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Is your lifestyle controlling you or are you in control of your lifestyle?

answered 03:37 PM EST, Fri October 14, 2011
I think my shopping is out of control. I have quite a bit of debt and as I work on a freelance basis, and as of a month ago after losing a major client to a recession slow-down I am making quite a bit less than I was last year and money is now an issue for me where it wasn’t really before. You’d think that now that I am nearly broke I’d be more careful with my spending, but it seems like the opposite is true and the more worried I get about other things in my life the more I crave getting to the mall to buy some more clothes that I really don’t need. I have had friends comment in the past about how I shopped but since I was single and making a good living and could afford it, it was never really a major issue. Now, I think it’s something I need to get a handle on…but how do I get rid of those shopping cravings?

Connie Clark Says...

Connie Clark C. Clark

Often when folks lose something of value and have nothing to take it's place, they find they are falling into debt and out-of control habits versus moving out of debt. First make a list of all of your expenses: mortgage/rent, electric, water, gas, garbage collection, cable, internet, phone/s, etc. In one column put all those items that are necessary for you to live and meet your financial responsibilities and  also include those items you also need to thrive in your business. In the second column, list those items that you have and pay for but can do without [luxury items]. Dave Ramsey calls it a Needs List versus a Wants List.  And the wants list is just that; those items that really are luxury items. For example, do you have both a land-line and a cell phone or more than one cell phone. Can you use one phone for both your business and your personal calls? Is cable television a need for survival or a luxury you can really do without?  Do you have credit card debt? If so cut them up and  only use what is in your account with a debit card. If you go out and don't really need to purchase anything, leave your wallet at home. If you do need to purchase items, plan it out. If shopping for groceries, set a limit you cannot spend above and take only that amount in cash.Write out a list of what you must purchase and purchase only those items. Don't add to your cart as you walk through the store. If you find you have done so, put them back or let the cashier know that those items need to be put back by an employee. Take a calculator along with you to assure you stay within your budget so you don't end up having to put items back because you don't have enough cash on you. Your cravings don't just disappear; you have to replace them with something else. Look around your community to see what their is that is safe, free [or low-cost] and fun and develop a list of tools or strategies you can engage in when the urge to shop comes on.  Instead of going to the mall, go to the park and walk, ride a bike, and look in your local paper [a free weekly one if available] to see what is going on in your city that is safe, free and fun. You may need to supplement the income you have now by getting another job to pay down that debt, Set up a budget that lists all your monthly bills, cut out the excess items, cut up those credit cards and get a second job. Since you impulsively find yourself buying clothes, I would recommend you ban yourself from the mall, or other places that sell clothes, at least for now. Start to pay down the biggest debt and once that is paid off take the money you used to pay that debt and apply it to your second biggest debt and so forth until you are able to live within your means and have savings on hand for a rainy day. Dave Ramsey is a good resource on how to set up your debt plan. Also, seek the advice and help of a credit counselor in your area who may assist you in getting a handle on the debt and make it into a manageable payment scheme. Often, the clients I work with who struggle with impulse control find that when they consciously pay attention to their needs and worries and implement positive, safe and free or low cost things rather than giving into the impulse, the strength of the impulsive desire wanes over time as they recognize they are in distress and impulsive, pay attention to the tension internally, acknowledge it and make a decision that 'this time I will do a different action.' They have learned to acknowledge and sit through the feeling of needing this right now and look at what is beneath the impulsivity which often is fear of something: of not being able to meet their finances, get a better paying job, talk to a family member, etc. However, once they can see the desire to act impulsively for what it is, they find they can own the desire to act and make a different and better decision and choice. Make a commitment to yourself to live within your means. Ask your friends to help you in keeping your commitment, but be willing to be honest with them regarding your intentions and impulses.

Resources: The Seven Baby Steps & Tools by Dave Ramsey, www.daveramsey.com.  Seeking Safety, by Lisa Najavits PhD.  Wellness Recovery Action Planning by Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD.

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Page last updated Oct 17, 2011

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