I knew things were spiraling out of control when I had to create a spreadsheet to keep track of all the packages arriving at my doorstep.

I’d fallen prey to a few online sales over the holidays. I’ve usually been able to keep my mindless consumerism in check, so I wasn’t worried by each new urge to hit “buy” — I just did it. And then, a few weeks later, I found myself tallying up hundreds of dollars in purchases and fighting off a mounting sense of shame. The kicker? Most of those purchases are still sitting unused in my closet.

At its most extreme, an online shopping habit can take the form of compulsive buying disorder, or CBD — a behavioral addiction, like gambling or overeating, that affects an estimated 5.8 percent of Americans, according to a 2007 study. People with CBD (also known as oniomania, an obsessive or uncontrollable urge to buy things) report having a preoccupation with shopping, pre-purchase tension or anxiety, and a sense of relief following the purchase. But even for those who haven’t reached the level of pathology, the lure of online shopping can be hard to resist, especially because it’s so easy: Set your credit card info to auto-populate, and you don’t even have to get up from the couch.

“There will always be another sale and another cool product around the corner.”

It’s an expensive habit, but not an unbreakable one. Below, financial therapists and money experts offer their advice on how to reel in your online spending and regain control of your finances.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.


Reacquaint yourself with what you already have.

Chances are you have a closet of clothes you’ve barely worn, and probably lots of items that look like each other. Take the time to clear out your wardrobe and look around your home for items you don’t need. Also, return anything that still has the tags.

— Andrea Woroch, personal-finance writer and speaker

In my effort to be more minimalist, I have adopted a “one in, one out” rule. This helps you become more aware of what you have and what you need, and when you’re just accumulating stuff. Think about this before buying something new and be prepared to donate or gift the item you’re replacing.

— Nicolle Osequeda, licensed psychotherapist and member of the Financial Therapy Association

Set up physical and virtual hurdles.

Cancel all your retail email subscriptions. Just like it doesn’t make sense to go to a store if you’re trying to spend less, it doesn’t make sense to subject yourself to the temptation of email offers.

If you do succumb to temptation and end up on a retail site with something in your cart, force yourself to wait at least 30 minutes (a day or two is even better) before purchasing. From my experience, shoppers will often forget what they were about to buy if they wait. Retailers use FOMO, the fear of missing out, to encourage impulsive buying, usually in the form of a sale or notice that the item is about to sell out. Don’t fall prey to this technique — there will always be another sale and another cool product around the corner.

— Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind

Delete all shopping apps on your phone. Remove your saved passwords and credit cards, so you have to actually get up and get your credit card if you want to buy something. Clear your cookies and cache regularly to avoid the retargeting advertisements that follow you around the web, trying to get you to buy something you looked at.

You can block your internet access to specific sites, and make sure you also block ads in the retail category on social media. In fact, social media sites, like Instagram and Facebook, are geared towards enticing FOMO purchases. If you can avoid those sites, or limit your time on them, do so. At the very least, unfollow those influencers who are trying to get you to buy something (pretty much all of them).

— Michelle Madhok, founder of deals site SheFinds.com

Delay gratification.

One of my favorite tactics is the three-day shopping cart reflection strategy. Every time you add an item to your online shopping cart, you must leave it there for three days before making the purchase. If you really still want the item after the 72 hours, then buy it — but you’ll find that using this strategy will distinguish real needs from impulse buys.

— Grant Sabatier, author of Financial Freedom and founder of the Millennial Money blog

Come up with alternate activities that you can engage in to keep yourself from shopping. It may also be useful to put limits on the amount of time you spend online — set the timer, and when it beeps, your time is up. And establish a reward system: “If I can successfully not shop for 21 days in a row, on the 22nd day, I can purchase a designated item.”

— Anne Brennan Malec, psychotherapist and member of the Financial Therapy Association

Reframe the purchase.

I try to think of items in units of time. If I’m about to purchase something for $20 online and I earn $20 per hour after taxes, that item is worth approximately one hour of my time. This helps me reframe the purchase and ask myself, “Is this really worth x hours of my time?” If you’re a compulsive online shopper, try using this same tactic to alter your purchasing mindset.

— Grant Sabatier

Perform an emotional check-in.

It’s important to identify the root of what’s causing you to shop and what your triggers may be. Just trying to modify the behavior without identifying why it’s there isn’t likely to result in long-term change.

— Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial and Broke Millennial Takes On Investing

Ask yourself and answer, preferably in writing, these six questions when you are thinking of making an online purchase that you have any doubt about: Why am I here? How do I feel? Do I need this? What if I wait? How will I pay? Where will I put it? This is designed to help the person take that all-important pause and not be swept away by the impulse.

April Lane Benson, psychologist, founder of Stopping Overshopping, author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop

Dig deep and examine when the urge to online shop comes up for you. Those are the times you need to find a replacement behavior for shopping to soothe, celebrate, grieve, be bored, etc. Make a list of coping skills or other things you can do when that urge hits so you’re prepared. And be kind to yourself — shifting a behavior takes time, but you can get there.

— Nicolle Osequeda