Money Coach warned me that there would be some dark places along the path to becoming financially responsible and I think I am having a staring contest with one of them right now. I try to be all rainbows and unicorns for you, dear readers, but it's been hard over the past couple of weeks. I've had my struggles behind the scenes. My budget spreadsheet makes me want to vomit simply because it scares me. I'm reading a book right now that ties buddhism to personal finance and it is hitting closer to home than any other that I've ever read. There's a lot going on internally. It's change. I know the change is good. Change is also scary. And unknown.
I spend a lot of time on Cash Commons. (If you are reading this on the actual site and not in your reader, look to the right. See that giant dollar sign. Click on it. That will get you there. I cannot stress how awesome this site is. Questions and answers about anything related to money.) Someone asked, "What are Some Ways to Avoid Impulse Buys?" I wrote a lengthy response with some more hardcore suggestions.
I was excited to see that another one of my favorite money blogs addressed the topic too. The advice was much more practical and geared toward someone financially responsible. It struck something in me. Any money advice that I give is typically extreme – for people like me. Not for someone who is financially responsible.
Since I'm feeling introspective, I thought I'd talk a little about what it is like to be financially irresponsible. Without the jokes. Without giving it cutsie names.
I am a recovering shopping addict. I stress shopped because it made me feel better. I bought shoes because at least my feet hadn't gained weight and I could wear something that made me feel beautiful. I knew I didn't have money. I had a budget. I was well aware of it. I ignored it. The only thing that mattered was whether or not I had available credit. I applied for credit line increases. I applied for new cards until they stopped giving me new cards. I made large enough payments to ensure that I could continue shopping every month.
It didn't matter if I was shopping at the grocery store, a pharmacy or anywhere else. I could find a way to spend money to make myself "feel better." It would help for a few minutes. By the end of my illness, I would start to panic about how much money I spent by the time I was getting into my car with the purchases. I would sometimes return things, but then I felt an overwhelming sadness. It was as if the things I made were supposed to be with me. It was impossible to say no to my addiction.
When I hit financial rock bottom last year, I had to figure out how to give up shopping. I still slip. Hell, in November, I impulse bought a car. Although, really, I don't regret my car. Not when I am getting 53 mpg and have finally stopped hitting stuff since I am driving a smaller car. I'm doing much better. I have far more self control. I am focused on paying off my debt and saving more money. I get $100 per month to blow on whatever I want. That's it.
When it comes to not making impulse buys, it really depends on where you are in the shopping scale. If you are financially responsible (or somewhere close), then listen closely to the lessons on The Balanced Spreadsheet. If you are anything like I was, you probably need help. Trust me, it's not going to be easy. You have to find the root of the problem and figure out what else is going to fill that void. It hurts like hell. I never smoked, but I imagine it is like quitting. It is an addiction.