Compulsive spending involves feeling compelled to spend money on items you don’t really want or need. In some cases, you might spend money on items you already have plenty of. For example, even though you love getting new shoes, if you already have 20 pairs of them, it’s probably safe to say you don’t need another.
Signs You May Be Spending Compulsively
Do any of these signs feel familiar?
1. You spend all your money as soon as you get it. On payday, you might pay some bills. Then, any money you have left over, you happily go out to spend. Maybe there’s a big clearance on home improvement tools or the dress boutique is having a going out of business sale. Whatever the case, you deplete the monies you obtain.
2. You use charge cards to buy items when you have no money. A financially dangerous habit, using charge cards to keep buying once the cash is gone can devastate your money and living situations.
3. You shop when you feel moody, anxious, or upset in some way. Your feelings largely depend on whether you’re shopping, since shopping comforts you during any stress.
4. You feel your spending is out of control. No matter what you do, you just can’t stop.
5. Your shopping causes difficulties in your life. You perhaps have arguments with your spouse about all the money you spend. Sometimes, you aren’t honest about what you spent. One of the worst things you can do yourself is to be in denial of your spending.
How to Stop Compulsive Spending
If you experience even one of these points above, there’s a real possibility you’re dealing with compulsive spending.
Use these strategies to quell your urges to spend:
1. Make a contract with yourself to stop spending.
Write it out and sign it. Find the confidence to change your direction. Motivational speakers have long argued there is a power in writing down your goals and strategies. Writing it down can help you hold yourself accountable.
2. Align your spending with your personal values:
Ask yourself these questions: What do you really want from life? What kind of lifestyle do you seek? What are your life goals? Does your spending reflect those things?
Financial planner, Mary Deshong-Kinkelaar of the SpeakofMoney.com suggests that reflecting on those questions will help you put your spending habit in perspective, and would even help you stick to a healthy personal financial plan.
Deshong-Kinkelaar suggests that you start by making a list of your priorities – those things that are important to you in life. Then you make a second list of where you have been spending most of your money. And compare the two lists.
You may be surprised to find out that even though you listed certain priorities like providing a good education for your children or having a comfortable home, you’re spending $100 plus a week on shopping out instead of starting an education fund.
Empower yourself by becoming more conscious about how spending affects your life. List the ways your life would change if you had no debt and used money wisely.
3. Deal with the Underlining Problem:
Work hard to gain an understanding of your drive to spend compulsively. How long has it been going on? How did you get started spending compulsively? Are there specific situations that trigger you to shop now? How do you feel when spending money?
Recognize spending money doesn’t buy you happiness. Be honest with yourself: has surrounding yourself with stuff you bought with your hard-earned money provided you the life you truly seek?
According to GoodTherapy.com, compulsive spending is frequently associated with such conditions such as hoarding, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
If your spending habit is masking some underlining emotional problem, you’d want to isolate that problem and deal with it. Ignoring an emotional problem will not make it go away.
And remember, you cannot shop your way out of your emotional problems.
4. Ask for Help:
I know you are superhuman and you loathe asking for help, but trust me, seeking help is the wise thing to do whenever you believe your spending is out of control. If you don’t know where to start, make contact with the Debtors Anonymous group in your area.
Here’s how Debtors Anonymous describe what they do: “In DA you can find a new way of living that offers recovery from compulsive debting and hope for a healthier, happier, more prosperous life.” Going to Debtors Anonymous won’t cost a dime and can provide support for you to get your life back on track.
You may seek professional financial counseling, and couples may even seek relationship counseling if the spending habit of one of you is putting your relationship in peril.
If you’ve identified yourself as one who spends compulsively, you’ve taken a first step in the right direction. You then need to have the courage to take the next suggested steps to tackle the problem and set you on a positive path to real emotional and financial freedom.