Are You an Emotional Spender?



I’ve been a nervous wreck for the past few weeks, though I’ve tried to pretend I’m fine. I’ve been on call for work for 19 straight days and have 4 more to go, which means I can’t sleep because I’m waiting for the phone to ring. I’ve made multiple trips to work (at 100 miles round trip) to deal with various issues on top of the usual 5 trips each week. I’m also trying to tie up all the loose ends at my job before this Friday, which is (thankfully) my last day. Oh, and there’s the fact that I will no longer have a guaranteed paycheck after this week. Yeah, I’m freaking out a little.

I’ve noticed that my spending is a little out of control. I haven’t even looked at the details because I don’t want to think about it yet, but I know that the Mint app on my phone beeps every five minutes with an “over budget” alert. I’ve had packages arriving left and right. I went to Target on Thursday, which is a huge no-no. I opened my freezer Thursday night and was shocked to find food in it because I’ve been so busy eating out. I started contemplating all this and thought, WTF, Andrea? Why are you doing this again?

Because I’m stressed out and I’m channeling that into buying stuff. I’ve been hyperfocused on finishing my home office (which includes buying stuff) so I don’t have to think about all the work-related drama going on. In other words, I’m being an emotional spender, which is a large part of what got me into debt in the first place.

How do you know if you’re an emotional spender? Read on and I’ll fill you in.

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Too Much Stuff Update

I promised I would hold myself accountable for getting rid of some of my junk, so I wanted to check in before I forget about doing it and/or freak out and decide I can’t part with anything.

Things I have gotten rid of so far:

  • A 19-inch TV with built in VCR ($30)
  • Wii Fit game with balance board ($50)
  • My old iPhone 3G ($90)
  • A garbage bag full of stuff from my desk drawers

Other things I’ve decided to get rid of so far:

  • A 25-inch TV
  • My son’s entertainment center (not being used)
  • My original NES and SNES consoles with games
  • My son’s Nintendo DS with 20 games that he hasn’t touched in over a year
  • A huge bunch of social work textbooks (donating to my alma mater)
  • Nearly every DVD in the house
  • Several Wii games that my son doesn’t play

As I’ve gone through the house making this list, I’m struck by how many electronic items we’ve outgrown or stopped using. While I do play my old video game consoles sometimes, I don’t do it enough to justify keeping them. My son doesn’t even play his DS because he’s getting older and wants to use the computer all the time. These things have all been used enough to be worth what they cost, but it’s time to let them go.

It’s HARD to find things to sell or give away! It stresses me out a little. But I want to do this because (1) I want the clutter gone and (2) I want to make some money to put toward bedroom furniture.

You know, I’ve always said I’ll never turn into an über frugal, coupon clipping, crunchy granola type of person. And I still say that. Yet as I’ve stopped taking on new debt, paid off some of it, started saving, and made better decisions overall, the urge to do something else seems like a natural instinct. I doubt I’ll ever live a truly minimalist lifestyle, but I’m learning that I don’t need all the things I used to think were necessary. And I wonder just how far this transformation is going to take me.

My Coworker is an Idiot

One of my coworkers (I’ll call her Georgia) is driving me insane. I’m trying to keep my mouth shut because I only have to work with her for another week, but I don’t know if I can do it. The longer I work with her, the more it becomes apparent that she is never going to grow up.

Georgia and her husband have a ton of debt. As in $30,000 on credit cards, 2 mortgages, 2 car payments, and a bunch of medical bills because Georgia is always convincing herself she has a horrible disease. (She does. It’s called spendaholism.) At first I thought they just had too many bills but I found out the truth this week.

About a month ago, Georgia’s sister Lulu got an eviction notice from campus housing because she’s no longer a student. I’m not really sure why Lulu didn’t see this coming, but apparently she was shocked to learn that you can’t just live in an apartment on a college campus forever. Georgia decided to let Lulu move into her house, and Georgia and her husband are moving into their other house, which has been empty for the past year.

On Tuesday Georgia asked me to ride with her to Walmart to pick up some things she needed for the move. We’re walking through the store when her husband calls - Georgia says, “Yes, I’m using the Walmart card. That’s why we came here. No, I’m pretty sure there’s money left on it.” Then she proceeds to go through the store picking out a bunch of storage containers, not to store things, but to move them from one house to the other. I mean, she even picked out one to move her bedding.

