Dealing with a Shopaholic

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Severe overspending is a problem for around 10% of the population. Like any other addiction, it is usually triggered by an emotional or behavioural issue and followed by feelings of remorse and guilt. The overspender may then make promises and attempts to change but after that the cycle starts all over again. Often the biggest hurdle to changing this behaviour is for the overspender to acknowledge they have a problem. Denial is an easy way to avoid having to confront the issue. The signs of chronic overspending are:

  • Spending over your budget even when you are already in debt or unable to pay your bills
  • Overspending on a regular basis (every week, not just a couple of times a year)
  • Compulsive spending; that is, buying things you don’t really need
  • Spending to make yourself feel better when you are under stress or feeling low
  • Hiding purchases out of shame or to avoid an argument with a family member
  • Physical or emotional reactions to spending such as an increased heart rate, sweating and headaches from anxiety; emotional effects such as elation, followed by guilt or depression
  • Frequent arguments with family members and friends about your spending

 Dealing with an overspender by arguing, criticizing, shaming or blaming will usually just make these people feel worse and spend more. The remedy starts with the overspender acknowledging the problem they have and being willing to change. Usually some form of counselling is needed to deal with the underlying causes of the overspending. Lack of self esteem, depression, stress and jealousy of the life styles of others are often root causes. Chronic overspending can affect men as well as women and affects people at all levels of income. Rather than criticism, overspenders need ongoing support and encouragement to change.

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