In the original Sex and the City series, Samantha indulged in shopping sprees to deal with her sexual frustrations. However, Samantha was a high-powered public relations maven with a healthy salary. Chances are, your finances are not on a par with Samantha’s. As a result, your comfort spending is creating a real dent in your budget. Unless you manage to turn things around, your retirement or even your present living situation could be at risk.
How can you tell if your spending is problematic? If you are of a certain age and grew up in the South, you may be familiar with Minnie Pearl, an old-school country entertainer whose signature hat still had the price tag attached.
If you have clothing, gadgets, or other items that you have never used or even removed from their original packaging, this is an almost guaranteed sign that you are making stupid money decisions and throwing away your cash. If you have six of the same item but don’t remember purchasing any of them, there’s another danger sign associated with mindless shopping. If you lie to others about how much money you spend, or if you attempt to hide your purchases from others, you are almost certainly engaged in out-of-control spending.
If your excess spending is mostly from flashing credit cards in the store, you can try the old trick of literally putting your credit cards on ice. On the other hand, if online spending is your weak spot, unsubscribe from all those email updates alerting you to those fantastic deals that you can never resist. Remove your stored credit card information from all your favorite websites so that you will have to manually enter your information for future purchases. Use cash-only, and sort it into separate envelopes with labels like RENT or GROCERIES in big block letters while you are still in the bank. If you’re worried about what the teller will think, don’t. Chances are that he or she has seen it all and will be totally unfazed.
If support groups appeal to you, find one that focuses on excess spending. You can also recruit a trusted friend or family member as a confidante. The idea is to make yourself accountable to someone else for your spending. This doesn’t mean that you have to get permission to purchase a pack of gum, but it does mean that you will have to explain precisely why you needed yet another Kate Spade handbag when you already have three that you’ve never even used. A few rounds of those kinds of unpleasant encounters should result in a drastic decrease in mindless spending.
If you engage in comfort spending, your purchases almost certainly represent a vain attempt to fill a hole in your existence. Are you frustrated with your weight? A gym membership might be a better investment of your money than that perfect wrap dress that you hoped would hide your excess inches. Do you feel stifled in your career or daily routine? Consider enrolling in classes or joining a group associated with an interest that you have always wished to pursue. Once you address your unmet needs, you may find the urge to spend compulsively is drastically reduced.
If you’re bad at managing personal finances, and your spending is totally out of control and you are facing bankruptcy or some other serious consequence, you may need professional emotional, legal or financial counseling. However, if you have not yet hit rock bottom and you are resolved to make a change, these strategies may help you rein in your spending before it is too late. Whether your work with a professional or attempt to deal with the problem on your own, you will feel considerable discomfort, especially at first, but the potential rewards are worth the effort.