THE BLOG
07/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

True Confessions of an Ex-Shopaholic: Top Tips for Tough Times

After years of priding myself on being a brilliant bargain shopper (Neiman's Last Call anyone?), my shopping days are now officially over. Well, not exactly over, but I think I have not set foot in a real department store in years. Not even Neiman's or Saks or heaven forbid, anyplace on Rodeo Drive. This is not purely abstaining from the shopaholic addiction, just a change in priorities. Like my rent, for example, which seems to be more important right now. And doing what I love, like writing rather than having a stressful job. The quality of life is what's the issue, not having more stuff to stuff into my once ample closet space. Things just don't seem to matter. Self-care and wellness are priorities now. De-stressing rather than doing things that are distressing, like buying stuff I don't really need and then having buyer's remorse.

There's no denying it, we're all feeling the credit crunch. Of course, some of us are feeling it more than others, especially former shopaholics (like me) who are desperately trying to reform.

Practically every magazine, tabloid and newspaper under the sun is offering countless belt-tightening tips, both of the literal and figurative kind. Yet if you're still feeling as stuck as a deer in headlights, then start getting your creative juices flowing and pull together your personal "Ex-Shopaholic Survival Kit" listing the life-changing actions which you can do right now.

Here are my personal top tips for tough times, which hopefully will inspire you to start thinking about your own. After all, change is but a checklist away.

Now is the time to focus on self-care. Have fun and don't bother about what is happening in trends, fashion or shopping. Take care of your inside and your outside will shine. Splurge on meditation, buy a used positive visualization CD on Amazon, or trade one with friends. Commit to flossing, even if you don't do it every day. Commit to yourself and your own health, then enroll the rest of the family.

Now is the time to throw out all that is unnecessary. Find out what really gives you joy and to pass it on to others. Now is the time to use what you already have, and get rid of what you don't need. Go through your house and weed through the clutter, give away things that are taking up space. Enjoy a moment of empty space and lightness. In this day and age, empty space is a luxury we can all afford. Lighten up your load and you will feel like a million bucks.

Now is the time to upgrade one habit with another. Maybe you're an ex-shopaholic too. So instead of buying new items, upgrade your threads by taking old costume jewelery or beads and sewing them onto your favorite tunic top or jeans. Have fun and experiment by mixing and matching old outfits.

Now is the time to trade up your addictions. Substitute your daily Starbucks fix with a homemade shake using healthy ingredients. Clean up your act from the inside-out. Enjoy a new sense of freedom and live it up in a different way. Become addicted to working out or take a walk with the family after dinner every evening. Instead of watching TV and playing with electronics, find other (more inspiring) hobbies that don't involve technology or machines. Remember the simpler times and reclaim forgotten skills.

Now is the time to use your creativity in a new way. Shut off all of your electrical gadgets, from the TV and cell phones to e-games and the computer. Start to get to know your family members more intimately. Plan a family night around a fire and tell stories. Maybe you have some hidden talents that you haven't explored. Let each member share a secret. This could be a night of inspiration and encouragement for all. Step outside of the box and be free.

Now is the time to explore simple pleasures and affordable luxuries. Set aside an hour for yourself to be alone in a bubble bath or surprise your mate and do it together. Create your own spa retreat at home, and look on the web for home made spa treatments you can experiment with. Find out how to make rich skin creams from olive oil and avocado, or face and body scrub recipes from a dash of oatmeal. Go into your kitchen and discover different ways of utilizing fresh ingredients.

Now is the time to try out that new recipe. Make cooking a family affair or do it with your BFF's. Arrange a gourmet family/friends night where each member is enlisted to perform a specific culinary task, so that everyone can join in the cooking fun. Make this a night to remember by rediscovering the pleasure of the "we" over the "I".

Now is the time to go green. Instead of looking for all that is bigger, better and newer, find out how to become more eco-conscious. What can you do today to make your home more sustainable and eco-efficient? What do you need to do for the future? Discover that green thumb. Get your hands dirty, feel the earth between your fingertips and forget your manicure for a week. Perhaps you could start growing a small organic vegetable garden or install some ceiling fans to prepare for the summer months? Or perhaps you could invest in some portable heaters for the rooms that are used the most and save on the energy bills in winter?

Now is the time to let the sunshine in. Make sure each day you find a few minutes to spend outside in nature. Steal away to enjoy peaceful moments spent walking in the park or hanging with the family dog. This is truly the time to get closer to nature, and to stop and smell the roses. One of the biggest things lacking in our health is adequate vitamin D. And that can only come from one source, namely the sun. Artificial lighting, sun glasses and sunblock are keeping us from allowing the sun's rays to penetrate into our cells. So spend between five to fifty minutes before 9 am and after 4pm each day outdoors and let the sunshine in!

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