Compulsive Spending

The most recent research shows that both men and women are now equally likely to become compulsive spenders..about 5% of our US population seems to have difficulty in this area. Men and women tend to overspend on different things with men likely to overspend on electronics, autos, tools,etc and women likely to spend on clothing, gifts, make-up and items for their children. One factor that has increased compulsive spending is that there are no longer the kinds of external limits imposed on debt that once were in place. Easy credit has made it possible to get into deeper debt holes than used to be the case. It is now incumbent upon the individual to develop controls that used to be externally placed by credit limit. The question now is how to develop those limits internally that used to be imposed from the outside. All of us are subject to the buying impulse that is so heavily researched by the marketing and merchandising professionals. We have to get wise to our own triggers to spend and begin to avoid those situations whether it is going to the mall, the electronics fair or the hardware store. Reading certain types of magazines can trigger the impulse to buy as can surfing the Internet or seeing a friend with something that we envy. You must get wise to your own particular dynamics of the desire to buy. Try to notice the biochemical “high” that can come with a purchase…..and begin to remember other ways to get the same lift in mood and euphoric feelings. What is it that you would feel if you denied yourself this fine thing? Would you be angry, depressed, alone, deprived or some other internal state that would be difficult for you? Remind yourself in the moment that there are other ways to handle those feelings. The first step is to make your spending conscious in the moment and be curious about it and about yourself. It takes many learnings and struggles to get on top of this problem but is inherently worth struggling to do it.

A new program for compulsive spenders has been developed on an internet website called This site is run by a goup of psychologists and researchers who are developing materials to help compulsive spenders with changes in attitudes and beliefs that will lead to changes in behavior. As of now, I have not heard how the program is working. Therapy can also help with this difficulty…..especially if you are having trouble knowing what your patterns are and need help to identify the dynamics. What you need to acknowledge is the self-destructiveness of compulsive spending and how it will undermine the quality of your life because instead of developing real friendships when you are lonely or isolated, you are buying a substitute for the genuine human need that you have.