In many respects overspending and overeating are likened to addictions. Indeed, for all I know they could be actual physical or psychological addictions.
With most addictions, received wisdom states that the only way of overcoming an addiction permanently is to entirely give up the substance that you are addicted to. There are various reasons why I think that that’s unlikely to be true for everybody – although it may be true for some people.
If overspending is an addiction, and the only way to overcome an addiction permanently is to give it up entirely, then everyone in debt through overspending has a serious problem. You can’t actually give up spending.
Sure, you can give up excessive spending, but unless you drop out of the monetary economy totally and permanently, you’ll always have to spend some money. Similary, but even more so, you can’t actually stop eating.
If we can’t have it that you have to give up spending altogether, then we have to think of another way of overcoming an addiction. There are two things that come to mind straight away.
develop another addiction
It’s pretty common for people who give up one addiction to develop another. If you’ve ever been near an AA meeting just before it begins, you’ll notice that lots of people are smoking. I’m pretty certain that that’s not improving their health, but it’s certainly easier to function successfully with nicotine addiction than it is with alcohol addiction.
Fortunately for overspenders, the most common replacement addiction is to frugality and saving. It’s not unusual for the formerly debt ridden to profess that they get as much, if not more, satisfaction from saving money and seeing their net worth grow than they did from spending.
move on psychologically
The other main way to overcome an addiction to spending is to address the underlying reasons why you overspend. People often (but maybe not always) overspend or overeat to fill some kind of gap in their lives. They aren’t as successful as they’d like, or they aren’t happy, or they are depressed, or they lack close relationships.
If you can really identify why you overspend, and do something about that reason, it’s not unusual for your “need” to overspend to go away. And it’s so much easier to turn your financial situation round if you don’t need to spend lots of money.
which is more important?
From the point of view of being a healthy and fulfilled individual, it’s probably better to address why you overspend, than to develop an addiction to saving money. On the other hand, from the point of view of getting out of debt, you may be more quickly successful if you develop an addiction to saving money.
Overall, I reckon how you overcome overspending doesn’t matter as long as everything remains in balance and you are content. Getting out of debt is probably harder, than say giving up smoking. On the upside, if you do something hard successfully, it will be much more rewarding.
Do you agree with me, that spending is hard to give up? Is it more important to tackle the symptoms or the cause? Let me know in the comments below.
Image by hodgers
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