I had a dirty secret, even my husband didn’t know. I did it on the quiet. It was spiralling out of control. I knew I had to stop, but I couldn’t. I was a full-blown shopaholic.
I’d buy pretty much what I wanted, when I wanted it. The upside was that it was fun and having a constant stream of new stuff was lovely. But there was a very dark downside. I was always in debt – living from paycheck to paycheck, juggling bank loans, household and credit card bills, and never checking my bank account because it was just too scary.
I longed to be debt free with money in the bank, but for many years the pull of a purchase won out. Eventually I decided enough was enough. Overspending was taking a toll on my relationships and the stress was affecting my health.It’s taken time to break old spending habits and put new ones in place, but finally I’ve reinvented my financial persona. I’m now debt free, with savings in the bank and budgets that I stick to. I still splash out, but stay within the spending limits I set myself.
How did I do it? Here’s my guide for recovering spendaholics.
Without question, the tough love of my husband was a huge factor. With his support and encouragement, I cut up my credit cards, just keeping my debit card. I terminated my subscriptions to glossy mags to help stop feeding my habit. I unsubscribed from all those tempting online store newsletters. Each month we would go through my monthly bank statements and I would explain each purchase. This accountability was both hideous and crucial. I hated feeling like a child, but I had become so clever at hiding my habit that this full disclosure was necessary.
Know that you are more than the stuff you buy
I had got really tired of being that woman. I wanted to be recognised as someone more than just a person who shopped. I wanted to be a great mother. I wanted to have a strong and honest marriage. The penny finally dropped. In order for this to happen – the shopping had to stop.
Ask yourself, ‘How else could I have spent all that money?
I forced myself to think about all the other more productive ways I could have spent these thousands of pounds. Towards paying off the mortgage, for my kids’ future, family holidays. It was galling.
Cut the credit
Get rid of your credit cards and use cash. It’s much harder to part with. Be patient with yourself. New habits take time to acquire. It’s been a slow process for me. For years I simply had one debit card so I could only spend the money I had and not more. It’s just this year that I feel confident enough to have a single credit card for emergencies.
Write it down
If you’ve never kept a spending diary start now. I write down everything I spend. Being aware of where my money goes saves me money, NO question. Not only can I see where the cash leaks away, there’s something about having to write it down that makes me think twice about spending.
Is it necessary?
Look at your spending diary and ask ‘what can I cut out’? Read newspapers online. Cancel magazine subscriptions (they just fuel more buying). Forgo the daily latte. Take a packed lunch. Have only one car. Stop smoking. Stop drinking – or drink less. Eliminate the unnecessary. It doesn’t have to be forever, just until you get back on financial track.
Stay away from the shops
Highly effective and super simple. Now whenever I need to reign in my spending I avoid shops like the plague. That way there’s no temptation. I make a weekly meal plan and do the supermarket shop online so I buy only what we need. I avoid glossy magazines and read books instead. I NEVER use shopping as entertainment, my time is too precious.
I look back now and wonder, ‘who was that spendaholic woman’? There’s integrity in contributing towards running the home and family. There’s a joy in being able to pay for the family holiday. And there’s a freedom to living honestly that brings a bigger buzz than any new dress could give.
Are you a recovering shopaholic? What are your tips for staying in the black? Where does your money slip away from you? Post a comment, we’d love to hear from you.
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Photo: Orin Zebest