Lauren Cobello » Budgeting » Frugal Living » 5 Things I Learned as a Recovering Spender
I am a Recovering Spender…. Walking into those big red doors, grabbing a bright red shopping cart, and parading through the clean aisles of my favorite store was something I would do on a regular basis. Those Target items would be calling out my name, and before I knew it I had walked away spending over $100.
In my book The Recovering Spender I talked about how our first argument as a married couple was over a $4 bag of Doritos that I wanted to buy. We should have known that there were going to be money issues in our future, but we never took the time to talk about them.
Four years after that memorable Doritos argument in the aisles of the grocery store, we were in $40,000 of debt. Most of the debt was unknown to Mark, although I didn’t purposefully hide it. He simply never asked, and I never told him. At that point I was managing all of our finances, to help lessen the load on Mark. The problem was – I was the one doing all of the spending and all of the tracking. THAT was a huge problem because I didn’t have any accountability. I would bounce checks often, overdraw AGAIN, and feel like a terrible wife. I just wanted to be able to help us get out of debt, but I just couldn’t seem to make it work.
I decided to get real with Mark and tell him my struggles with keeping track of our money. I am an independent person so the thought of coming clean about my spending and budgeting issues was hard for me. But it had to be done – or else we would continue to go further and further into the hole we were already in.
The day that I laid all of our credit card bills out on our bed and asked Mark to join me was a day that would forever change our financial future. I told him ALL of it – the struggles I was having keeping track of our money, the grand total of our credit card debt, and how I needed his help because I couldn’t do it alone. After that conversation, my spending habits HAD to change.
Six years past that honest conversation about our bills on our bed, I am one of the top frugal living experts online. I got crazy resourceful and finally was free from that debt a few years later. And being debt-free, I still love to spend money! Ironic – maybe? But God is using my weaknesses to help teach others how to overcome theirs. This is exactly that I wrote my newest book “The Recovering Spender”
You see – if you are a spender like I am, you may feel like there is no hope for you. But – there is. I still love to spend money, and that might never change. Much like a recovering alcoholic is always in recovery, I am forever a “recovering spender”. What has changed is the way that I spend money. Over time I’ve learned how to put boundaries in place so that my spending doesn’t become an issue – and those boundaries are what I will share with you today. Spending money on unneeded things is reckless to me and my family – and over the past six years, I have taught millions of other spenders how to change. I hope that these tips will help you as they have helped me.
1.) Set a budget.
Yes – I know. To a spender, a budget can seem like you are being forced to wear a straight jacket. I get that. I want you to forever think of budgeting as this – a fenced-in backyard.
If you have young children, you wouldn’t send them out into the yard without boundaries of where they can go, right? If you did, they may run into the road or get lost. If there is a fence in that backyard, you feel more comfortable letting them go outside alone, because there is a boundary in place already. Budgeting is exactly the same thing. As a spender, budgeting is your best friend. Budgeting becomes that fence around the backyard, it gives you the boundaries that you need. It doesn’t tell you that you cannot have fun, it just says “have fun in these parameters”. It gives you safety and security and helps you from not getting lost along the way.
If you aren’t sure how to budget – I highly recommend signing up for my Financial Renovation Online Community, which includes my custom budget program. I designed my budgeting community and course with the spender in mind, it had to be easy and not look like a spreadsheet (because that makes me go crazy).
2.) Give yourself some play money every month.
We have $200 per month in a miscellaneous category. This $200 can be used by both Mark and me on whatever we want. To be honest, I usually end up spending most of it. But it is normally on things for the kids, or for us to go out for dinner as a family. Old Lauren would have gone shopping at her favorite store (remember above) and blown it all on one trip. This helps you not feel so suffocated.
3.) Trust your partner!
Mark is not a spender and for the first year we started budgeting, I ran all of my purchase ideas through him. I trusted his opinion and really listened to him; this helped me realize how impulsive I was. You need to work together to set your monthly budget. We get together every month and Mark sets the initial budget based on our bills and then I tell him what I need to spend money on. That usually is gifts, some clothes for the kids, or field trip money. In order for our budget to work effectively, there is the input needed from both of us. As a spender, it is a great thing for our budget when we work together. Mark usually has no idea what we need to spend our money on that month, but I always know and am eager to spend it!
4.) Use cash whenever possible.
When we budget, we use cash for items that I tend to over-spend. These categories are miscellaneous and groceries. We take cash weekly and this is the only money that I have to spend. When it is gone it’s gone. Our debit card is my worst enemy.
5.) Set a 24-hour spending rule.
For larger purchases (like more than $100), do not make them without sleeping on them first. I am by nature a very impulsive person, so I made a lot of stupid decisions that I regretted. Think before you spend the money, and don’t give in to emotion.
Trust me, this is not easy. There are many days where I had to FORCE myself to not buy something – it was hard, but the results are worth it.
Just because you are a spender, it doesn’t mean that you are horrible with money, you just have to figure out ways to set boundaries and almost trick yourself. The first part of realizing you are a spender is to admit it to yourself and your spouse. If you are a spender, do this ASAP.
I am living proof that you can change. You may not always change on the inside (I am still impulsive and love to spend money) but with the proper boundaries in place, I can honestly say that ‘I am good with money’.
You may be a spender your entire life (like I am), but you have to know your boundaries. Like an alcoholic should stay out of bars, a spender should stay out of stores.
From one ‘recovering spender’ to another – there is HOPE – I promise!