Reports & Articles

Compulsive Spending

Do you or someone you know, lack savings for emergencies when emergencies arise? Fall behind on such basics as utilities and rent? Find your charge cards over the limit? If so, you may exhibit some of the signs of a compulsive spender. While many of us occasionally over-spend, compulsive spenders over-spend.

Shopping becomes a way of life, actually much like an addiction that controls the individual. It often leads to self-destructive behavior with adverse emotional, financial and/or social consequences.

An individual is frequently over their credit limit yet still buys items, accumulating so much that purchases are often or rarely used. Or worse, hidden. Yet, that same shopper, realizing that his/her debt far outreaches current income, continues to shop because "it's so much fun."

But having the constant worry of juggling payments, or borrowing from one source to pay another, must be anything but fun. It has led to the loss of credit, loss of home, bankruptcy and embezzling. And though the root causes of compulsive spending are psychological, cultural influences can make it difficult for spenders to confront their problem.

Who is at Risk?

Spending sprees may be triggered by boredom, loneliness, and/or depression. Some individuals over-spend following breakups with spouses or lovers. Consider the following characteristics of compulsive spenders:

  • Shopping brings the pleasure, and then guilt removes the pleasure.
  • Shopping temporarily fulfills emotional needs, such as those from feeling unloved, insecure and isolated.
  • Compulsive shoppers have to shop.
  • Some purchases are never used.
  • Compulsive shopping leads to debt, bankruptcy and/or problems with family members.
  • The addiction to spend causes feelings of anxiety, guilt, and remorse.

Understanding the emotional trigger that creates the addiction is necessary. Budget counseling, debt management programs, and/or professional counseling may be appropriate measures.

Consider the following steps to curb your spending:

  1. Prune your plastic portfolio.
  2. Begin to clean up your current credit card debt.
  3. Begin to find suitable rewards to replace the over-spending "high."
  4. Seek the support of others working through their addictive behavior in group meetings.
  5. Be good to yourself in ways that won't increase your debt or guilt.
  6. Check out books from your local library on the subject of over-spending.

Debt Problem Danger Signs !!!

  1. Charging inexpensive items.
  2. Charging items you might not buy if you were paying cash.
  3. Charging more each month to accounts with outstanding balances.
  4. Charging items you don't need, and then feeling guilty.
  5. Charging items on a delayed payment plan.
  6. Assuming your credit cards entitle you to a particular standard of living, regardless of your actual income.
  7. You dip into your savings account for items and never replenish the supply.
  8. You have no savings account.
  9. You only shop at stores where you can "charge it."
  10. Medical insurance is too expensive to afford.
  11. You are reluctant to open bills from creditors.
  12. You let payments "slide" until the next paycheck.
  13. You're still paying for last Christmas when this Christmas arrives.
  14. Discussions of monthly bills become arguments.
  15. You write checks today on funds that will be deposited tomorrow.
  16. You have no budget.
  17. Many items are purchased on a "lay-away" plan.
  18. You're purchasing the most expensive brand to "keep up" with others your age or in your income bracket.
  19. You postdate checks.
  20. You've applied for more credit cards to enable you to pay off other credit card balances.

If these warnings apply to you, contact the Consumer Credit Counseling Service at cccs@fsainc.org  for help.