Have you ever felt that there are many things out there that grab your attention and often you find it hard to resist the temptation of buying them?
At any point of your lifetime, you would probably have been more than willing to spend on more than one IT gadget (an ipad, imac, iphone or equivalent)… several colours of phone covers cum protection… embarked on several Face-to-Face or online training courses to upgrade yourself… memberships and clubs… facial, nail, massage & spa packages… several pairs of shoes, shirts & dresses of several colours… watches… jewellery… pens of all sorts… intricate jewellery… household ornaments… collectibles… equipment or even indulge in expensive cuisines and pastries or cakes of all flavours and types.
Suit different purposes, different occasions, different moods or to look good and feel good. The list goes on. Sounds familiar?
You get the point.
And the good news is… You are not alone!
With the abundance of creativities and possibilities in Today’s Digital Era – the multitude of shopping platforms and websites on top of the traditional media of television, radio and brick-and-mortar-stores, everything is possible, within our reach, from anywhere of the globe. We aren’t no longer restricted by geographical boundaries. And it doesn’t help that loans and credit cards make it so convenient for us to spend fuss-free with a click of button or payWave scan. Plus advertisements nowadays are so eye-catching and appeal to our subconscious need. They appeal to several of our senses and connect so much to “I just want that.” It is another item to possess… Another item to impress… giving the impression of class, status and success… or Another item to Must-Have because it is such a bargain.
While buying power has increased and inflation continues to rise, our salaries or earnings have stagnated for many. This is especially so during this pandemic Covid-19. On hindsight, there are certainly ways to realise our dreams of abundance, whether wealth or health through riding on Laws of Abundance. This should not be confused with assuming we are already rich and spending like a king or queen. In fact, in order to enjoy real abundance, we have to first face our inner lower emotions of the need to spend beyond our means or to keep spending to fulfil a need. However, that will be a topic for further exploration and discussion another day.
Let’s return to our topic here – Wise Spending. Wise Spending is important. It helps us to stretch our dollar. With less amount of money, we can exchange for more. Not only that, wise spending involves conscious spending and understanding why we are even making that purchase in the first place. It helps us to buy only what we really need and to cherish the items we have bought at a deeper level.
Let’s understand spending by first knowing what money is. Money is a commodity that is internationally recognised as the standard to tag a value to any item. Energetically, it is a form of energy. It is an exchange for something that we buy, the value of which is converted to that item we have chosen. The question lies in what happens after we have spent the money and bought the item. Do we use it in a way that matches the value of the item? Very often, we may not. We may use it just once and leave it aside. We may not even use it at all but simply keep it in storage for just-in-case or for that perfect one day where we think we will need it.
Gulps. Are you guilty of it too? And it’s perfectly okay at this moment. The key here is to be aware and to recognise this nature. You and I know we don’t need all the things that we have bought. In fact, we have excess. In a way, ironically, we can also say we are already enjoying abundance in a sense, though it may not be what we desire or seek after.
So, what exactly cause us to buy more than we need?
Welcome to the world of Compulsive Spending Habit Compulsive spending involves spending far beyond what is necessary, impulsive spending, shopaholism. Its symptoms include the following:
- A home full of books you’ve never read, gadgets you’ve never used, and clothes you’ve never worn.
- Spending money when you’re feeling sad, lonely or depressed.
- Spending money you don’t have on things you don’t really need.
- Feeling excited when you buy something new, but guilty soon after.
- Feeling reckless and careless when you spend money.
- Forgetting how much you spend or suffering an emotional “blackout” after a shopping spree.
- Lying about how much you spend.
- Stealing money to keep spending.
- Continuing to spend despite having large debts.
- Feeling anxious, scared or unhappy about your shopping habits.
- Fighting with loved ones over your spending habits.
- Shopping to make yourself feel better.
- Hiding purchases and spending habits from loved ones.
- Not knowing (or not wanting to admit) how much you shop.
- Turning to alcohol, food or exercise to help you cope with the stress of your debts.
- Maxing out credit cards on superfluous purchases.
- Taking out loans you know you can’t repay to cover your debt.
If you can identify some of these in your life, you are likely to have compulsive spending habit. Read on to understand more and what can be done.
Here’s an explanation of what goes on within us when this habit kicks in.
We get an emotional-high as we spend. Rationale don’t apply much here. It is “buy first. Think later” and having a mindset that “I can earn back what I spend”… “earn is to spend and happy can already” or “so cheap, I’m saving so much now if I get it now, I may not find it again”.
