As a spendaholic in remission, I have to be very careful not to return to my old ways. More specifically, I have to plan for those times (rare these days) when I just really want to buy something. Because no matter how well I behave with my finances, there are still moments when the debit card beckons.
I take a lot of steps to ensure that I don’t go crazy and spend every dime I’ve got. I keep my wallet in my car most of the time, for example, since I’m usually too lazy to go all the way to the garage to get it. I don’t let online retailers save my debit or credit card information. I wait 30 days before making any purchase over $100 (unless it’s preplanned or a true emergency) and I use a decision tree for many smaller purchases. Despite all that, though, there are times – such as when I’m hungry, angry, lonely, or tired – that I have to actively distract myself.
Over the weekend I think I hit every possible emotional extreme. I’ve been running behind on work for most of the month, and I was determined to organize some of the backlog in preparation for this week. When I work like that, I forget to do normal human things like eat and sleep. A friend also canceled some plans that have been in place for awhile, which made me frustrated and probably a little overdramatic.
In other words, I was a ticking time bomb for spending money I didn’t need to spend.
For years, my reaction to any negative feeling was to cheer myself up with something new. (Which is completely unhealthy and a sign of out-of-control finances.) I’ve told all kinds of stories about the stupid things I’ve bought and the damage I’ve done to my credit rating. And I swear, I think it’s a miracle that I’m not telling another one of those stories right now.
Here’s what helped me get through the weekend without spending:
Thinking about the expenses I have coming up. August is always a horrible month for me. My son turns 14 and starts high school in the same week, which means birthday gifts, school supplies, and school clothes. I’m also going to Denver in September for FINCON12. And, on a sillier note, the new operating system update for Mac should be released this week, so I placated myself with the idea of getting to spend $20 on that.
Reminding myself of the new things I’ve already gotten this month. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what I have when I desperately want to buy something else. Just a few weeks ago, I got a new iPad case (free) to review. I also had my landscaping redone. I bought a few books for Kindle and several apps. Remembering those things took away my brain’s excuse, “But we deserve something new!”
Staying busy. I have no business surfing the internet for things to buy when my house is a wreck and I have so much work to do. I won’t lie – it’s not like I busted my butt cleaning all weekend. But I did organize some stuff that’s been on my nerves, and I got several things accomplished for work that needed to be done ASAP.
Allowing a small, controlled purchase. Saturday night I decided to do something I haven’t done in ages – I took Jayden out to eat. I knew exactly how much it would cost, and I could justify a meal out a lot easier than than that same amount spent on junk. Plus he shocked me by saying he had a lot of fun! By spending a small amount of money on an experience, I distracted myself from the urge to buy things I didn’t need.
What I Learned This Weekend
Just like a drug addict or alcoholic in recovery, a spendaholic like me will always have moments of weakness. But that doesn’t mean I have to give in. Some days and weeks are just going to suck more than others, and it’s essential that I keep searching for ways to get through those times without overspending.
What do you do to stop yourself when you feel the urge to spend unnecessarily? What stress relief methods work best for you?
This post was sponsored by ppiclaims.uk.com.