At what point does a fun shopping habit become a debt-causing addiction?
Escape Your Debts for the Weekend?
My talking about “escape” may sound strange to you. I’m the one who’s always asking you to look closer at things, and to deal with them, right?
Well, bear with me… because I think this will make sense in a minute.
Does this sound familiar to you?
You feel the urge to buy something, but your credit card debt flashes before your eyes. From out of nowhere, an inner voice says:
“Yes, I have a lot of credit card debt, but who doesn’t, these days?”
Then another part of you says:
“I’ll never get out of debt, anyway, so I might as well keep buying what I want.”
Your inner worrier jumps in:
“Uh, we’re really getting close to BIG trouble, here. I’m feeling really scared…”
The rescuer tries to save the day:
“Don’t worry. I’ll figure out a way to pay this month’s bills, and then we’ll be okay.”
A minute passes, and then a very quiet part of you wonders:
“What’s wrong with me? Why am I the only one struggling with this?”
A rebel voice says:
“Who cares? I’m not giving it up. I deserve nice things just like everyone else!”
In fact, the thought of giving it up really does scare you. You think:
“I am what I wear, I am what I buy. If I can’t get these things, who will I be?”
Another voice answers:
“Yeah, and besides, buying things makes me happy. I deserve to be happy.”
You glow in that thought for a minute, but then the heaviness of your situation nags at you again. It starts the whole conversation over…and on it goes, for the thousandth time…
Doesn’t that exhaust you?
If that doesn’t make you want to ESCAPE, I don’t know what would!
So… let me get to the point.
Have you ever had times when you felt really lost and confused, maybe even angry,and for some reason, you made the choice to just get away from it all?
Maybe you went for a walk. Or a bike ride. Or to a movie?
Often, GETTING AWAY allows us the time and space to see things differently…
Getting away gives us new perspective. It allows us to come back refreshed – and able to take an entirely different approach. We can see simple solutions that eluded us before.
This is why I decided to offer a weekend workshop at Omega Institute in New York.
I think it’s really hard to shift our thinking and perspective while sitting smack dab in the middle of our lives. If you’ve been wondering what the heck is wrong with you – why you can’t just get control of your spending – it could well be because you’re trying to make a big change without the benefit of getting away from your situation. Next to impossible for many of us!
Face it: Escaping that chatter in your head is really hard. Not just for you, but for any of us who are dealing with it. It’s maddening, and exhausting.
And who can make changes in their lives when they’re already exhausted? Not many of us.
The TRUTH (which is hard for you to see right now) is this:
·You are not defective and you are certainly not alone. Others struggle with uncontrolled spending, too. They feel the same debt pressure that you do, and they also hate it.
·Your situation is far from hopeless! I know this. I’ve helped many people get out of the same situation. It can be done.
·Continuing on the way you are is only going to make things worse: You already know that, at some point — maybe very soon — it IS all going to come crashing down around you. I can’t help you escape that unless you do something different.
·You, absolutely, deserve to be happy.
·This change of scenery – this escape to a blissful oasis – can really help you understand what is going on for you and why. It can certainly help you shift your thinking and get you on the road to positive changes.
·This is NOT a weekend where you’ll be preached to nor admonished for your behavior. This is a weekend where you’ll feel the compassion of understanding, and where you’ll learn to develop the self-compassion to take really effective steps to change your life.
·Reserve your spot now!
What to Expect From the Weekend
Dr. April Benson, an expert in overshopping and a recovered overshopper herself, will help you explore what’s behind your overshopping, what needs you’re trying to meet, and how you can tackle this issue in a way that makes all the difference.
No matter where you are with your shopping habit or your debt, you will:
·See, firsthand, that you’re not alone.
·Learn a variety of easy, step-by-step strategies that can make a BIG difference.
·Identify your personal goals and values: there’s more to life than shopping and debt.
·Know how and where to get more support, as you need it, in your continued journey.
·Develop the confidence you need to face this demon in your life, and win!
Debt and the Compulsive Spender
How a Credit Counselor Can Help Beat Retail Therapy
At what point does a fun shopping habit become a debt-causing addiction? Are you a compulsive shopper? A credit counselor would recommend that you ask yourself the following questions:
Do you shop as a means of relieving stress or escaping everyday problems?
