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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Gift Giving Guilt

Want to hear the podcast for this post?
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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10 Tips for (Sober) Holiday Gift Giving

One of the hardest aspects of recovery for many recovering compulsive debtors and spenders (especially newcomers) is putting the brakes on extravagant (i.e., expensive) gift giving, especially around the holidays. The idea that more is not only better, but required, is a part of our disease that is fueled by the media and even those around us (think kids who may have gotten used to feeding the “gimme gimme” monster).

We who are so used to being the big spender, especially around holidays, find our whole sense of self tied up with giving the biggest and best gifts. But if we are committed to recovery from compulsive debting and spending, then we get willing to sit through our discomfort as we actively live within our means around gift giving.

So here are 10 Tips to help you maintain your sobriety with money during the holidays: Continue reading

Inciting a Riot

A DA friend recently helped me see how I was creating unnecessary suffering for myself. While she wasn’t speaking about me in our conversation, her words seeped deep down inside me, creating a growing disturbance until I realized that I was doing the very thing she described. (Please bear with me as I walk you through the path to exactly what I mean.)
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Taking the Spending Plan Seriously

For many years in my other 12 step program, I went to meetings, spoke to people, but never took the Big Book seriously. Didn’t really read or study it. It was kind of there, on the side. It wasn’t until I understood that the Big Book contains the instructions, the “meat” of the program, and began to seriously study and follow the directions that my recovery gained traction.

In DA, the Big Book is just as important for the reasons outlined above. But so, too, is my spending plan. In it is the outline for how I spend (and save) my money. I consider my spending plan Divinely inspired as it was developed not just by me, but with the loving guidance of more than one pressure relief group team over the years.
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Lost and Found Category

The Lost and Found category is used when your cash account doesn’t reconcile with how much cash you actually have. I just wanted to put in a pitch for this invaluable, yet little discussed, category. I have yet to meet anyone in DA who has not had an issue with cash either disappearing or increasing mysteriously.
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