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.
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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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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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“Money Diet” vs. Spending Moratorium

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

moratorium1I just came across a December article from New York Magazine called, “Should I Go on a Money Diet This January?” by Charlotte Cowles. It painted a clear portrait of the difference between a budget-minded philosophy and a recovery-centered vision without ever mentioning a 12 Step program.

The thing is, this “diet” philosophy is about extremes. So, people overspend or binge spend in December and then swear off in January to undo the damage. But, to quote the article, “Just like Dry January won’t help if you’re an alcoholic, no money diet will cure compulsive spending habits.”

If you’re like me, once you are in that binge-mode, nothing but running out of credit or hitting some other really severe bottom will make you stop for more than a brief period. Creating a cycle of extremes is really what a compulsive spending addiction is about. Continue reading

Article on Goals for New Year

This article was just so amazing that I had to let you know about it. You know I don’t normally believe in New Year’s resolutions, but so many of these 16 goals for the coming year absolutely spoke to my beliefs around actions we can take to live in recovery from compulsive spending:

http://tinyurl.com/z2von2y #compulsivespending

I’ve never read anything quite like it. 🙂

Gift Giving Guilt

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

conscientious5

The holidays are upon us. Well, almost. And I’m hoping this post will give you the space to pause before lurching into yet another December avalanche of spending you can’t afford because you feel guilty about only spending what you can.

Look, emotionally, I’m pretty much right with you. A big part of my compulsive spending was around gift-giving. Giving extravagant gifts really gets me high. Picking just the right and special and, of course, expensive item was the way I proved I love you or, at least, was the way you’d remember that I am a great gift giver.

And then, there are the office presents, or those that we feel we just “have” to buy even if we feel annoyed and resentful about doing so. Even then, we might sink into feeling competitive or just wanting to ensure we don’t look cheap compared to everyone else.

In recovery, we may still suffer with some of those feelings. But the difference is that we don’t act on them. When we fund our gift-giving categories, hopefully, beginning in January in the case of December holidays, and annually prior to birthdays, etc., we become clear about how much we will spend in total and fund each category with 1/12th of that amount each month. Then, when it’s time to buy the gift, we may still feel like it’s not good enough, but we can also find peace knowing that we are living within our means. Over time, as we practice giving gifts that are reasonable based on our income, the pain of not being the gift-giving big shot subsides.

So, I’m posting this on December 11, 2016. If you’re reading this today, you have two weeks until Christmas. Hanukkah begins on December 24th. I’m not sure when other gift-giving December holidays fall this year. But, if you’re like me, you have waited until now to begin the frenzied shopping that, I promise you, will not change the recipients’ life one bit. So, I urge you, before you enter the fray, which will, I promise you, cause you to not to think clearly around spending your money, please take some time now to make a list of all the gifts you need to buy.

Then, if you don’t have a spending plan, ask your Higher Power to help you be right-minded about how much you can afford. In fact, and this may sound shocking, I know, but ask your Higher Power if there is anyone on your list who really doesn’t need you to buy him or her a gift, someone who would prefer the gift of your time, a hand-written letter, or maybe a home cooked meal instead. Or maybe, a charitable contribution in honor of one or more people on your list would be far more beneficial than more stuff that they eventually feel a need to declutter and get rid of them.

Now, go back through that list and write next to each person either a maximum dollar amount you will spend or the more meaningful alternative you have chosen. Add up the amounts.
Now, this is where the rubber meets the road.

Ask yourself:
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