Overspending Doesn't Fix Anxiety

I have a friend, Sandy, who grew up without parents actively involved in her life. Because of the money challenges she experienced as a child, she didn't have the clothes or the shoes that others did and she didn't feel like she fit in. As an adult she buys herself and children everything. She's also a generous gift giver. But, I bet she doesn't realize what drives her overspending (& debt) is a feeling deep inside of childhood deprivation.

Overspending means spending beyond our means or spending on credit when we don't have the ability to pay off the credit card each month. Overspending is often driven by the unconscious need for security, safety, comfort or wholeness. Overspenders have a confused and confusing relationship with money because they believe money will make them happy, but they're often broke because of how they spend money. (Klontz & Klontz, Mind Over Money)

Sandy, mentioned above, also enjoys the process of shopping and the connection she has with people that work at her favorite stores. Shopping and the way she is treated when spending money helps her feel good about herself and the attention she receives. Spending gives her relief from stress and anxiety. While Sandy's at a store shopping, she doesn't have to think about the to-do lists, her children's needs or her business pressures. I get it.

Like other addictive behaviors, overspending has a "gotta have it, go get it" driver and reward system that has to do with the body's feel good chemicals. Dopamine is the “gotta have it, go get it” neurotransmitter and serotonin is the “mission accomplished—got it” neurotransmitter. (Intentional JOY - LTS)  Unfortunately, once the shopping is completed, and the high wears off, guilt often sets in which increases anxiety and feeds the desire to feel better by spending - again.

To begin breaking the overspending habit pay attention to your stress and anxiety levels before shopping. On a scale of 0-10 (10 high) note how high those levels are and where in your body you experience them. Then take 10 slow, deep breaths. This creates a pause or slows down the immediate leaping into spending. Ask yourself: How am I feeling? What do I really need? Attention, time to yourself, comfort or nurturing, excitement, to be heard? Then take steps to give yourself those. And, if it fits, get some counseling to feel supported and heard.