It’s Official: I’m a Spendaholic in Remission

a virtual crown, since i'm not going to go buy one


You guys have only known me for a little while, and only in the time since I decided to stop being a total idiot. So you don’t have the full picture of how bad things were when I was adding to my debt on a daily basis. But you know enough about my past to realize that I don’t say this lightly.

I think I actually did it. I have conquered my addiction to overspending.

You know what I did yesterday? I went to the mall. Jayden decided to sell all his Wii games to buy an Xbox 360 - “The Wii is lame, Mom! I want to play online against all my friends! And I need Halo!” - which made me incredibly sad because he’s no longer a little boy and he’s growing up so fast, etc. etc. Anyway, we went to Gamestop, traded out the games for the Xbox, and left the mall. I didn’t go into any other stores. I didn’t even WANT to go into any other stores.

I had two debit cards and two credit cards in my wallet. I made some unexpected money on Friday that hasn’t been earmarked for anything in particular. Every store was advertising holiday sales. Two years ago, any one of those variables would have helped me justify a shopping spree; the trifecta would have made it a sure thing. Yet I wasn’t even tempted.

Another example - about a week ago I was really stressed and decided I needed some retail therapy. Here’s what happened:

My enablers friends on Twitter suggested all kinds of stuff I could buy. Purses, shoes, books, jewelry…. All the things I love and used to buy constantly. And I spent a few hours looking online, determined to find SOMETHING to buy for myself. Eventually I gave up and played a game on my phone instead.

What Changed?

A year ago this month, I decided I was over my debt. I put all kinds of crazy rules into place to keep myself from wasting money. I switched banks. I started building my emergency fund. I made a budget. A few months later I started this blog, where I could hold myself accountable for my spending and find a different outlet for stress.

Over the course of the past year, those actions went from something painful and really hard to maintain to a habit I can’t break, even when I want to. To be honest, I never really thought my whole mindset would change - I knew I could improve my situation, but I thought I would always struggle and fight my own impulses. I didn’t expect to transform into a being that actually makes good choices on my own.

In Remission, But Not Cured

I’m not patting myself on the back too hard just yet. Sure, I’ve made a ton of progress. Even with unemployment on the horizon, I’m more confident about my financial situation than I’ve ever been. But that doesn’t mean I can stop paying attention.

I still love gadgets, purses, shoes, and books. Now, though, instead of blindly throwing them in a shopping cart every time I leave the house, I plan ahead and make sure I can afford them first. But who knows what would happen with the right combination of stress and opportunity? At any moment, I could relapse and spend $500 on clothes. Or electronics. Or random items from Amazon. (Not that I’ve ever done any of those things. *whistles innocently*)

No matter how long I’ve maintained my good behavior, I have to keep going - keeping track of my spending, saving for the things I want, and planning ahead. One thing I’ve learned along this journey so far is that life creeps up and smacks even the most prepared people in the face. Especially me, considering the way things have been going!

Many of you are on a financial journey of your own. What progress have you made? Are you in remission with me yet?

  • The Happy Homeowner

    Andrea, this is huge progress-congrats! It’s nice to see you taking the time to acknowledge how far you’ve come-this surge in confidence will help you continue to make such great choices.

    I think we’re in kind of the same boat-I used to be saddled with ridiculous amounts of credit card debt, and I continued to spend recklessly for years (all while shredding statements instead of reading them, keeping my head in the sand, etc, etc). But then something changed for me and I got my act together. I still can’t say quite what it was, but I’m more than happy it did.

    I still have days where the urge to spend is ever apparent, but now I do a much better job of taking a break to figure out why exactly I want to spend in the first place. I think you’ll continue to have some off days, but by the sounds of it, yours are going to be few & far between. Keep up the great work!

  • PKamp3

    Wanted to drop in and toss you a congratulations! It sounds like an important step on a longer journey - if you can keep it up through the holidays (when temptations are strongest to buy) you’ll find it easier over time!

  • Katie

    I feel the same way, like I’m in remission but I could fall back at any moment. Luckily, because I went all minimalist crazy, I have that added incentive to avoid buying stuff. I like keeping my drawers empty. But this post also made me think of weight loss because I *definitely* feel this way about food. Sure, I’m doing great right now. But a few weeks ago, I ate fast food three nights in one week. It was so easy to avoid grocery shopping by eating junk. It’s so easy with weight because you don’t have that immediate reminder that you messed up (except feeling like poo afterward). I don’t check my weight as often as I check my bank account online. I just have to keep tracking my calories like I track my spending.

  • Susan Bachelder

    Impressive!! You should be proud of yourself. I look forward to the day when I get there.

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  • Catseye

    Andrea, that’s fantastic! You fought the good fight and won. I wish some of my friends would read your blog and wake up to how they’re contributing to their financial problems. Maybe some day…

  • Well Heeled Blog

    I can relate 100% to what you’re saying. I consider myself a spender trapped in a saver’s body. It’s absolutely fine to want nice things or great vacations, as long as you save for them and buy them in a responsible way. I try to be mindful about what I spend on, that way I can minimize the guilt and really enjoy the fruits of hard work.

  • Cassie

    Congratulations on going into remission! I also consider myself to be in the early stages of remission, but not cured. Good luck keeping it up

  • Matt, Tao of Unfear

    Hey! It was about a year ago that I started my emergency fund and focusing on paying down my debts.

    I’m not much of a spendaholic though. I have an occasional impulse buy, but I’m often more restrained than is healthy.

    I recently had a huge debate about whether I should drop the money on a battery charger and rechargeable batteries, but I finally broke down and did it. Ultimately it’s a money saver.

  • Broke Gal NYC

    Nice! Great job, it takes practice. I recently overspent this month on boots+a new iPhone, but I’ve got it figured out how to pay it off before my credit cards kick in interest. It is a big achievement to not spend when everything is sooooo tempting.