Many of us have felt the stinging consequences of compulsive spending. For some of us it’s a one time experience. We learned and we were able to control our spending the next time a temptation came our way. For others compulsive spending is a way of coping with stress, disappointment or other negative emotions. For others it’s an addiction. For the past several years I have talked to many military spouses who struggle with compulsive shopping – especially when deployment is involved.
I haven’t faced an addiction to compulsive shopping, but I was surprised to find myself caving in to spending temptations more when my husband was away. I wasn’t in need of anything in particular, but it seemed that shopping was an easy way to break up the monotony of the day. Sometimes shopping was a way for me to mindlessly wander through a store and get my mind off of my husband and how much I missed him. Other times shopping was just an excuse to pamper the kids a little since I knew they were going through stress too. Whatever the underlying reason, spending only made my stress worse not better. I have heard this from many military families.
Usually when a behavior is classified as ‘compulsive’ it means the behavior is often the result of an internal ‘urge.’ This urge is a very overwhelming temptation and the person has a very hard time (or for some simply can not) saying ‘no’ to the urge. The person will often cave in for a moment of pleasure and will do so in full knowledge and understanding of the consequences. People with compulsive type behavior have a type of emotional or mental ‘itch’ and the compulsion is the scratch! Compulsive spending is simply someone who spends out of compulsion even when he or she knows the consequences could carry serious ramifications.
So you think you are a compulsive spender, but are you really? Well one simply test is this: put yourself on a realistic budget and if you can control your everyday spending then chances are you are not a compulsive spender. If you can maintain a budget (knowing that most people don’t do it perfectly 100% of the time… but the majority of the time) then you are probably pretty safe.
If you are a compulsive spender who is suffering under the consequences of the your spending – consequences that reach from your check book to your credit score and to your important relationships, then you really need to find someone who can help you identify the source of this compulsion. Some compulsive behaviors are a medical issue and really need to be addressed with medication, and other compulsive behaviors can be helped with behavior modification therapy. Call your family doctor for a good place to start. This type of behavior can be very similar to substance addiction and can sometimes drive someone who suffers from it into hiding because of shame. True compulsive behavior does not just disappear. You need support, insight, and understanding.
If you are a problem spender a few things that may help you get your behavior under control are: