What You will Find on This Site

Blog Posts about Recovery from Compulsive Spending and Debting

(Scroll down for most recent posts) This website contains HUNDREDS of articles to help you work a program of recovery around compulsive spending and debting. Topics range from setting up a spending plan to working the steps to dealing with relationships in recovery … and much more! Pick a category from the Sidebar, type a topic in the “Search the Site” box, or just scroll down to read the most recent posts. The articles on this website were written by Susan B., a recovering compulsive spender and debtor. You can read about her recovery journey here.


“I Can’t Stop Spending!” Podcast

You can also hear Susan B.’s weekly podcast about recovery from compulsive spending, shopping, and debting, called “I Can’t Stop Spending!”

The podcast is located at www.ICantStopSpending.com.


Recovery Books

The Getting Out from Going Under Daily Reader for Compulsive Debtors and Spenders

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The Five Year Recovery Journal


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Resisting that Irresistible Urge to Spend

Click here to listen on our podcast site, “I Cant Stop Spending!”

Image by George Hodan

Image by George Hodan

Recently, I came across an article about a woman in the U.K. who had to keep a backlog of rent money because there were issues with the property owners being unable to set up a bank account for rent. The article said:

The problem [with the rent money] was only alerted to Ms Bracher upon [her] contacting the company in May, and it has been unable to tell her when the situation is likely to be resolved.

Ms. Bracher has a history of mental health and compulsive spending problems, and she is concerned she will be unable to resist using the accumulating rent for other purposes.

She said: “I have told Network Housing that I am in danger of spending the money and that it is causing a great deal of anxiety having the money in my account, but they do not seem to care.

As a result, I am not sleeping properly and it is having a massive effect on my day-to-day life and health.

They have put me in a vulnerable position as they cannot tell me when the problem will be resolved and I cannot cope much longer.”

Wow! I can sure relate to that. I clearly remember those days when having a pile of money accumulating in my checking account was gasoline poured on the fire of my compulsion to spend.

But I must say that I am awed by Ms. Bracher’s honesty and integrity around this matter. She reached out to them. And she had clear self-awareness of her problem. That buildup of pressure when we accumulate money is all too familiar to me.

I’ve shared many times that money burns a hole in my pocket, even around sober spending. That’s why having a clear spending plan with every penny allocated to a category is vital for me. When I see a pile of money in my bank account, my addict brain goes, “Whooppeee! Party Time!” But now that I’ve developed the habit of rigorously living by my categories, that compulsive feeling comes on me far less frequently, and only with discretionary categories, like clothing, books, and art supplies.

So while I do empathize with Ms. Bracher’s dilemma, and gratefully remember those days myself, the miracle of recovery is that since April 25th, 2009, I have been able to accumulate in categories defined for a specific purpose to be paid at a later date. For instance, I divide all my annual bills by 12, or quarterly bills by three, and each month, that portion of my income goes into that specific category to be used only for that purpose. Even in my gifts category, where I spend $20 on each of my many great nieces and nephews, I allocate $1.67/month toward each child so I have enough for their gift each year when the time comes to buy it.

Because of recovery, unlike Ms. Bracher, I would be able to accumulate and keep the rent money for as long as necessary because I wouldn’t see it as money I can spend for any other purpose. I am profoundly grateful that recovery has blessed me with a set of blinders when it comes to such spending.

As I said many times, where I do still suffer is in those nagging discretionary categories. It’s nearly impossible for me to accumulate for bigger ticket items, just for the reason Ms. Bracher shared. I am still, despite years of recovery, too tempted by what’s in front of me today. Too often, I will opt for the thing I can afford rather than holding out to “save up” for what I really want.

By the way, “save” is a word I despise (nearly as much as the word “budget”) because it still triggers feelings of deprivation and desperation in me. Like a Pavlov’s dog who was trained to react in a specific way to a stimulus, when I think about saving, I immediately want to spend.

But I love the tool of delayed gratification. Because of my positive experience using this tool, I now more easily turn to it even when in the grips of compulsion because I’ve practiced doing so over and over.

What really helps me is my practice of committing my spending in the morning to another member of my support group every day. I view that commitment as removing all decision-making for new discretionary items that might cross my path in the course of the day.

