I once had a friend who, like me, loved to shop. We were both young, stay-at-home moms with delicious new babies. We delighted in dressing our wee ones in fashionable finds.

It took me a few months to realize that my friend's fondness for spending money exceeded my own. My friend always looked like a million bucks and her baby had quite a celebrity wardrobe. However, it never let up. Pretty soon, the accumulation of clothes and stuff started to make me a little ill.

True, the material things we love are beautiful. They're fun to own and look at. They may fill us with a superficial sense of security and self-worth. But in the end, they don't mean very much.

How can we prevent cute jackets, killer shoes, new décor and fancy cars from consuming our lives?

Get some self-control

When your purchase doesn't give you much satisfaction, heed the warning bells. You already own gobs of shoes. Is adding another pair rewarding? Do you really need a second pair of nude-colored heels? Don't purchase mindlessly. Don't buy an item just to get a deal; save the deal for another shopper.

Avoid excessive Internet shopping, which can be addictive. See this article on the pitfalls of online shopping.

Strike a balance

Don't just shop - what a superficial hobby. Find joy in doing things that really matter and make a difference. Bake a pie, walk with a friend, shovel your neighbor's snow, create an album or read a book. When you balance the types of activities you engage in, your self-confidence will improve. You'll be a healthier person. And your occasional shopping days will be all the more enjoyable.

Also, be careful of the example you set for your kids. Don't buy their affection. Don't set an example of greedy consumerism by coming home with shopping bags every other day.

Give your stuff away

Selling your old things is OK if you need the cash. Otherwise, donate them to a needy friend, neighbor, or charity. You'll find satisfaction in helping someone out.

Owning too many things can be burdensome. Lighten your share of stuff.

Don't rely on shopping to kill time

My friend and I lived with our husbands far away from our extended families. Now that I think about it, we were both a little lonely. Our lives consisted of our babies and creating new households for our small families. Sometimes, we were both a little bored.

Shopping gave us a reason to get together and a place to push our strollers. It helped us while away the hours of each day. But it also put the temptation to spend money right in front of our faces. And it was never very fulfilling.

Mark Twain said, "Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment."

Purchasing new things just for the thrill of the buy can leave you feeling empty. Figure out why you're shopping, and find other ways to find fulfillment in your life.

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