All of us have made impulsive purchases, but can we honestly gauge when our spending has gotten out of control? Are you one of the many Americans who feel helpless to resolve their problem of growing debt?
Here are a few warning signs that spending has become compulsive: Overspending becomes chronic, and income never lasts to the end of the month. Shopping is frequently accompanied by an intense emotion, such as anger, depression, anxiety or loneliness; acquiring something new soothes the soul! Purchases are often in multiples. (If one is a good buy, eight is a steal!) Some or all credit cards are maxed out and minimum payments are made to squeeze by. Do you fixate on the checkbook—checking it several times a day? Or…do you completely ignore the checkbook, never wanting to know the bottom line? Borrowing money from friends and post-dating checks can be other signs of unrestrained spending.
Hiding is another symptom that things are out of hand. Some people usurp the mail so that no one else can see the bills. Lying about purchases may be routine. Payday loans and secretly-acquired credit cards are no longer considered unthinkable. More and more time is dedicated to spending and covering it up. Relationships and friendships can deteriorate, because there just isn’t any energy left to invest in people. Friends may just get fed up with loans never being paid back.
Do you feel guilty or ashamed after shopping? A number of people repeatedly buy and return merchandise because they end up feeling bad about themselves. What is your relationship to credit cards? For many, cutting up a credit card is like the death of a friend!
How do you fight back if spending has gotten
- Begin a spending journal, writing down everything you spend. Observe your patterns.
- Balance your checkbook and be aware of how much money you actually have.
- Cut up all credit cards and switch to a “cash only/debit card only” policy. Buy only what you can pay for at the moment.
- Consult a non-profit consumer credit counseling organization to get professional help in sorting through your debt and establishing a spending plan.
- Attend a 12-step program such as Debtors Anonymous and get a sponsor.
- Consider consulting with a trusted individual (counselor, pastor, etc.) who can assist you in exploring any underlying emotional issues that might be driving the compulsion. An addictions counselor may be appropriate in some cases.
- Develop other activities or hobbies that will take your mind away from spending.
Admitting the problem and making small concrete changes are the first steps in the recovery process. This transformation will also require letting other people come along side of you; vulnerability and accountability are keys to long-term success. Eventually money can take a minor role behind the more important aspects of self discovery, enhanced self esteem and rising confidence. There is hope for a different outcome! Discovering the true self behind the spending will be an amazing and life-long journey! TPW