Guest blogger: Janet Tuite, member of Money and Mental Health’s Research Community and participant in the Shopper Stopper trial

The Shopper Stopper and me

I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I and all those around me have lived with my illness and unpredictable bouts of intense anger, insecurities and impulsiveness for the last 50 years and more. Throughout this time I have been receiving sick pay, weekly pay, a salary and DLA at various times. I have sold flats, received small inheritances, had loans, lent out thousands of pounds, but somehow I am always skint.

My Money and Mental Health

I am always skint because, like many of us who have mental health problems I don’t sleep very well. I cannot just lie in bed ruminating and mithering myself silly, so I shop. In today’s world of the internet, debit and credit cards, ‘one-click’ shopping and stores sending emails out to me early in the morning when I am most vulnerable, I spend. Sometimes just a few quid, sometimes a lot more. This would be a marvellous way to while away the early hours if I had the money to spend, which I haven’t. Now I have plenty of debt, but no money.

I saw that Money and Mental Health were asking for people with mental health problems to help them with their research into, as the name of the charity suggests, the relationship between money and mental health. I joined and was asked to be one of those who tried out their experimental Shopper Stopper tool.

Gaining control

What it entailed was deciding which sites I shopped most on in the early hours and blocking them for that certain period of the day when my impulse spending was at its worse. I did this and when I tried to buy something I found I couldn’t, the tool reminded me exactly why this was not a good idea and, as instructed by myself, I was blocked from buying. I must admit that for the first few nights I was very tempted to uninstall it and unblock them because instead of feeling that hit of pleasure at that second of buying, I got a feeling of despair at not buying. Not the same at all. Nevertheless I stuck with it.

It was only perhaps a week later that I realised that, on reflection, the items I would have bought without the Shopper Stopper, were items I really didn’t need, nor would they have made me any happier. I didn’t get up in the morning any more regretting the purchase of yet another gadget or ‘life enhancing’ object, and feeling guilty at spending money I didn’t have. I felt in control of something at last. These feelings of joy at not spending and not giving in to my ‘weaknesses’ felt a heap better than the extremely fleeting hit of power I felt at buying.

A look to the future

Even before the trial came to an end, I was no longer using the Shopper Stopper as I didn’t have to. The realisations and insight I gained from using this tool have enabled me to feel confident enough to act responsibly; asking myself before I click on ‘complete checkout’ whether I need that purchase and whether I can afford it. If the answer is NO then I empty my shopping basket and exit the site. It is, and always has been, very rare for me ever to feel good about myself but every time I turn my nose up at spending, I really do experience my version of self-like, instead of self-hate.

The Shopper Stopper tool has enhanced my life immensely. I still have periods, some longer than others, of lack of dosh and, indeed, the odd silly buy – but they are the exception now and not the rule.