What is not known is compulsive spending is like any addictive habits such as gambling. It stems from a craving. From the Mindfulness perspective and the research on craving of the Mind by Judson Brewer, stimulants of any kind can influence the brain to release dopamine, a feel-good hormone that helps us feel happy and relaxed.
When sale advertisements of any kind play before us, our senses (sight, hear, smell, touch, feel) collect the information and our mind start evaluating and connecting to our prior experiences and how we feel about ourselves. We will start to feel how good it is to have that thing and what it can do for us. Our mind may even start visualising what will it be like and how we will look like when we have it, use it or become it. Past histories and evidences may even flash past our minds. All pointing to how important it is to just click on the “buy” button.
Now, Awareness leads to Choice.
Since we are now aware, we can decide what we want to do about it.
You may think, easy, let’s simply stop it. Let’s avoid by not even looking at it. Or give ourselves some strict rules not to spend and when to spend. Or let’s have strict abstinence and if we spent, give a punishment to ourselves. This may work short-term but I assure you it will back-fire with greater vengeance in the long run. We may even spiral into depression after accumulative periods of such actions, feeling lousier, guiltier and more ashamed of ourselves.
What’s more effective?
Here’s what we can do. From examining our beliefs, understanding ourselves to taking effective actions:
- Check-in. Do the regular check-in and stock take of all the items you have on your shelves, storerooms, bookshelves, refrigerator, cabinets. Check if you already have these items or a variation of that item. Ask yourself honestly what is your purpose of buying the item(s). Declutter what you don’t need and reorganise what is in store so that you will be clear whether you really need it and how much space you have to include this new item.
- Hold a space for ourselves for a while and ask ourselves a few questions:
- Who is this item for?
- Is it something you / he / she really need or a want?
- How did you come to this conclusion?
- Is this item merely an add-on to your existing numbers?
- Is it contradictory to your goals e.g. losing weight, quit smoking, save more?
- Does it have a long-lasting positive impact?
- With this item, list down 3 important benefits and the impact it has for you / him / her.
If your answers for any of these questions fall into the category of WANT, dive deeper and examine your money spending ways. Be curious about it. Understand what excites you and what is it about it that excites you.
Also, examine deeper into your family line. Usually, the environment which we grew up in shapes our beliefs, our desires, whether it is a want or need.
- What have we been deprived of when we were younger?
- What are we given as a reward to our work done?
- What do we see as a gift of warmth or love from others?
The item we want may be a symbol of love, comfort or self-recognition.
- Since we know that cravings are an interaction of our minds to our prior experiences, beliefs and actions, we will want to spend quiet time to practise mindfulness meditation. Hold space for ourselves and be aware of what the stimulant is about, what it does to us. Be curious and non-judgemental about the habits.
Practise RAIN technique within the meditation. In short, it means:
- Recognise and relax into the craving,
- Accept / Allow it to be there,
- Investigate bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts,
- Note what is happening from moment to moment)
- Seek Support. Speak with trusted friends and mentors about it. With a wider perspective from different angles and they may share their experiences too, you will feel supported. Or
Join a trusted community where you can be heard and face this issue together. With support, you will feel you are not dealing with it all by yourself and you will feel comforted that you are not alone. Through the rich sharing, you may pick up tips and practise together what can be done to overcome it. Practising mindfulness in a community together with a credible and reputable teacher is one effective way to strengthen mindfulness. It helps to get it into our muscles. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect as we perfect the practice.
See a trusted and credible therapist / coach to clear and let go limiting beliefs about compulsive money spending.
There are tons of methods and healing modalities out there. The good news is nowadays, we are spoilt for choices. All have good intentions. Tune in to your gut feel or intuition. Find one that you feel connected to.
- Tools & Strategies. Adopt some money management tool such as time-management 4-grid matrix by Stephen Covey for money management.
- Gratitude & Self-Compassion. Lastly, be patient and compassionate to yourself while you are quitting the habit. It’s ok to indulge a bit. It’s ok to spend a bit more. Hold the awareness, smile and treat yourself gently. Do something nice and kind to yourself. Strengthen the relationship with self. Practise gratitude and living in simplicity. We will realise we actually do not need everything we think we need.
The next time you want to spend, bring some of these tips along! Try these out and let me know how it goes for you!
You may also want to connect with me via email or Whatsapp to see how we can reduce the cravings or to clear the past energies of where this compulsion came from so that you can feel less stuck and able to move ahead.