When you are shopping, do you experience feelings of euphoria and excitement?
Do you feel guilty or remorseful afterwards?
Do you ever hide your purchases from relatives and loved ones?
Do you buy more than one of the same item, and keep items in your closet with the tags still attached?
Is your shopping habit causing emotional stress, financial debt or ruined credit in your life?
If you answered "yes" to more than one of these questions, you may be a compulsive spender. The first step in changing a compulsive spending behavior is admitting or recognizing that it exists. First identify the root cause of this behavior, and then resolve to address it. It might become necessary to seek the services of a professional credit counselor, who can help identify the source of the issue and provide options to help improve your situation. If you are having trouble repaying your debt, a credit counselor will help you assess whether or not a voluntary debt management program is appropriate.
Often, the source of compulsive spending patterns has its roots in early childhood. A parent or role model may exhibit the characteristics of a compulsive spender listed above. These behavior patterns can carry over into adulthood as a way to compensate for feelings of insecurity. Various social and cultural factors reinforce the addictive potential of shopping and spending, and the impending debt that can follow. Credit counselors note that the availability of credit cards and the general focus on material possession and aesthetics in our society both contribute. So why do it? Some people shop to improve their mood. They get a "high" or a "rush" from buying things, and they often buy items in bulk. They view spending as a thrill or a challenge. Others spend as a way to compensate for a lack of emotional support. Low self-esteem and depression are somehow temporarily erased during a shopping trip, only to return soon afterwards.
Numerous problems can occur from a compulsive shopping behavior. This behavior not only affects the compulsive shopper themselves, but can also affect important personal relationships. For example, if a family member or friend begins to complain about their spending habits, the compulsive shopper will often start to hide their purchases. Eventually, feelings of stress and resentment build towards concerned loved ones. If confronted, they often deny that a problem exists. One of the greatest consequences of a compulsive shopping behavior is the toll it can take on their financial situation. Credit card debt is often a central part of the issue. While credit cards themselves do not cause compulsive shopping, they make it easy for undisciplined spenders to get into trouble. Many have low credit ratings due to the inability to pay their bills. Financial debt can result in legal, social, and relationship issues as well. Others resort to borrowing money, and some decide to take on a second job to help pay multiple credit card balances and mounting debt.
What To Do About It
Start by recognizing that spending is a deliberate act, and consider the stress that debt causes you and your loved ones when you demonstrate this behavior.
Imagine your life without the challenges caused by this compulsive behavior and use this positive image to motivate a change in your lifestyle.
There are many alternatives to spending money that can bring enjoyment to one's life. Activities such as exercising, listening to music or simply enjoying nature can be relaxing and pleasing.
Find out what other things make you happy and pursue them in your life.
For professional guidance and support, you may decide to seek out the services of a credit counselor to help you get back on track financially.
Steps to Get Spending Under Control*
Below are some other suggestions that will help you take control of your debt situation.
Track your daily spending. Save all your receipts and check them with your monthly bank statement.
Always shop with a prepared list.
Take only enough money for items on your list, and leave your credit cards at home.
Avoid shopping alone or with persons who encourage you to buy things when you're shopping with them.
When facing a buying decision involving two or more choices, discipline yourself to buy only one, no matter how much you like all the options.
If you purchase something you do not like or that is unsuitable, take it back immediately.
Always show your family your purchases. Avoid hiding any items you buy (except gifts).
To help you avoid impulsive buying, set a shopping schedule and do not deviate from it.
Join a support group in your community or online.
Begin a bill reduction program. Set a goal of paying off all your debts by a certain date.
What Is Spending Addiction—And How Do I Know If I Have It? “You did then what you knew how to do. When you knew better, you did better.”—Maya Angelou
The dictionary defines addiction as a means "to devote or surrender oneself to something habitually or obsessively; behavior that impairs the performance of a vital function(s), a harmful development." Addiction causes you to lose your sense of balance and rationality. Beneath all addictions is a longing for immediate gratification--to feel good, powerful, worthy of admiration, and problem-free--and an insistence on ignoring the long-range, self-destructive implications of the behavior.