“Couldn’t you just use a box or a garbage bag?” I asked.

“Ew, then my bedding might get dirty.”

“But couldn’t you wash it? What will you do with the container afterward?”

“Duh! Put it up until we move again!”

Um, okay. Wow. By the time we get to the register, we are pushing two carts containing a million storage containers, a $40 Paula Deen sauce pan (“It matches my kitchen and I really need one with this cool handle even though I have five other sauce pans!”), DVDs, towels, and a bunch of random kitchen items. Georgia’s total is over $300, and when she swipes her Walmart card, it’s declined.

So she pulls out a Target Visa. Declined. A Chase card. Declined. Her debit card. Declined. This went on for like ten minutes.

We keep removing storage containers from the total until the Walmart card will swipe. Now, I would be horribly embarrassed, but Georgia seemed to be pretty used to this. Actually I was embarrassed and it wasn’t even my stuff.

As we drove back to my car, Georgia made a comment about how her recent trip to Florida must have cost more than she thought. She giggled a little bit. And I’m sitting there with my mouth hanging open because it never occurred to me that she was using credit cards to finance a week-long vacation in which they flew to Florida, stayed in a huge condo, and shopped all week. I guess I should have known.

Yesterday Georgia wanted all of us to go to Olive Garden for lunch for her birthday. She started calling the numbers on the backs of her credit cards, only to find that she didn’t have enough available credit to use any of them. She actually asked if one of us would buy her lunch. I tried to say, nicely, “You know, you live here in town. You could just run home and grab something, and we’ll all eat the lunches we brought.” And she looked at me like I had three heads. She ended up going to Olive Garden with her husband, who must have scrounged up a different credit card.

It. Makes. My. Head. Hurt.

When I look at Georgia, I see the way I probably would have been right now if I hadn’t made some changes in my life. And I’m soooo thankful that I’m no longer that person. She is bankrupting herself to keep up some ridiculous standard of living that she thinks will bring her happiness. And honestly, she’s one of the most miserable people I know.

There’s more to life, people. Sure, she has a lot of stuff, but she has to stress herself half to death trying to pay for it all. I hope my readers are smarter than that.

Yakezie Team 3 Link Roundup

I’m working on several posts, but I just feel pissy today and don’t think I can stay on topic. So instead, go read these unpissy (is that a word?) posts from some of my teammates at Yakezie!

Penny at The Saved Quarter has some tips for taking a vacation without breaking your budget. I’m so jealous of all the people taking vacations this summer since I’m broke and can’t go! I’ll be keeping these tips in mind if I ever get to go somewhere fun.

Fat Guy at Fat Guy Skinny Wallet featured a guest post that is also about saving money on vacation. I’m sensing a trend here, and while the information is great, it’s not helping my bad mood to think about the trips I’m NOT taking.

Jacob at My Personal Finance Journey has a cool guest post that teaches us how to avoid paying interest on credit card debt. Oh, how I wish I’d seen this post when I still had credit card debt. Yeah, because you might have missed it, but I paid off my last credit card!

Ashley at Money Talks posted about dealing with your electric bill. Personally, I’m on the levelized billing plan for my electric AND gas bills, and I love knowing how much I’ll pay each month instead of passing out when I open the bill.

Jackie at The Debt Myth talks about the awesomeness that is being debt free. Someday I hope to find out what that’s like, but for now I feel better just knowing I’m working on it.

Robert at My Multiple Incomes tells us there multiple ways to generate extra money on the side. I’m starting to see the value in having more than one source of income, though it’s not always easy!

Miss T at Prairie EcoThrifter welcomed a new staff member to her blogging team, Crystal from Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. I mean, I’m starting to feel a little left out - I think I have the only PF blog in the world Crystal isn’t posting on!

Ken at Spruce Up Your Finances talks about how he saves money by driving a 15 year-old car. My first car was 15 years old when I finally broke down and traded it in - I sure miss all those years without a car payment!

Robert at The College Investor asks readers, Are you well off? It’s interesting to see how people categorize wealth and financial well-being at various ages. Personally, I’d settle for “not bad” at this point!