Ask Chuck: Breaking the Cycle of Overspending

Dear Chuck,

My husband is tired of my overspending. I struggle living on the budget he’s made because I make quick purchases rather than planning ahead. Then I feel guilty defending my decisions when the bills arrive. How can I get out of this cycle?

Spontaneous Spender

 

Dear Spontaneous, 

Frist, be thankful you have a husband who cares enough to make a budget. If only more people would do so!  

Next, let’s deal with the cause for the spontaneous spending so you can escape the cycle you are in. 

Money and Emotions 

Money affects our emotions and our emotions affect our use of money. Experts understand this and market to your emotions – merchants from grocery stores, furniture marts, car dealerships, and online advertisers. They all target your feelings toward shopping. Learning to separate your identity from the things you buy will keep you from spending money to feel good. The term “retail therapy” implies that some people spend money to bolster their mood. It is a very real urge. I have experienced it myself and watched others do it as well. 

I had a friend who was competing for a big promotion in his company. Over multiple interviews and several months of consideration of all candidates, management selected someone else over my friend. The very day that he learned he was not selected, he went out and purchased a brand new, expensive car. The problem was he could not afford the car without the promotion but he had been dreaming of it for so long that he bought it anyway. In his own words he told me that it was “retail therapy”.  

 God’s Word makes it clear that we enter the world naked and we leave naked…and naked has no pockets. Since we can’t take any purchases with us when we die, we should become emotionally neutral towards our spending choices. 

Avoid Spending Triggers

Certain emotional triggers can cause people to spend money. A few of the most common include:

  •     Alcohol or hunger: lower inhibitions cause people to buy and regret later.
  •     Anger or sorrow: spend to gain control, feel happy, find short-term gratification.
  •     Loneliness: spending medicates briefly. But, materialism and loneliness are a      self-reinforcing cycle.
  •     Insecurity: try to keep up with the Joneses. 
  •     Self-focused: raises or tax refunds justify splurges or rewards. 
  •     Overwhelmed: spend on fast food, maid services, laundry, yard work.
  •     Fear: causes hoarding or poor investments. 
  •     Guilt: spending to alleviate pain inflicted on others.

 Can you relate to any of these?

People justify spending when they are emotional because spending momentarily feels good. But, decisions based on feelings often create financial problems that further complicate life.

We cannot buy happiness. Spending and accumulating more money may not increase our wellbeing and can actually have a negative effect. But, wisely managing money, as a steward of God, is fulfilling.

Solutions to Your Urges and Splurges 

  • Create a budget and set goals.
  • Don’t go where you know you might spend money.
  • Resolve to make no impulsive purchases. Wait 24 hours if tempted.
  • Limit exposure to advertising and social media.
  • Delete or unsubscribe from sites where you waste time and face temptation.
  • Replace unnecessary time on the computer or cell phone with productive use of time.
  • Exercise or spend time with friends for lasting comfort.
  • Be accountable to your spouse or mentor.
  • Learn basic financial principles.
  • Avoid making big decisions when extremely emotional.

 

If you have true needs, take them before the Lord. The Apostle Paul teaches:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

Check Your Emotions

When did you last thank God for who He is and what He has done for you? Are you seeking satisfaction from people or things rather than the only One who can truly satisfy?

Thankfulness delays our need for instant gratification. Meditating on what God has provided can calm our emotions and prevent budget wrecking purchases. Couple that with generosity and a heart of compassion, and our contentment can soar, bringing positive thoughts to light. 

Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on the earth. (Colossians 3:2 ESV)

In so doing, you will find that your heart becomes satisfied with the riches of Christ that are of much greater value than the things of this world.

A Final Tip

Consider some of Crown’s resources to help you and your husband get on the same page. My wife and I wrote a book together on this very topic. You can find it here and access numerous free resources on the Crown website. Thanks again for writing.  

 

 Originally published on the Christian Post, July 5, 2019