on your personal feelings towards shopping!
A hobby is defined as ‘an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure’. Therefore, you could argue that shopping is absolutely a hobby.
Perhaps controversially, I would argue that fashion is a hobby. Or gaming. Or cooking. But buying clothes, computer games and cookware, isn’t.
Shopping alone, which is essentially selecting and buying products, isn’t a hobby. It is the means to an end; you buy the product to use it.
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Shopping as a hobby: Are there exceptions?
Collecting can possibly be considered a hobby, as it tends to focus around a specific interest, and there are other elements to the hobby to consider, such as organising, categorising and displaying the collected items. Hunting down a specific item can be an enjoyable challenge, and depending on the item being collected, there can be a social element too.
Thrifting is a more sustainable alternative to shopping, which enables people to get the same buzz of finding a bargain, but is overall a better way to consume. Often the items are notably cheaper, and it is better for the environment, too.
However, for those with issues around compulsive purchasing, thrifting could still encourage overspending and a need to buy to fill a ‘void’.
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Is online shopping a hobby?
There are definitely positives associated with shopping; it gets people out of the house, exploring and spending time together. Online shopping however, does not have many of these benefits, tending to be a more individual activity. Online shopping has been hugely helpful and can save us significant amounts of time, but it can be difficult to justify online shopping as a hobby.
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Why is shopping fun?
We often experience a buzz when buying new items, with studies showing that shopping can improve a bad mood. Lack of confidence or self-worth can often drive the urge to shop too, as we look for a quick boost.
It’s important to note that you can have an interest in fashion and make up, while also shopping less! Practicing make up looks and putting together outfits are hobbies that can be separated from excessive retail therapy.
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If buying things is becoming your default activity when you have spare time, or if shopping is beginning to fill up a significant amount of your thoughts, this could be a red flag.
If you can relate to this situation, then it’s a good time to begin developing new interests which can begin to take place of your shopping habit. Hobbies that are relatively easy for beginners, accessible and affordable are best!
I have listed 10 hobbies which are all relatively easy and inexpensive to start, and which will help you to break any negative shopping habits:
10 things to do instead of shopping
Any kind of slow, mindful crafting is a really good way to keep your hands and mind busy. We tend to scroll our phones through boredom or habit, and if you are trying to avoid online shopping then time away from your devices is essential.
Taking time every day to focus and practice a new craft can be really therapeutic. Types of crafting you could try include:
- Hand embroidery/cross stitch
- Paper cutting
- Rubber stamping
- Calligraphy/hand lettering
- Punch needling
Also, certain crafts such as knitting and embroidery are portable so can be taken with you during your travels!
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2. Baking and cooking
Learning to cook is such an important life skill.
You could try making one new recipe a week, or challenge yourself to use ingredients in your cupboards to make brand new dishes.
Baking is another skill that is so useful, and can also be a huge money saver too. Start off with a simple cupcake, and as your confidence grows, so will your selection of bakes!
Spending time every day making yourself nutritious food is a great way to look after yourself, and is another mindful hobby that can help to break the compulsive shopping and spending cycle.
Heading out for a long hike is a fantastic way to spend your weekend, instead of hitting the shops. The exercise will encourage endorphins, the fresh air will make you feel great, and getting out in nature is fantastic for mental health.
Breaking the habit of heading out to the shops can be difficult at first, so keeping as far away from the high street as possible is a good idea! If you feel like a little extra motivation would help, use an app to track your steps, or look up some local hiking trails in your area to try.
Lots of us look back at our childhood and realise we used to be avid readers as kids, but we no longer read half as much as we used to. This is probably due to the number of distractions available to us now that makes it so much harder to concentrate.
If you want to get back into reading, you don’t need to spend a lot on books; 99p kindle deals, little free libraries, book swaps, and your local library are all great places to look to pick up some cheap reads.
If you’d like to add a social element, how about setting up a book club with your mates? You can host the meet-ups at home or in a local café. It’s a budget friendly way to catch up, and socialise with minimal spending.
If you are a competitive person, how about starting a reading challenge or tracking your reads on Goodreads?
If you are working on your spending and shopping habits, one of the best things you can do is document your journey. It will keep you motivated, and looking back on your progress helps you to see how far you’ve come.
I really recommend setting up a blog or Instagram account to document your progress; if you are feeling a little shy, you can run your account anonymously! Being part of a like-minded community can be so valuable, and can really help you to make a permanent change.
