DEAR HARRIETTE: I am always shopping. Whether it is for myself or someone else, I find myself gathering items in a store that I see fit to have but may not necessarily need at that point in time. I never go to an event or friend’s home empty-handed, and when it comes to birthdays, I believe that it is always polite to give a gift -- even if small -- if I am celebrating with someone. Every time I pay off my credit card, the next week I find the balance is right back where it was the week before. I’ve come to find that I just buy too often! How do I put a cap on what I buy and stop giving out gifts all the time? Any suggestions? -- Shopaholic
DEAR SHOPAHOLIC: Compulsive shopping is considered to be an addiction, much like excessive drinking, gambling or smoking. It is real and hard to control. This doesn’t mean you should give in to it. Just know that your behavior seems to be out of your control, and you should get help to learn how to alter your behavior. Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, there is an organization that may be able to help you; shopaholicsanonymous.org exists for people just like you. In a community of peers, you can talk about your compulsions and discover healthier options for how to spend your time.
Some people make exhaustive lists of what they need to do and how they intend to spend their money. By following their lists, they set themselves up for the possibility of success. Only what is on the list is allowed for them to do, including what they do with their money. This could include a cap on what you spend on gifts. Consider making gifts yourself as well -- including home-cooked food and handmade cards. Get creative.