10 Ways To Break A Compulsive Spending Habit

“Addictive spending is often rooted in punishing feelings of low self-esteem and problems with impulse control,” says an addiction specialist in an MSNBC special report on compulsive spending. At its worst, it can wreak as much or more damage on your finances as any full-blown gambling, drinking, or drug addiction—and yet, a lot of people still consider it a moral failing that sheer will-power can prevent (just take a look at half the comment threads on this blog for evidence of that mindset). If you’re a compulsive spender, odds are you already know if you have a problem, even if you manage to hide it from everyone else. But here are ten ways to help get a grip on the situation.

(Paraphrased by us to save space:)

1. Understand the phenomenon. Read up on compulsive spending, so you know what you’re up against (and that you’re not the first one to fall into this pattern).

2. Know thyself. Get to the root of why you love to shop—especially if there are unhealthy feelings buried somewhere in there.

3. Reflect on how you feel when you shop. Yes, we know how new-agey this sounds—but the whole point of compulsive spending is that you shop for the wrong reasons, for emotional reasons. Track your feelings and look for patterns and triggers.

4. Think about the time involved. Add up the total amount of time you spend on shopping activities and ask yourself whether you’d like to use that time for other more beneficial pursuits.

5. Take control of the situation. No more unsecured debt. Only one emergency credit card that you leave at home. Pay for everything with cash or a debit card.

6. Start writing things down. Not just what you spend, but what you’re feeling when you spend it. Also write down financial goals.

7. Steer clear of unnecessary temptations. Avoid catalogues, warehouse sales, shopping channels, etc.

8. Find healthy alternatives. Try some form of physical activity whenever you feel the urge to shop.

9. Expand your possibilities. Fill up your time with volunteering, family activities, a work-out regimen, etc.

10. Know when to get help. It’s the problem is bigger than you, consider meeting with a professional or contacting Debtor’s Anonymous.

Another thing you can do: take MSNBC’s “Are you an over-spender?” quiz, or the one at Debtors Anonymous.

“When shopping and spending go too far” [MSNBC]

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Debtors Anonymous
Quiz: Are you an over-spender?
(Photo: milesgehm)