Hope for an Almost-Retired Spendaholic

by Gary Foreman

Hope for an Almost-Retired Spendaholic photo

Just because you didn’t overcome your overspending tendencies in the past doesn’t mean that it cannot be done. We look at how to best tackle the problem.

Dear Gary,
I have been married 40 years. I am 59 and a spendaholic. I have been following Dave Ramsey’s plan and trying to get my credit cards paid off. We have no money and no retirement. Is there any hope for us?

Is there hope for an almost-retired spendaholic?

Yes, B., there is hope for you and for anyone else who has a problem with overspending. It might take awhile and may not be easy. But just because you didn’t overcome your spendaholic tendencies in the past doesn’t mean that it cannot be done.

Let’s tackle the problem on two levels. First, let’s look at the things that you can do to get the problem under control today. Second, we’ll look at the longer-range things that you can do to uproot the source of the problem.

Start today reducing your debt level

B. is using the Dave Ramsey plan for paying off her credit cards. Good for you, B! Dave’s plan is very workable. It’s one of two common plans for paying off debt that are very similar.

Editor’s note: Another good resource for creating a successful debt payoff plan is my ebook How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have.

Both plans pay the minimum on all accounts. One pays off the smallest balance first and pays accounts off from smallest to largest. The idea is that you get re-motivated every time you close an account.

The other ranks them in terms of interest rates. They pay off the highest rate first and work down from the highest interest rate to the lowest. This is the fastest way to pay off a group of accounts. But, you’ll need to keep yourself motivated.

Depending on how much debt you have, it may take awhile to pay down all the accounts. You’ll need some patience and determination. It took awhile to accumulate the debt. It will take awhile to pay it off.

Stop non-essential spending now

At the same time that you are reducing the debt level, it’s important that you stop your spending. You can’t get out of debt if you keep spending, so that has to stop now.

Based on past experience, B., your willpower and good intentions cannot be trusted 100% of the time. So until you can control your spending urges, you’ll need to use some physical means to assist your will power.

That means recognizing where you’re vulnerable. Are you more likely to be spending cash? Using credit cards? Ordering over the Internet? Or by phone?

Whatever the vulnerability, you will need to devise a plan to protect yourself when willpower is not enough. That may mean limiting the amount of cash you carry or freezing your credit cards in a block of ice, so you have to wait before charging. Maybe you’ll need to block certain Internet sites or TV shopping channels. Or stay away from the mall.

Determine what is causing you to spend

Once you have made it hard to succumb to your spendaholic urges, then it’s time to try to find what’s causing you to spend. I’m no psychologist, but I have worked with many people and their finances. Money is generally not the root of the problem. It’s most likely to be a symptom of something else. Often people spend in an attempt to make some emotional hurt feel better.

You will want to look for a pattern to your spending. Is there a particular emotion that you’re feeling when the urge to shop is strong? Knowing what emotion goes along with your spending will allow you to watch for the emotion, and when it surfaces, you can guard against spending. It’s a little like an early warning system.

You might also want to seek outside help. Many places have Debtors Anonymous meetings. Or you could find professional psychological help to either help find the source of your spending or to deal with the source once it’s found.

Is debt cramping your lifestyle?

Imagine how much simpler life could be if you were debt free. We can help you make a plan to get there.

B., there’s no reason for you to give up hope. You can make it almost physically impossible to spend. That alone will solve most of the problem. And if you are able to identify the emotional root and deal with those issues, then you can be free of your spendaholism forever!

Reviewed November 2021

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com.

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