If you suffer from spending addiction, one out-of-control shopping spree is never enough. Neighborhood malls and Internet shopping sites possess a mesmerizing magnetic appeal for you. You give the priciest, most lavish gifts. Your purchases reflect how knowledgeable you are about all the trendiest brands and designer labels. When you dine out with friends or business associates, you’re invariably the one who insists on picking up the tab—whether you can afford to, or not.
In spite of negative consequences that inevitably catch up with you--such as guilt, debt, or feeling ashamed and secretive about your compulsion to buy things--you find yourself on yet another shopping binge, charging or writing checks for things you don’t really need and may never even use. You may lie about how much you've spent (to yourself and to those close to you), conceal price tags and receipts, and do financial gymnastics in an attempt to juggle your finances and keep up with monthly payment demands. Spending addiction is an attempt to try to “buy” happiness—to feel admired, to feel accepted, to feel empowered, to push away troubling feelings, like self-doubt or self-disappointment—and can risk ruining everything you hold dear.
How Can You Become Addicted To A Behavior?
There are chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters that carry communication from your brain to throughout your body. When you’re anxious, nervous, or feeling worried (like when self-critical thoughts start creeping in), you get a flood of panic-inducing epinephrine that can feel like pure jet fuel. When something happens that makes you feel especially good (like when you buy something!), you get a rush of incredibly satisfying neurotransmitters called serotonins that feels GREAT.
Spending addiction causes “I’ve got to buy something NOW” behavior. Each "cha-ching!" of the cash register or credit card "Approved!" message makes you feel so good, you get enough of a chemical rush to drown in. One purchase is never enough. You want to feel that exhilarating "high" again, and again, and again--and keep those nagging, distressing feelings at arm's length. And so you go out and buy something.
You’ve become intoxicated by your own behavior. The only thing that feels important is to be able to continue spending--because shopping for and acquiring new things makes you feel so good about yourself, about your life, about everything! Just like the definition for addiction says, you have surrendered yourself to a behavior that’s habitual, obsessive, and impairs your vital functioning.
What’s Behind Spending Addiction?
Spending addiction is a symptom—or flashing red light warning sign--that there are deep-rooted feelings you’re trying to avoid facing. Indulging yourself in shopping helps numb those troubling feelings—for a while. Every time you try to stop the pattern of compulsive spending, you find you have to deal with the distressing feelings “cold turkey,” and the panic and fear that pops up is almost indescribable. Even though you may have promised yourself you were going to really curb your spending, in an attempt to feel better fast, you go on yet another shopping binge.
What feelings could be so distressingly terrible that they're capable of sending you on a spending path of self destruction? Maybe you’re afraid that you’re not as attractive or successful as you’d like to be. Perhaps your fear stems from believing that the real you isn’t lovable. Or maybe you’re afraid that the façade—the “outer” you--you’ve worked so hard to build and have maintained so painstakingly will crack, and that others will then see what, in your mind, is behind that front: that you’re a fraud, a pretender, a failure.
When you have spending addiction, what you’re actually attempting to "buy" is to be liked and admired by others and to not feel consumed by self-doubt and self-disappointment. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how successful you are, or what prestige you hold in your community, it’s the inside of you that feels empty and insignificant. When you’re out there spending money, that gaping emotional Grand Canyon inside of you feels nearly filled and--if only for a little while--you feel on top of the world.
How Do You Know If You’re Suffering From Spending Addiction?
Heavy-duty denial is a major component of addictive behavior. In order to determine whether or not you’re suffering from spending addiction, you’re going to have to do a scathingly honest “audit” of your spending habits: how much and how often you spend; what damage your spending causes to your bank account, your work, your family, and your very personal life; and, most importantly, what feelings of fear and/or insecurity your spending habits attempt to cover up.
Recognizing you may have an addiction is the first big step towards recovery. If you suspect that spending is a likely source of problems for you, you might consider talking with a therapist. Together you can look at what motivates you to buy things and how your spending habits affect the core quality of your life, which is to say, how it shapes the way you relate to those close to you, how you imagine you are regarded by others, and how you really feel about yourself.
Addictive behavior is treatable. If you truly want to put a stop to how your spending habits are taking over your life, therapy can provide insight that will help you un-learn counter-productive behavior, and guide the way to developing new coping skills that will allow you to claim the "priceless" gift of genuine happiness and self-contentment.
What Is Spending Addiction?
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