There is a fantastic money saving community on instagram that you could join to reduce your spending (my instagram can be found here), or you could follow accounts on thrifting if you are looking to purchase more sustainably.
6. Vision boarding
Sometimes we can get stuck in a cycle of buying items to fill a void, or because we feel it will help us to become an ‘ideal’ version of ourselves.
But actually taking time to sit down and think about your hopes and dreams for the future can be really valuable. For example, understanding that what you really want is a house deposit for your own place, might help you to identify why you are mindlessly spending too much on homeware and decor that you don’t really need.
When you have clarity on what it is you really want, it can be easier to focus and cut down on non essential spending. Vision boarding or goal setting can help us to understand what to prioritise if we really do want to achieve our ‘dream life’ (spoiler: often, it’s not more clothes or shoes).
Vision boarding is also a great social activity, and is something different you could arrange with friends.
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7. DIY and upcycling
Getting stuck into a DIY project can be a great distraction, and can be a really mindful activity too. Spending time on making your space feel more homely is going to improve your mood significantly.
Trying your hand at some upcycling instead of buying new is a fab way to learn some new skills. There are hundreds of step by step YouTube tutorials to watch if you are a complete beginner. Upcycling is also a cost effective way to get some completely unique pieces; there are tutorials specifically on how to upcycle old IKEA furniture into amazing, stylish pieces.
You could try sourcing free furniture on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree first, so that you can practice and hone your skills.
Give it a go, you might discover a new passion!
8. Gardening and growing your own produce
If you are lucky enough to have space to try growing your own veg, this is a fantastic, and also extremely useful and practical hobby to take up. Plus we all know that home grown produce tastes the best!
If you are a newbie, then start small and pick something a little easier to grow first.
Once you have mastered growing your own produce, you can learn how to preserve your veggies too. Making sauces, jams and chutneys is a great place to start (plus, they can make thoughtful gifts, too).
For a budget friendly gardening tip, try saving the seeds from your fruit and vegetables when prepping them ready for cooking.
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Extremely late to the party as always, I discovered podcasts over the past few years and I am obsessed! They can be funny, informative, and great company on a walk, while cleaning, and during the daily commute.
Best of all, they are a free resource; there are hundreds of podcasts out there on every topic imaginable, ready for us to enjoy.
Some of my recent favourites are Katherine Ryan’s ‘Telling Everybody Everything’, ‘Off Menu’ and ‘Edge of Reality’. I listened to the ‘My Pod on Paper’ podcast during Love Island when I missed chatting in the office about each night’s episode too!
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If you are thinking of taking up a form of exercise, running could be the one for you; there are little to no start-up costs or equipment required, it’s completely free and you can start anywhere.
Even if you have never been for a run in your life, you can start off small; try power walking with short bursts of jogging for 10 seconds at a time.
There are lots of free resources available for those looking to get into running too. You can look for your local Park Run, download the Couch to 5K app, or maybe look for your local running group on Meetup.
How to know if your shopping hobby has become an addiction
Shopping is a normal part of life, so it can be hard to spot when your habit has escalated into an issue. Signs you are shopping excessively may be:
- lots of unwanted items still in packaging or with tags – this will happen occasionally, but this could be a sign that there is an issue
- Lots of returning items that are unwanted – again, happens but are you just buying for the sake of it?
- Feeling the need to buy something just in case, or to find a reason (will x want this?) feeling the need to justify a purchase
- Feeling emotionally tied to shopping – feeling the urge to shop when you are down, sad or bored
- Trying to conceal your shopping habits from others and playing it down
What to do if your shopping hobby has become excessive
If you feel your shopping habit is becoming a problem, there is support available for you to access. Here are a few resources that may help:
- The NHS website has information for those in need of support for addiction
- If you would like to speak to someone anonymously about any type of addiction, you can call the Samaritans
- If you are struggling with debt, the charity Step Change can provide advice and support
- The Mind website discusses the link between mental health, money, and compulsive spending
It may also be a time to try a Low Buy Year or other spending challenge, which can help you break the spending cycle.
Final Thoughts: Is Shopping a Hobby? 10 Things to do Instead
Do you classify shopping is a hobby? Or do you agree it’s more of a means to an end activity, or errand? I would love to know your thoughts, as I expect some will disagree!
I hope this list of hobbies helps anyone looking to reduce their shopping habit! If you feel shopping is consuming you and becoming more of an issue, please do reach out for help.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments…