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Tuesday Tip – Hope for a Spendaholic

spendaholicI have been married 40 years. I am 59 and a spendaholic. I’ve been following Dave Ramsey’s plan and trying to get my credit cards paid off. We have no money and no retirement. Is there any hope for us?
-B.

Hope for a Spendaholic

Yes, there is hope for B. It might take awhile and may not be easy. But just because she didn’t overcome her spendaholic tendencies in the past doesn’t mean that she can’t do it now.

Let’s tackle the problem on two levels. First, let’s look at the things that she can do to get the problem under control today. Then, we’ll look at the longer-range things that she can do to uproot the source of the problem.

B. said that she’s using the Dave Ramsey plan for paying off credit cards. Good for her. Dave’s plan is very workable. It’s one of two common plans for paying off debt that are very similar.

Both pay the minimum on all accounts. One pays off the smallest balance first and pays accounts off from smallest to largest. The idea is that you get re-motivated every time you close an account.

The other ranks them in terms of interest rates. They pay off the highest rate first and work down from the highest interest rate to the lowest. This is the fastest way to pay off a group of accounts. But, you’ll need to keep yourself motivated.

Depending on how much debt she has, it may take B. awhile to pay down all the accounts. She’ll need some patience and determination. It took awhile to accumulate the debt. It will take awhile to pay it off.

At the same time that B. is reducing the debt level, it’s important that she stop her spending. She can’t get out of debt if she keeps spending, so that has to stop now.

Based on past experience, her willpower and good intentions cannot be trusted 100% of the time. So until B. can control her spending urges, she’ll need to use some physical means to assist her will power.

That means recognizing where she’s vulnerable. Is she more likely to be spending cash? Using credit cards? Ordering over the Internet? Or by phone?

Whatever the vulnerability, B. will need to devise a plan for how to pay down debt to protect her when willpower is not enough. That may mean limiting the amount of cash she carries or freezing her credit cards in a block of ice, so she has to wait before charging. Maybe she’ll need to block certain Internet sites or TV shopping channels.

Once B. has made it hard to succumb to her spendaholic urges, then it’s time to try to find what’s causing her to spend. I’m no psychologist, but I have worked with many people and their finances. Money is generally not the root of the problem. It’s most likely a symptom of something else. Often people spend in an attempt to make some emotional hurt feel better.

B. will want to look for a pattern to her spending. Is there a particular emotion that she’s feeling when the urge to shop is strong? Knowing what emotion goes along with her spending will allow B. to watch for the emotion, and when it surfaces, she can guard against spending. It’s a little like an early warning system.

She might also want to seek outside help. Many places have Debtors Anonymous meetings. Or B. could find professional psychological help to either help her find the source of her spending or to deal with the source once it’s found. Whatever B. decides could make all the difference to help her become (and stay) debt free.

There’s no reason for B. to give up hope. She can make it almost physically impossible to spend. That alone will solve most of the problem. And if B. is able to identify the emotional root and deal with those issues, then she can be free of her spendaholism forever!

Author Bio: Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters. Gary is also a regular contributor to Talking Cents blog.

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