“You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways!
Haggi Chapter 1: 6-7
I don’t write about compulsive buying very often. It is not a problem that has plagued me or the people I know. At least no one I know is willing to admit they have such a problem. In 7 Money Habits That Can Make of Break You, Todd Tesidder puts forth the proposition that problems with debt are often habits deeply rooted in emotional difficulties. It is difficult for me to accept this notion when applied to financial issues even though I know it applies to my problems with diet and weight. Once again, I am reminded of the importance of mercy in our dealings with ourselves and with others.
Tesidder offers a simple test to determine if you’re an emotional spender:
•Do you use shopping to relieve stress or escape boredom?
•Do you use shopping as a pick-me-up or entertainment?
•Do you celebrate by shopping for a treat?
•Do you ever shop as a form of “retail therapy?”
•Do you use shopping for social connection?
•Do you have clothes in the closet with the tags still attached?
•Do you have more than one of the same item?
•Is your credit card bill so large that you can’t afford to pay it off at the end of the month?
•Do you ever feel an endorphin rush when making a purchase?
•Do you experience anxiety, guilt, or remorse after shopping?
•Do you ever hide purchases from friends or loved ones?
He suggests that if you answer yes to two or more of these questions you have an emotional problem with shopping that is really a kind of addiction. By the way, if applied to diet, I answer four of these questions with a yes. Gambling, shopping, and sex all produce an endorphin rush that can become psychologically addictive. Any time we are addicted to a behavior we are not fully in control of our lives. Depending on the severity of the problem we may only need to consciously postpone the unwanted behavior until it is appropriate or we might need to be in counseling and/or a support group.
There are also powerful cultural drivers encouraging irresponsible spending and debt slavery. Advertisers, as well as well as the spirit of the age, tells us we deserve it all just because we are alive. The notion of entitlement is a powerful drug. “Everybody else is doing it,” is an excuse that begins in childhood. If my neighbor has the latest smart phone or an expensive SUV then I must deserve to have one too, even if I can’t afford it. No, you are entitled to buy what you can reasonably afford. This year it might be a 10 year old Honda Accord that costs $3,000. Fifteen years from now when you can pay cash, go ahead and reward yourself with that BMW. A desire for instance gratification based on the notion that I am entitled to whatever I want is a recipe for disaster. Don’t list to the siren song of the credit card companies and their allies.
Your self worth is not defined by your possessions. If I owned a Porsche 911 Turbo or a Ferrari Berlinetta I would still just be me. Wherever you go, there you are. Although I certainly recommend appropriate dress, especially in the workplace, ultimately clothes do not make the woman. What is on the inside makes the woman.
Escaping debt is no different than dealing with any other problem. First of all you must admit you have a problem. Complacency or its near kin, despair, will not help. Then make a plan. In this case the plan is called a monthly budget. Right now, in this present moment start to take action. Procrastination and good intentions don’t help.
In my case that means walking a 2.5 mile loop around my little town even if the weather is crummy and I am not in the mood.