“ ‘Tis the season to be jolly…or IN DEBT?”

By Nancy Pollard, LCSW
Nancy Pollard

Hmmm....today is December 5, who has their holiday gift shopping done?  Who has thought ahead, bought gifts during the summer, and saved them until the holiday?  There are people like that, you know, and they are the envy of the rest of us who haven’t found even one gift yet!  As the season approaches, the pressure begins to mount, reaching a high-pitch crescendo while the days pass and still no presents are purchased.  Then it hits: power shopping and manic spending, and the credit card junkie takes over.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Don’t let frantic buying rock your holiday season!  It is easy to get caught up in the frenzy and pretend that money is no object, that you just have to get one more little gift.  The urge to splurge hits hard and suddenly your Visa card is your best friend...but later turns out to be your worst enemy.

Know the tell tale signs of addictive spending:

  • Compulsion
  • Panic
  • Withdrawal
  • Liberation

Check yourself and your spending habits – do any of these sound familiar?

  • COMPULSION: “I know I shouldn’t, but I’m going to anyway...just one more toy, one more jacket, one more sweater…”  When we know we shouldn’t and we do it anyway, we act irresponsibly, give into temptation, and give ourselves an excuse to overspend.
  • PANIC: “I have to get Jimmy one more thing...it isn’t equal!”  “Did I buy the right gift, the perfect one that will be his favorite?”  “Surely one more gift will produce the best Christmas ever!” In the heat of the moment, we actually believe this and don’t question our shopping adrenaline rush.
  • WITHDRAWAL: “I deserve to spend...why should I deprive myself of this one pleasure?”  A sense of need takes over, consuming our logical mind and justifying an emotional fix.
  • LIBERATION: “I am free to NOT spend and to NOT go overboard.  I am free from panic and craving.  It is okay and even fun for me to stay with a plan and a budget.”  Liberation from addiction of any sort is the stage where the person is once again in control, rather than the addiction being in control of the person.  There is freedom from impulse and compulsion and an ability to resist temptation.

Do you, year after year, spend more than you have?  Do you go overboard and dig yourself into the winter dollar doldrums?  Is the act of spending and buying emotionally charged for you?  I don’t mean the emotion of feeling happy to find the perfect gift, I am talking about the rush, the surge, the panic, and the amped-up high that can accompany shopping.  If this rings true, you may be addicted to spending.

The blind abuse of credit card spending creates a false sense of power, deceptive pleasure, and quick fixes.  And, as with any quick fix, the downtime that follows is long and painful.  Making payments in August for last year’s holiday gifts is a sad commentary.  Unfortunately, the holidays can easily become a time to get into serious debt.

Take a good hard look and take responsibility to be financially sober this holiday season. Here are some checkpoints for holiday shopping and spending:

  1. Ask yourself if you feel compulsive, panicky, and have a rush or a sense of urgency associated with shopping.
  2. Be aware of rationalizations, minimizations, and denials of your spending habits.
  3. Learn to recognize the signs and admit if you are a spend-aholic.  Seek professional help if necessary.
  4. Commit to a road of spending sobriety, one shopping day at a time.     
  5. Make a shopping plan.  Slow down.  Rethink and reprioritize.  Don’t buy on sight.
  6. If you are an impulsive shopper, it can be best to spend one day just looking and window shopping, not buying.  Then, after you sleep on it, go back with a specific “buying” list.  Two trips to the same store are less expensive than one impulsive blast.
  7. Shop as a choice and not as a chore or source of intoxication.
  8. Remember that less is more.

There’s still time to change your spending habits this holiday season.  Enjoy the journey.  Don’t get exhausted by this season, allow yourself to be present and make conscious choices.

Perhaps peace on Earth can extend to peace in your pocketbook.

Just a little Mountain Therapy

Copyright © 2015 Nancy Pollard



Please share your thoughts on this article - Your comments are welcome and encouraged and I love to hear from everyone. Click Here to Comment