Spending Addiction

Who would have thought we would get into this?  Spending addiction is the most subtle and sneaky of all the addictions.  This addiction is not as obvious as as alcohol, drug, overeating or sex addiction.  One could go to an AA meeting and talking about the misuse of alcohol before they would talk about how much money they have spent or saved for retirement.  How is it that spending addiction hurts us?  Well, it causes an underlying stress that we think that is stemming from other issues.  We work really hard to support the habit.  We then feel entitled to spend a little.  It could be at a goodwill store, but mainly we spend or buy for emotional reasons.  Rather than buy an item because we need it,  we buy it because we want to buy it.  It gives us a source of pleasure in buying it.  The high is also subtle, but it is there. We could get a high from buying something we need like groceries, a toothbrush, shirt or car.  This would be a form of healthy spending.  But call it what you will, “shopping therapy” or “shopping spree” when it gets bad, can really causes some problems.

Money addictions can take many forms.  A compulsive debtor might have underearning problems and might not be so much into spending, but keeps getting loans.  Borrowing money can be another high where it brings such relief to the stress we feel with money problems.  Compulsive underearning is like money anorexia.  It is not that they couldn’t make enough money to live, it is just that they can’t make enough money to live.  Just like the anorexia is fearful of getting fat, the money anorexic has a desire to earn more money, but there fear stops them.   The money anorexic is a compulsive underearner and has trouble spending money.  They go without.  They hold onto their money and have trouble letting it go even to pay for things they need like car insurance.

There are money addicts who feel that credit is a good thing and it gives them self esteem to have a Gold Card, or Platinum.  The credit card companies (debt pushers) play upon the “high” in that they tell you, “you have such good credit. . .”  we are going to raise the limit or sell you this product.  Translated:  “you have so much debt with us and we think you are  a good candidate for us getting money out of you, i.e. you have a job.  Another translation is that they look at your mildly poor payment history and realize that you pay the credit card bill, but you do it 4-10 days late so they can raise your credit card interest and ding you with a late fee.

How is it that a credit card company can make any money off of you if you pay it on time.  They may make some little amount through transaction fees, etc, but realistically, the person who has chronic debt problems is the person they want.  This is not a “membership has it’s privileges,” it is about we have a string financial tie to you and we are not going to let go of you.  So, you can see credit cards is like the crack cocaine of spending addiction.  How different is it to spend money you have or that you have save up for a particular item, than spending money you don’t have.  This may sound strong, but it is like the difference between lovemaking in a marriage and sex with a prostitute.  How many of us can say that we spend money we have.

Money addicts can be good people.  More often than not, they are.  They are not “bad check writers,” but they do bounce checks.  They aren’t theives, but they do rob from themselves and their families.  The addiction really robs us of self esteem, security, connection with people, time and our health.

Healthy spending is based on three lifestyle patterns.

1. Tracking. We know how much money is going in and going out.  We know how much savings we have, how much tax we pay, what our needs to live are.  This is called “Tracking.”  We track expenditures while they are happening.  Just like food addiction, we there is a high from not tracking how much we are eating, we can’t spend like there is not tomorrow, no bills to pay.  Only the extremely wealthy can not tracking things because there is plenty of cash flow.  But guess what?  I am taking back what I just said.  The disease of compulsive spending is not dependent about the amount of money one has.  If the rich do not track their expenditures, their problems are just bigger.  Everyone needs to track what they earn and spend.

2.  Emotionally grounded. We are grounded we when spend money.  This means we are not getting any emotional high from the spending experience.  It is just about buying a toothbrush.  Emotional grounding is necessary for any recovery from any addiction.  We deal with emotions by feeling them and processing them.  When we are sad, we feel it rather than go spend.

3. We spend moderately.  Anything that is done immoderately has the potential to create a high and affect the daily processing of feeling.  If one has a hobby, say like, model building or knitting, where it becomes a primary focus, one could avoid relationships, anger, hurt, or stress by going to it as a trusted source of comfort.

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