Thirty-three-year-old security guard Louisa* is $33,000 in debt because of a shopping addiction. She tells CLEO how she became a shop-a-holic.
"It started when I bought a present for my younger sister's 30th birthday. Thirty is a milestone so I went to Tiffany & Co. and bought her a necklace. It was a bit more than I could afford but I wanted something special.
I felt great as the assistants showed me one thing after another and then carefully wrapped the gift. As I walked through the city afterwards, I noticed people taking a sidelong look at the Tiffany bag. I felt like I was someone.
A couple of weeks later, I went shopping at some high-end stores and got the same feeling. I loved the rush of finding something beautiful and the sales assistants falling all over themselves to help me.
I'm usually the one saying 'Thank you, sir' or 'Thank you, madam' and biting my tongue at people's rudeness when I ask to check their bags at the supermarket.
At home, I shoved all the bags in drawers and cupboards or left them in the car boot. Whenever my boyfriend would stay over or my parents visited, the bags were always out of sight. They knew I couldn't afford everything and I knew they would ask me questions.
When I maxed out one credit card, I applied for another straight away. Then I got a personal loan. I just managed to scrape together the minimum repayments by living on instant coffee and a packet of cigarettes a day.
But when my hours were cut back at work six months ago, I was in trouble. All of a sudden, paying my rent, keeping my car on the road and making the minimum monthly payments on my credit card stretched me too far.
I missed a couple of payments and got calls from the bank. I earned $17 an hour. I had to repay at least $700 a month. I couldn't manage.
My parents were shocked but I had to tell them because I needed their help. They're old fashioned European migrants who only got a credit card in their fifties and who still prefer to pay cash.
But they're helping me. I've moved back home to save on rent and I'm selling my car to help pay the loan. I've just got another security job with more hours, too. I hate the work but I can't be fussy.
Once I've dug myself out of this mess, I might go back to school. I've always wanted to work in a childcare centre or kindergarten. So I'm going to clear the debt and find a job that makes me happy, rather than trying to escape from life with shopping bags and designer labels."
As told to Sarah Marinos.
*Names have been changed.