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.

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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

Continue reading

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:
Continue reading

“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. 🙂

More about Annual Themes

2017themesI woke up feeling tremendous anxiety today, the first day of the new year. Last week, I wrote about setting goals for the new year. I had seven goals. Though my suggestion to you was to keep them broad, after thinking more about those I had chosen, they still felt way to directive.

Last night, I followed through with the ritual I described. I lit a candle, prayed the serenity prayer, and wrote down the goals that came to me. Five times I ripped up the paper and started over. Finally, I thought I had it down, wrote a note to my Higher Power on it, and even kissed the paper as a sign of love, folded it, and put it in the box!

So, when I woke up such a wreck, I thought that maybe I hadn’t been true to myself. I thought about someone I know who is in recovery from compulsive spending who picked just one word for 2016. That word was “brave.” And I watched as she took step after step to act courageously in 2016.

[Note: I had a wonderfully detailed section right here about my friend and the amazingly brave things she did in 2016. But it occurred to me that without getting her permission, it wasn’t really appropriate to publicize her life. And I wasn’t able to reach her before needing to get this post out. But trust me, you would be awed and amazed by what happened to her in 2016 because she decided that “brave” would be her mantra!]

So instead of goals for 2017, I started thinking along the lines of themes instead. (I would have loved it if my theme for 2017 was simplicity, which would mean I would just have one word. But that is an aspiration for another year.) So instead, I wrote the following words as my theme for this year:

2017 Courage, Focus, Commitment

Sure, there are lots of things I hope to achieve in the coming year, such as getting a handle on my emotions, especially anger and impatience, gaining more clarity about my life, finding meaningful work, being kinder and more compassionate, oh, and finally, finally finding my one true creative passion and doing it.

Whew! That’s a lot to put into the pot. For the most part, these are results (though, of course, I can work on kindness and compassion as an action).

When 2016 started, my friend could have no idea what she would face during the year. But because she stayed sober with money, and continued working her steps and her program, the theme of bravery worked out in a way she never could have imagined … and better than she had hoped. Every time she faced a tough choice or an obstacle, she remembered her theme for the year, and kept moving forward with the concept of “being brave” foremost in her mind.

So, rather than telling my Higher Power what is in my best and highest good (result), I’m going to focus on these three actions and let my Higher Power mold me, like a piece of clay, to help me actualize Courage, Focus, and Commitment in a way that I’m sure I cannot even imagine today, in a way that most likely will far exceed what I expect. Yep, I’m going to let my Higher Power figure out the best way for me to embrace Courage, Focus, and Commitment.

So take some time, whenever you read this post, to pick your theme or themes for this year. And then, after you put it out there, release it into the hands of your loving Higher Power to help you manifest those themes in the way that is best for your greatest and highest good.

Wishing you a sober, solvent, abstinent, outrageously healthy, peaceful, happy, joyous, creatively fulfilled, and abundant 2017.