Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

How to Curb the Urge to Splurge

When it comes to compulsive tendencies, there’s no question I received more than the standard allotment.

I can sit down fully intending to watch the evening news and end up owning a pasta machine. I can stop by the mall to just look around and come out with three outfits I’ll never wear, a gift I’ll never give and several things for the house. I can glance at a mail-order catalog and in the time it takes to dial the phone, Adirondack chairs and matching windsocks are winging their way to my front door.

Why? I see what I like and WHAM! Something goes off in my head insisting that I need it right this minute, I’m entitled to it and pity the poor soul who tries to prevent me from having it.

While my compulsive tendencies will forever be part of my personality, thankfully I have found ways to quiet them and make them my allies.


When tempted to give in to my impulsive desires, I ask if I’d accept this behavior from my children. Visualizing me having a temper tantrum is a disgusting image that brings me to my senses.


Stores, television shopping channels, slick, compelling advertisements and mail-order catalogs are “slippery places” for me. Just going there sets me up to fall flat on my face. If I stay away, I avoid temptation. When I have a specific need, I plan my route through the store, make my purchase and get out of there as quickly as possible. I’ve programmed the TV to not stop at shopping channels, and I make sure a trash can is close to the mailbox.


For me, carrying a credit card or checkbook is just too convenient and potentially lethal. Instead, I carry only enough cash to meet my anticipated needs for the day. This forces me to plan ahead and helps to avoid a compulsive purchase.


When confronted with temptation, I talk to myself: “If this weren’t on sale, would you still buy it?” If the answer is no, and it usually is, I pass. “Why don’t you just go home and think about it?” I rarely return. “Don’t you already have something that will do just as well?” I usually do. “You don’t have to buy this just to prove you can; no one really cares.” Reality check.


I’ve found that saving money is the best antidote for overspending. For me, saving money produces a similar euphoria brought on by spending. The difference is that saving never leaves feelings of remorse and guilt the way overspending does.


The unrelenting desire to acquire things is often a mask disguising the real issues. Discovering that my compulsive tendencies were rooted in my need for approval allowed me to deal with that issue effectively.

By reading good self-help books on compulsive behavior, talking about the subject and seeking help from wise counselors, I’ve discovered why I do the things I do. That has allowed me to take the steps necessary to change.

If you suspect you have a problem with compulsive spending, go to www.debtorsanonymous.org and take the self-test. This site will help you find the kind of help you need to get a grip on your compulsive behaviors and free you to make some necessary changes.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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