So, for instance, if I suddenly come across a book I really want mid-afternoon, I am now able to tell myself that if I still want it tomorrow, as long as there’s money in that category, I can buy it then after I commit it. Most often, when tomorrow comes, I no longer want it because my disease has released its death grip on me. That is the miracle of delayed gratification.

Now, that’s how it goes when it’s a fleeing fancy. But in the case of some new item showing up that causes me to experience that “I’m going to die if I don’t buy it now” feeling, I don’t just wait until the next morning. Oh no! I become willing to wait it out until the fire dies down, because I know that it is not sober for me to engage in spending that feels so desperately driven. That may mean waiting weeks, or even months, sometimes. Inevitably, when I wait, once I’m released from desire’s grip, I end up realizing that what I thought I needed so desperately in that addictive state wasn’t in my best and highest good after all and I no longer want it.

Today, I know that feeling of “I will die if I don’t have it right now,” especially when connected with either, “this will make me successful (or rich),” or its sister, “this is the cure for my chronic illness” are never messages coming from the voice of my Higher Power. I know that because I am absolutely certain that my Higher Power’s will for me is to live within my means and will never, ever put something discretionary in my path (as opposed to an actual life or death matter) that is in my best and highest good that I cannot afford.

Maybe I could accumulate the funds over time for that item, class, or service. But if I’m not willing to do that, and instead insist that the only solution is to bankrupt myself or debt, I can be all the more certain that this thought, this feeling is the work of the devil of my addict mind. And when I remember that, I can surrender to the discomfort of waiting it out, so that the sunlight of truth shines on the darkness of my desire.

Why I Ignore Valentine’s Day and Why You Should Too!

I’m writing about Valentine’s Day in the hopes that I can convince those of you who fall under its twisted spell to see clearly through the deceptive veil that masks “the day of love.” As you may surmise, I’m not a fan. 

Now, bear in mind that this article is somewhat tongue in cheek, but only somewhat. I truly have disdain for this “Hallmark” holiday, which is, in fact, a trifecta of indulgence, a promotional conspiracy between the greeting card, jewelry, and floral industries to drive consumers into guilt spree spending. (By the way, this “holiday” has quite a violent past … but more about that in a moment).

If you don’t believe Valentine’s Day is a blatant manipulation by the industries mentioned above (along with anyone else who thinks they can find a way to get you to open your wallet in the name of love), here are some sickening Valentine’s Day spending statistics from an article called, “38 Surprising Valentine’s Day Statistics Marketers Will Love.”

Before I continue, I can hear you saying, “well, what about Mother’s Day?” To that, I say, wait until you have raised a teenager who is hormonally ungrateful and petulant 364 days a year, and you will understand why being guilt-driven on Mother’s Day, no matter how old you are, is a kindness and penance for those demonic years.

But I digress.

Bloody Beginnings

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Feeling Your Feelings

Background image by Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Background image by Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Let Me Start with “Jane’s” Story

I want to tell you a story about a fictional person we’ll call Jane.

Jane goes to a job interview that she really wants. She’s already nervous about making a good impression. Unfortunately, she senses the interview goes poorly because it was quite short. When she leaves, she begins to ruminate on why it didn’t go well. She replays it over and over thinking about what she might have said or done differently. She starts beating herself up, telling herself she’s just a screw up and thinking about all the ways she failed. Now, her anxiety over this is ratcheting up.

As her vague discomfort becomes more pronounced, she is feeling more and more aware of the pressure building. But she keeps trying to shove it down or ignore it. Jane goes about her day, but on this subliminal level, she’s continuing to feed herself these negative messages.

When she comes home, as soon as she walks in the door, her husband greets her by asking her to give him a hand with something or other.

BOOM!

Seemingly out of nowhere, Jane starts screaming at him that he’s always wanting her to do something, that he doesn’t appreciate her, that she’s had a long day and why can’t he let her be! Now, she’s furious, adding to the pot she’s been stirring her misplaced anger at her husband .

She storms off into the bedroom, slamming the door.

Jane is also a compulsive spender.

When she’s finally alone, when she has nowhere else to turn, she feels desperate to make herself feel better, to purge this alien tormenting creature that has grown to monstrous proportions inside of her, now finally overcoming all her coping mechanisms. She can no longer ignore the simmering emotions that have burst into flames.
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Why I Didn’t Pay for My Son’s College Education

Even though I really, really wanted to.

