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Tackle overspending

By on August 3, 2008

photo by sylvar
I was once interviewed and featured in an article in the Saginaw (Mich.) News. One section of the article, written by reporter Cathy Heng, states, “As editor, she works on the simplicity site in a sparse room with three computers, two office chairs, a built-in desk, a partially filled bookcase and a single plant.” When I read the article in its entirety that part stuck out for an unusual reason. The reporter was demonstrating how simple my office is; however, being a minimalist, I have always considered my office to be somewhat cluttered with unnecessary items. The books on the shelf are there because, otherwise, I would have a bare full-wall-shelving unit. Basically, I had available space and felt compelled to fill it partially. The same trend of adding items simply so a space isn’t entirely empty can be found in other areas of our home, such as our built-in shelves in the living room, large linen closets, attic and garage. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we are simply filling the void. Are you filling a void?

I am fortunate that I became conscious of my own prosperity through the loss of most of my belongings. This made me incredibly appreciative of everything that I had left. My overall view on material objects shifted from “never enough” to more than enough. Although many people have a healthy relationship with money, there are also many people who overspend to fill an emotional void.

In our society, we’re encouraged to shop and spend for reasons such as boredom, frustration, anger, stress, celebration and for no reason at all. I’ve read e-mails and forum posts about debt that pull at my heartstrings (although a part of me also wants to snap people back into reality), and I watch some people making the same poor choices time and time again. I can’t offer financial advice, but I will say that frugality is never going to be the cure all for overspenders. It can, however, help tremendously after the real emotional issues have been addressed. Having or making more money isn’t the solution. Confronting your problems and making changes is the solution.

How do you know whether you’re an overspender?

Overspenders Anonymous lists the following habits that overspenders exhibit.
— You’ve run up excessive bills and debt.
— You’re unable to handle your finances.
— You buy things because you’re depressed or to bolster your self-esteem.
— You sneak new purchases into the house.
— You don’t need what you bought.
— You feel compelled to shop and buy.
— You rarely use the things you buy.
— You can’t even remember what you’ve recently purchased.

ADMIT THE PROBLEM: Confront the problem head-on. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Make an effort to track your spending and locate your money leaks so you can modify your spending habits. Then put yourself on a budget.

DELAY SPENDING: Don’t purchase stuff just because it’s on sale or inexpensive. Ask yourself the following questions prior to purchasing: Do you need it? Will you use it? Is there room for it? Can I borrow this? How long will it last? Can I do without it? Can you find a better price? Are there negative consequences?

CREATE SHOPPING LISTS: Being organized cuts down on unnecessary spending. Sticking to a list will help keep you on track with the budget you create.

Embrace frugality and simplicity. Recall joyful moments that didn’t include heavy spending. Remind yourself of these moments of abundance. Know the difference between wants and needs. Avoid excessive advertising, and don’t compare yourself to others.

If you discover that you’ve buried yourself in a hole and can’t get out on your own, seek help from credit counselors, Debtors Anonymous or Overspenders Anonymous.

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