Why You Feel Guilty After Making a Purchase - Abbie James

Why You Feel Guilty After Making a Purchase

Why You Feel Guilty After Making a Purchase

Have you ever walked into a store, bought something you thought you really needed, got home and you have that feeling in the pit of your stomach? Some call it guilt, others call it buyers remorse. Whatever name you grace it with, it stems from one thing. The purchase you were so excited about is now a regrettable offence. No one likes regret.

I was an overconsumer

I was there once. You could easily have called me an overconsumer, a hyper consumer even. I loved buying new things. I loved how it made me feel, like I had shit going on, I was busy, organised, I deserved these things dammit. My shopping was peaking around the time I was pregnant with my first child. I swear this baby girl was going to have more 000’s than I had clothes in my wardrobe.

Then something changed, I noticed that people around me didn’t spend as much as I did. They didn’t have as many new purchases. I started to feel embarrassed about my mass consumerism. Not for ethical reasons or environmental reasons (I wasn't as conscious back then), but becuase I knew what I was doing was excess, it wasn’t the status quo.

So I decided to change. I told myself I needed to stop spending, and I did. For a while. Then I would splurge again. Then I would stop. Then I would splurge again. See the pattern? I was using all of my will power, so why was I still spending?

Compulsive Buying Disorder

Compulsive buying disorder or CBD is excessive behavior of buying goods, ignoring the repercussions or consequences. 80% of people with CBD are women and it is thought to affect up to 16% of people in the U.S.

The way CBD works is that it gives the shopper a sense of control. The dopamine we get from shopping is a lot stronger in the anticipation phase of shopping. By the time we have found the item and purchased it we don't have those strong levels of dopamine anymore and this is when the feelings of guilt pop in.

The thing is, someone with CBD then tries to control the situation by looking for another dopamine hit to counteract the guilty feeling. And the cycle starts again. 

Looking back now, I believe I had some form of CBD and I would have benefited from getting some professional help.

The Value Gap

When I discovered the value gap, things just made sense. It is the gap between what our values are and what our actions are. In my case it was the gap between what I wanted to spend and what I was actually spending. Back then, I hadn’t even thought about what my values were, I just knew I was spending too much because it was probably bugging my husband and my friends were giving me funny looks.

For you it may be different. You may value sustainability but you are shopping fast fashion, or you may be saving for a house but you are sabotaging it with expensive cocktails every weekend. That gap between what you want to be doing and what you are actually doing is that feeling of guilt, you know you could be doing better.

Overconsuming is not the problem, it's the symptom

I am a sustainable clothing designer and an advocate for the anti-fast fashion movement. I do not overconsume in the slightest now. How have I come from where I was then to where I am now, closing that gap on my spending habits? I promise you it wasn’t willpower, well maybe I had to use a little willpower! It was actually something much more powerful. I acknowledged that the spending was not the problem. The spending was a symptom of something much more serious. The reason why I was spending was the problem. You see I was filling a void, these purchases were making me feel the feels that a meaningful life should have been giving me. And I wasn’t going to change in the long-term if I did not address this first.

According to personal development coach, Brendon Burchard, once our basic needs are met, such as shelter food and safety, we all search for aliveness, meaning and connection. My spending was giving me a false sense of these elements. I wasnt’ going to change unless I focused on creating a life that was full of meaning, made be feel alive and energized and gave be deep connections. I needed to do the work, on myself.

Closing the gap

If we all lived an intentional life all our problems would be over, we would have world peace and there would be no poverty. That’s a nice picture and a slight exaggeration, but if we did all practice this, the world would look a lot different. Being intentional means we make sure our actions align with our values. The gap becomes smaller and we feel good about what we do.

Intentionality comes in 3 steps:

  • Know your values. If you were anything like me and hadn’t really thought about what you value in life, now is the time to sit down with pen and paper and journal what is important to you, what defines you, what type of person do you want to be, what type of world do you want to live in?
  • Question things. So many of us are going through our day doing the status quo without really making our own choices. By taking back your power and questioning if you are making choices that align with the person you want to be, you will make your choices with intention. The wear it once movement has gained so much traction, question things like that. Question conforming to what society says we should do, wear or shop. You are your own person with your own thoughts.  I’m not saying you need to become a cynic, I’m just saying you may be making choices that do not align with the person you want to be.
  • Be accountable. No one is putting a gun to your head to make you buy that rediculously cheap dress from Zara. That’s all your doing baby. And when you feel the guilt back at home, know you are in the drivers seat and you don’t have to feel that feeling anymore. Because you are in complete control of what you purchase and what you don’t purchase. When we are 100% accountable for our life we stop blaming others, we stop finding excuses and we take the drivers seat and take responsibility for the value-led purchases as well as the value-lacking purchases.


After some time, this all becomes natural and you will need to use less willpower. This is because you have done the work on yourself and you are not only consuming with your eyes wide open, but you have more clarity about life and a better understanding of who you are as a person.

I am going to add a caveat here though. Nobody is perfect and it is not something that we ever want to strive for. I am definitely not perfect and at times make a purchase that leaves me bewildered as to why I made it. The busiess of working on ourselves takes time, and it is an ongoing process, it’s will never be a, “Yay I am an enlightened shopper, I can now stop looking inwards.” situation. You need to support yourself for the long haul, because you deserve it and the planet deserves it too.

If you feel you have CBD or simply want to talk about your experiences or need some help to curb your spending, please reach out. I did this alone and it took a long time to get back on track, You can DM me on Instagram @abbiejames.official or email at info@abbie-james.com Not trying to sell you anything, just know it's better when we talk (or email) about it. x