This is part of our Rockstar Book Review series.
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“The Recovering Spender” Uses the Power of Personal Experience to Remind Us of What Matters Most
Lauren’s been there. She’s experienced what it’s like to run out of money before the end of the month, and to have the burden of managing household finance. And she has lived with the shame of a shopping addiction and its usual consequence: mounting levels of consumer debt. Given her upbringing that included lessons in prudent spending, the author helps us understand that shopping addiction can happen to any of us.
“Desire is such a powerful emotion that it makes you do unpredictable things.”
Aside from her 12-step program in Part 2 of the book (which, as mentioned in the summary above, aligns closely with the AA 12-step program most of us are familiar with), Lauren’s book helps us overcome our shopping addiction and get out of debt by:
- Helping us understand the source of the addiction
- Providing the push for us to get our reality check sooner than later
- Supporting a change in our behavior—replacing what triggers our addiction with more constructive beliefs and activities
#1. Getting to the Bottom of It
In sharing her story and research related to compulsive spending, Lauren provides the reader the information needed to understand the whys behind our impulse control issues. And that starts with understanding why we buy the superfluous in the first place. She shares her repeated desire to buy achievement, recognition, and status without considering that spending money to get them was nothing more than a set of illusory shortcuts. Shortcuts that, in the end, left her feeling empty and no better—or even worse—off.
A good, hard look at our actions by comparing them to what we say we value can be a lightbulb moment that helps us see that something has to change. That said, we don’t really change until the pain of our current behavior starts to feel overwhelming.
#2. Enter the Reality Check
Lauren wants us to get our face-palm moment sooner than later. That means tallying up our current financial picture. We need to look at our current debt level (what we owe to whom, the monthly payment and interest rate). Once we know the number, we can’t be in denial anymore and, though painful, it can help us take our first steps in a more positive direction.
“As a Spender struggling to get your spending in check, you have to get to the point where the pain of not spending money is less than that of dealing with the consequences of your overspending.” (pg. 84)
We also need to take a look at where our money is going every month (how much and in what category). This information is vital in helping us understand where our money has been going and what we can cut back on, both of which are required to build a realistic and workable budget that will:
- prevent further debt accumulation
- help us start to reduce our debt load to eventually become debt-free
- force us to downsize or eliminate larger fixed expenses
Note: Forms to help us with these exercises are conveniently located in the appendices at the end of the book.
#3. Changing Our Behavior From Negative to Positive
The message to readers is that part of our buying behavior is hardwired and that, without intervention to refocus the behavior toward more constructive activities, we’re likely to fall back into old spending patterns. In Lauren’s case, some of her positive changes included: couponing, budgeting, finding additional sources of income and blogging.
The first step in changing our behavior is to get clear about what it is we really want in life. Hint: most of it doesn’t come with a store tag. Once we get clear on what we want deep down, we can use that desire to fuel decisions and actions that support long-term goals. In essence, we are not just stopping our shopping and accumulating. What we’re doing is replacing these actions with more constructive ones:
- Instead of shopping, we’re hunting for deals on staple products we need and writing up a thoughtful shopping list before leaving the house.
- Replace spending with self-improvement by taking online or class-based courses (personal finance, couponing, upgrading our professional skills).
- Swap out eating out with at-home food preparation and get the whole family involved in getting ready for meal time.
- Set aside time spent consuming an expensive cable package in favor of taking on an income-building hobby or second job.
No matter what we choose to do as a substitute, as long as it supports what we care about most, we’re less likely to revert back to our previous negative patterns. And, if we do slip, we’ve found a better way and we can get back on track sooner than later.
Understanding what makes us tick when it comes to recovering from shopping addiction and its inevitable consequences is key to our ability to make lasting changes. Lauren Greutman can help us do just that. She’s been there and can help you find a better way forward.
Other suggested books on this topic: “Spent” by Avis Cadella, “The Overspent American” by Juliet B. Schor and “One Bed, One Bank Account” by Derek and Carrie Olsen. There’s also “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey, “Dear Debt” by Melanie Lockert, “Stop Acting Rich” by Thomas J. Stanley and “Money Talks” by Gail Vaz-Oxlade
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