When thinking about the physical part of my recovery from compulsive debting and spending — tracking my spending — I cannot think of two words that bring me more peace.
In recovery, I do not look at my bank account and just pull from the pile of money that is in there. Instead, I live by categories in my spending plan. To do so, I allocate, or distribute, every penny across my spending plan into categories on a monthly basis. Not one penny is left unallocated, dangling in front of my addict mind. Because I live on a pretty small fixed disability income, spreading my money across categories gives me a reality check and ensures I take care of my needs before my wants. Gratefully, with the help of my PRG team, I’m able to include a few wants in there as well.
Doing so relieves me from having to figure out in my head how much money I need for any given expenditure and how it will impact upcoming bills, and, most importantly, from being tempted to just buy what I want recklessly because I see the forest and not the trees.
So, for instance, one might distribute money into $75 for gas, $800 food/house supplies, $352 for debt repayment, $50 clothing, etc. While the amount per category will vary based on your income and your priorities, what is important is that you determine the categories you need and how much goes into each one (A PRG team can be an invaluable help with this highly challenging task).
As I’ve written previously, I use a software program called YNAB to track my spending. It’s a virtual envelope system that makes tracking my numbers very simple and precise. But you can use any method you like as long as you allocate your money into categories instead of just leaving it to your momentary desires, wishful thinking, or memory.
This is really where the magic happens for me. For one thing, as I put money into my categories monthly, I am able to accumulate the funds to pay infrequent bills. So, for instance, my dog’s rabies tag and license is $45/year. Each month, I allocate $3.75 into that category. I feel the pinch far less when I do this than scrambling to find the $45 when the bill comes due!
I take each bill I have and divide it by $12. And then, I allocate from my income into those categories. Like it or not, it’s just the truth that I will need to pay the bill. So I need not bother with resentment that I have less money to spend on other items before the bill comes due. When I behave that way, I am just engaging in a shell game, which is too close to my old debting mentality for comfort.
Another miraculous by-product of accumulating in sobriety is that I have more money for discretionary items. If, for instance, I allocate $50/month for clothing and don’t feel a need to buy clothes for three months, then I have a lot more available when I do.
Or, I can choose to save up for something I want, which was anathema to me in my old binging days. I couldn’t save for anything. Money burned a hole in my pocket. I still have that tendency, I must confess. But now, recovery had given me the gift of increased willingness to delay gratification for items I truly want. I’ve written previously about how I accumulated money for a passport and then took a trip to Europe without debting or compulsively spending!
You Can Do This Too!
If you are suffering and struggling with compulsive debting and spending, using these concepts within the context of your DA program can work for you, too. I’m not unique. I’m a hard core compulsive debtor and spender. Despite that, through the miracle of the DA program, one day at a time I have not incurred any new unsecured debt for over six years and have paid down my existing debt from around $34,000 to under $5,000 … despite becoming disabled in 2010.
With the support of the the program and a network of others who are in recovery, it is more than possible for you to experience the relief of putting your life in order financially, no matter how far down you have gone.
There are plenty of phone meetings if no live meetings are near you.
In fact, it was at the Sunday morning DA HOW Ways and Means phone meeting that we read about accumulating just this past week in the 2nd Quarter of 2014 issue in a story called Recovery through the Lens of the Promises.
The DA Ways and Means newsletter is a great resource for inspiration.
For More Inspiration
For more inspiration, the Getting Out from Going Under Daily Reader for Compulsive Debtors and Spenders provides tips, guidance, and hope to aid you on your journey. Available in print and e-book editions. Read more and view sample pages here.
Check out sample pages from the new Five Year Recovery Journal, a fun way to track your progress in recovery! Available in print and PDF for download.