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This is a guest post from Andrea at So Over Debt, a single mom blogging about her journey to overcome years of overspending and a ton of financial mistakes.
I’ll never forget the first time someone called me a spendaholic. I was in college and in the process of redecorating my son’s room. Every Wednesday when I had a break between classes, I would drag a few classmates to Target or the mall to look for more accessories. On one trip, my friends started giggling as I rearranged my shopping bags to make room for both of them in the car.
“You’re insane!” one of them told me. “You’re a total spendaholic.”
Of course I argued with her. “I am not! I just want Jayden to have a cute room!” It never occurred to me that what I was doing – spending hundreds of dollars on a 4 year-old’s bedroom as a full-time student whose husband made $19,000 a year – was foolish or abnormal. In fact, it was many years later before I recognized my behaviors for what they were: a serious addiction to spending money.
Signs You’re a Spendaholic
Obviously if you spend so much money that other people make comments about it, you might have a spending problem. But what about the more subtle signs, the ones that aren’t as easy for someone else to point out? I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing my past behaviors for potential warning signs (mostly so I can prevent myself from relapsing, but also in an attempt to help others). Here are just a few of them.
1. You make complicated arrangements to allow yourself to spend money. I used to go to crazy lengths to make it “okay” to shop. All right, rent isn’t due until the 10th, and I’ll be getting money from my parents for my birthday. As long as we only spend $23 on groceries before payday and I don’t put any more gas in my car this week, I can buy this purse. When you’re having internal conversations like those just so you can buy something, that’s a sure sign that (1) you don’t need it and (2) you probably can’t afford it.
2. You lie about purchases (or hide them). When I was still married, I loved it when my husband worked second shift. It allowed me to bring in a ton of shopping bags while he was at work, remove all the tags and slip the items into a closet, and stash the bags, receipts, etc. in the trunk of my car. One time I bought new bathroom hardware and replaced every bit of it myself before he came home. The worst part? I convinced him that it was the same hardware that had always been there. When you can’t be honest with your loved ones about the things you purchase, you’re definitely veering into spendaholic territory.
3. You don’t know how much you spend on non-necessities in a month. For the longest time, I had no clue what I spent on dining out, clothing, home decor, and random junk. Mainly because I didn’t want to know, but also because I used credit cards for most of my purchases. I only looked at my balances to find out how much I could spend the next time I went shopping. These days, I have a budget for that kind of spending, and when it’s gone, I can’t buy anything else until the next month. I also stopped using credit cards for any kind of shopping because, as we all know, credit cards are a spendaholic’s best friends.
4. People comment about how generous you are. I was always a huge tipper at restaurants and gave the best gifts for wedding and baby showers. If my friends invited me over for dinner, I would offer to bring dessert (then scramble to buy something I could pass off as homemade, but that’s a whole other post). If someone asked to borrow $5, I’d give them ten and tell them not to worry about it. While giving to others is a good thing, taking it to the extreme (especially when you can’t afford to do so) is definitely a sign of a spending problem.
5. You’re overly concerned about tiny details. In my former life, if I didn’t have the perfect shoes or earrings to go with an outfit, I wouldn’t wear it. One day I walked into my living room and notice how much space surrounded the mirror on the wall, so I went out and bought a bigger mirror to “fix the problem.” I even bought a whole new set of dishes once because I dropped a salad plate and chipped it. Were any of those things that important? Of course not! But my subconscious made them urgent just so I could spend money and get that 30-second high from buying something new. Obsessing over small things that no one else would notice is probably the most serious indicator of spendaholism.
So How About You?
I’ve been a recovering spendaholic for almost two years, and I still keep a constant watch over my actions, thoughts, and feelings when it comes to spending money. Do you see any of the behaviors I listed in your own spending habits, or in those of someone you know? What other signs tell you that someone overspends?