What to Do If You Have Spending Issues


Overspending is a common financial issue. Everyone knows someone who spends a bit too much money. In fact, there is likely a time when you have overextended yourself a little bit because of a good sale or poor planning and found yourself scrambling to make ends meet.

It's common to have a hard time sticking to a budget or sometimes spending more than you make, so it can be difficult to tell when you have a serious spending problem or addiction and you need to seek outside help.

We explain the signs of a shopping or spending issue, the long-term effects, and how to get help.

Signs of a Shopping Problem

Signs that you are addicted to shopping include needing to shop every day or two, buying things you do not necessarily need or want. If you shop when you are depressed and justify purchases because it will help you feel better about yourself, you may have a problem with emotional shopping.

If you overspend on loved ones on birthday and Christmas gifts – so much so that they tell you to stop buying so much on these occasions – then you may have a shopping addiction. Other signs include: Having a difficult time finding places for everything you buy or making regular trips to drop off things at your local thrift shop or Goodwill.

Long-term Effects of Spending Too Much

More often than not, a spending addiction leads to massive amounts of credit card debt. Your spending habit can negatively affect your future and can keep you from reaching important financial milestones, like buying a home, starting a family, or beginning to save for retirement. It can also prevent you from retiring at all.

A spending problem can also affect your family and drive you to a point where you may be struggling to make minimum payments and force you into bankruptcy. If you are already behind on payments or struggling to make ends meet, but still can’t seem to stop shopping, this is a major red flag and a surefire sign that you need to seek help for your spending addiction.

If Your Partner is Addicted to Shopping

If you are in a relationship with someone who is addicted to shopping and continuously overspends, you will need to show the same support as you would to someone that is a recovering from another addiction.

At the same time, you will need to hold firm to any ultimatums or guidelines that you set up in your relationship. You will also need to take over the finances, and perhaps even give your partner a daily or weekly allowance so they don't fall back into their old bad spending habits. You should also likely attend counseling together to work through any rifts this has caused in your relationship.

How to Get Help

Shopaholics Anonymous is a good option for finding support in fighting your addiction. You may also want to seek professional counseling. Many employers offer a few free counseling sessions, and you may also be able to visit a financial counselor through this program. This can help you get on the right track with your spending – as long as you follow up with a support group in the future.

Acknowledging that you have a problem and seeking professional help is just the first step. You will need to make a real effort to change and set up a system so that you do not slip into bad habits again.

Next, you will need to deal with your debt issues. Putting together a debt payoff plan, sticking to a budget, and cutting back on your daily expenses are all excellent first steps.

Finally, you'll need to find a new way to deal with your emotions. Find a coping mechanism that doesn't involve hitting the mall, going shopping, or even online shopping. Try yoga, going for a run, or meeting a friend for coffee. Making these changes now will help you recover financially and prevent you from ending up in the situation again.

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.