More and more, the compulsion to spend money is being recognized as an issue that needs to be addressed in some consumers. We often think of addiction as something that occurs only in those who abuse substances like drugs or alcohol. In some cases, we recognize that some behaviors, like gambling, can be compulsive. But we often don’t think about the reality that shopping, and paying for our purchases with debt, can be habit forming.
The reality is that, like many other behaviors, spending money can provide a feeling of reward in the brain. These reward centers can lead us to continue behaviors that prompt them, and this includes shopping. In order to sustain a shopping habit, many consumers go into debt. This debt spending itself can become a vicious cycle that leads to difficulty in meeting obligations, and affecting other areas of your life.
If chronic debt is a problem for you, it might make sense to join a group like Debtors Anonymous.
What is Compulsive Debting?
First of all, it’s important to determine whether or not you need help with your debt problem. Honestly look at your behaviors to determine whether or not you are a compulsive debtor. Here are some of the signs that you might have a debt problem, according to Debtors Anonymous:
- Being unclear about your financial situation. Not knowing account balances, monthly expenses, loan interest rates, fees, fines, or contractual obligations.
- Frequently “borrowing” items such as books, pens, or small amounts of money from friends and others, and failing to return them.
- Poor saving habits. Not planning for taxes, retirement or other not-recurring but predictable items, and then feeling surprised when they come due; a “live for today, don’t worry about tomorrow” attitude.”
- Compulsive shopping: Being unable to pass up a “good deal”; making impulsive purchases; leaving price tags on clothes so they can be returned; not using items you’ve purchased.
- Difficulty in meeting basic financial or personal obligations, and/or an inordinate sense of accomplishment when such obligations are met.
- A different feeling when buying things on credit than when paying cash, a feeling of being in the club, of being accepted, of being grown up.
- Living in chaos and drama around money: Using one credit card to pay another; bouncing checks; always having a financial crisis to contend with.
- A tendency to live on the edge: Living paycheck to paycheck; taking risks with health and car insurance coverage; writing checks hoping money will appear to cover them.
- Unwarranted inhibition and embarrassment in what should be a normal discussion of money.
- Overworking or underearning: Working extra hours to earn money to pay creditors; using time inefficiently; taking jobs below your skill and education level.
- An unwillingness to care for and value yourself: Living in self-imposed deprivation; denying your basic needs in order to pay your creditors.
- A feeling or hope that someone will take care of you if necessary, so that you won’t really get into serious financial trouble, that there will always be someone you can turn to.
One you realize that some of these signs apply to you, it’s important to get help. Debt can strain your relationships, as well as prevent you from building a solid long-term financial foundation that allows you to live with freedom from money worries.
What is Debtors Anonymous?
Debtors Anonymous provides meetings to help compulsive debtors stop incurring debt and to help each other take control of their financial life. They have meetings in many cities as well as online and telephone options.
Many of us are reluctant to share our money troubles with friends and family. Admitting our problems to those closest to us can be difficult. However, when you have a serious debt problem, it’s almost impossible to solve it without a good support system. Joining an organization that allows you to share your story with people who understand what you are going through, and who can help you overcome your own compulsions, can be a great step forward.
In many cases, you likely need to combine this type of emotional support with financial advice and help from a professional. You should be able to get more information and resources for putting your finances back on track from people in your Debtors Anonymous group.