Online shopping imperils financial sanity

Waco, Texas | Updated: Jan 3 2005, 05:30am hrs
I have discovered something very unhealthy for my financial situation online shopping.

The addiction started around the middle of 2003. First I was buying books and music. Then cosmetics. And then, red level for my financial situation, I found shoes. And I found newport-news.com.

Newport News is a clothing line that sells mostly through the Internet and catalogs. After ordering two pairs of boots through Amazon.com from Newport News, I was the unwitting recipient of a stack of catalogs.

And then I started to look through them. I was addicted. The clothes were cute, the shoes to die for.

I began to shop. And I shopped some more.

And I found other online sources for clothes, including Spiegel.com.

Late last year, I began to realize that I was out of control. I cut up some of my cards, fully intending to stop spending. But you can still use a cut-up card on the Internet.

Then Christmas 2004 rolled around, and I had yet another reason to shop, going so far as to purchase a PlayStation 2 console via eBay. Because of high demand, the consoles had disappeared from stores, so you can imagine how expensive a new one might be, especially if you had to get it through the online marketplace.

You would think that I would know when to quit. But I didnt not even when I got the red flag that I had gone over my limit on a credit card.

How did I sink so low I used to be diligent about saving money, amassing thousands of dollars in savings accounts Ive since had to close. And I used to refrain from charging more than I could pay off in a months time.

Any of this sound familiar

The Christmas binge isnt just about the food. A lot of people, myself included, will soon see some very unpleasant credit card bills.

Leslie Mann, a certified consumer credit counselor, told me and reporter John Allen that he has seen people who wont open their credit card bills, frightened of what they might find.

But you cant pin your hopes of getting out of debt on a miracle. Only a handful of people will ever win the lottery or find a buried treasure

So, first things first, roll up your sleeves and start cutting up those cards you have to stop using them, Mann said.

Seems simple, right But Mann noted that its a hard thing to do, especially if you use a credit card for basics, like groceries, because you dont have the money to cover these everyday purchases. In that case, its a symptom of a bigger problem a person has more money going out than coming in.

I think I already know the answer. But it would be so much easier to cut back if I didnt have easy access to the Internet seven days a week. I find it easy to say no to temptation if I just dont go out shopping. The Internet, though, is a horse of a different colour.

CATHERINE ATKINSON / NY TIMES