Photo credit: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Photo credit: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Just wrote this article that was published yesterday in The Billfold.

I was preparing to send my son, whom I’ll call “Ben,” to college in the spring of 2009. It was my intention to pay his way so that he wouldn’t have to work and could focus on his studies. In fact, this was my solemn promise to him (and to myself) since he was a child. It was the best gift I could possibly give him… or so I thought.

Miraculously, I had managed to put all the tuition money away in a state-sponsored college fund. I say miraculously, because my propensity was to spend far beyond my means. So I felt pretty darned proud of myself, having made good on my promise despite my proclivities.

But when we actually began the process of selecting the school, I discovered that in-state tuition was just a fraction of the total college costs. I would have to cough up another $7,200 a year to cover housing, food, books, and other expenses!

That’s when I hit bottom.

Click here to read the whole article at The Billfold.

Losing Your Balance

Click here to listen on our podcast site, “I Cant Stop Spending!”

crackThe one thing I know from decades in 12-step recovery is that I can’t do this alone. “This” means anything I can’t otherwise stop doing compulsively or stop using as a mood-altering drug, from spending, eating, drinking, sexing, Interneting, raging, underearning, co-dependent-ing, adult child-ing, “you name it.”

And when I say alone, I’m talking about my need for help from other humans, not so much the relationship with a Higher Power (or HP), which is fundamental to recovery, but for me, a big part of attaining that spiritual relationship includes my turning to others for help as well as extending my own hand in support. The fact is, my HP most often speaks to me through other people. Continue reading

Getting Off the Seesaw

Click here to listen on our podcast site, “I Cant Stop Spending!”

get-off-the-seesaw1I really enjoy articles from the website “Becoming Minimalist.” In fact, I sometimes repost them to our Facebook page.

In fact, just yesterday, I reposted an article from them called “The Story of Enough: Giving Up (new) Clothes for One Year.”

Without reading more than a paragraph, I clicked the Share button to spread the word.

The thought of how exciting it would be to go one year without buying new items in one or more of my own discretionary categories whipped up my adrenaline to nearly a frenzy.

But the fact is, it’s the idea of it, the past tense of having accomplished it, that excites me … being at the end of that year and having accomplished the goal. The actual pain of having to endure day after day after day without succumbing to temptation or desire … now THAT is a horrifying thought. Having gone through a three-month moratorium on all discretionary spending, I can tell you that for me, anyway, on many days, it was a nightmare of pain and longing, a battle royale with my addiction.

There is a Better Way

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Being a Militant Realist

Click here to listen on our podcast site, “I Cant Stop Spending!”

militantrealistI know that many of you are not in a 12 Step program around your spending. And that’s totally fine. I believe my message can be helpful to anyone who wants to recover from this debilitating addiction. Of course, I also hope it will resonate enough that you will at least give a program like Debtors Anonymous (DA for short) or Underearners Anonymous a chance to change your life.

I brought this up because I’m going to write about living in reality and making some hard decisions around money, and in doing so, I’ll be mentioning a tool of DA. But the point I’m making is relevant to anyone who wants to recover from compulsive spending regardless of their approach.

What is a Pressure Relief Meeting?

In DA, we have a tool called a pressure relief meeting, or PRM (also called “PRG” or pressure relief group). These meetings generally last an hour to an hour and a half and are comprised of two members in recovery helping a third member.

For beginners, the first order of business is creating a spending plan. Now, bear in mind that the two members aren’t financial planners or experts. They’re just sharing their experience, strength, and hope with the third person to help them along the path of recovery. Once the spending plan is created, the meeting may be about refining the spending plan, shifting priorities, allocating a windfall, or paying for an unexpected expense. And sometimes, it’s purpose may be to find a way to fund a vision.

It’s an amazing (and often healing) process both for the person receiving and the two people giving the help. Even after seven years of recovery, I still have a PRM every couple of months.

So, at a recent DA meeting, we were reading from the DA Spending Plan pamphlet (click here to download the DA literature form to order this and other literature). The first page talked about the process of creating a spending plan at a PRM. And then we read this:
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