Like any addiction expert will tell you, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. So, admit it: you’re an overspender! Now here’s how you can get it under control:
1. You spend money when you’re emotional. This doesn’t just mean upset or angry (although who hasn’t engaged in a little retail therapy?) but also when you’re happy. No matter your mood, buying new things makes you feel better, and you can always find a way to justify your purchase. Much like people who eat to suppress or celebrate their feelings, those who spend when they’re emotional are at risk for larger issues. Small frivolous purchases are one thing; but once you’re hooked, you need larger and more expensive purchases to maintain that same shopping high.
And guess what? It’s a vicious cycle, because those same feelings that you might be trying to suppress by spending often lead to additional feelings of stress and anxiety. Chances are that when you go on a spending binge, the results are more costly than you expected. With excessive spending comes debt; and with debt, comes phone calls from debtors, lowered credit scores, and in extreme cases, bankruptcy. If your spending habits result in temporary happiness only to be overcome by financial stress, repeat after us: you have a spending problem.
2. You don’t know when to stop. There’s a big difference between going to the store and buying one DVD and buying ten. If you’re the kind of person who can’t walk down a “5-for-1” bin without stocking up, this one’s for you. Compulsive spenders do not know how to set limits or differentiate between necessity and desire. These kinds of spenders buy on impulse instead of reason. Remember: in many cases, if something is offered at a discount for buying in bulk, the price per item is actually the same. So you’re not actually getting more of a deal by purchasing 5 avocados when you only need 1 (and when they’re going to go bad before you even use them). Ask yourself if you really need that item, or if it’s just a want.
Try walking away without buying it, and if in a few days, you still want it, then go back to the store. I can guarantee that most of those “impulse” items will be forgotten before you even leave the store.
3. You can’t live without plastic. The average credit card debt for an American household is more than $15,000. If that doesn’t tell you how prevalent overspending has become in our society we don’t know what will. Ask yourself this serious question: do you think you could live one week paying for all your purchases with cash? If not, then you’re simply kicking that debt into the future—and digging yourself a bigger hole every single day. This is even more the case if you have tried and failed to limit your spending in the past. Again, it’s like dieting: you’re never going to be successful by limiting yourself without limit, and credit cards have no limit.
So try this. Take a little cash out at the beginning of each month. We recommend 5-10% of your monthly paycheck. This is your fun money. We’re not going to tell you how or where to spend it and we’re not going to judge you, but guess what: you get just this amount of cash, and when it runs out, show’s over until next month. It’s much harder to spend cash you don’t have than to keep swiping that credit card.
At the end of the day, you’re never going to get your spending back under control going cold turkey. Many a dieter or smoker can tell you that. Instead, treat yourself to life’s small indulgences and you’ll be less tempted to overspend on luxury items or impulsive purchases. Whether it’s your morning latte or a new tube of lipstick, allow yourself to have the little stuff; but pay for it in cash, and then be done with it.