"old enough to know better"
Welcome to Season 1 of The Money Fix! With the help of top national money experts, nine DW readers will tackle real-life money problems, and blog about their progress—right here, in real time.
I'd like to start my second post by saying that I'm well aware that my problems are luxury problems, and that I am lucky that I can “afford” to have this spending problem in the first place.
Since I wrote my first post for The Money Fix, a couple of things have happened that have helped me focus on what’s behind my spending.
First, full disclosure: my Money Fix coach, Amanda Clayman, pointed out that I'd missed something when I added up my credit card debt. I don't owe $37,000, but $54,000. That was a painful kick in the posterior.
Second, keeping a log of everything I spent for a week and how I felt spending it (my assignment from Amanda), made me realize that all my purchases fall into three categories:
things I feel neutral about (groceries, mortgage, cable, etc.) things I resent paying for (tampons, cabs, going out to dinner at expensive restaurants where everyone splits the bill) and things that I adore spending money on (deals, such as the aforementioned pink cashmere sweater in my first post, and various antiques found on eBay and Goodwill).
It’s this last one that’s been my credit card deal breaker, so to speak. And, not surprisingly, it’s the one that has emotions attached to it. To me the formula goes like this: I love it + it’s a deal = I would be foolish to pass it up.
When stocks were falling last year, friends would talk about how “down” their portfolios were. I would joke that I have all of my money right where I can see it--mainly in my wardrobe. My vintage Chanel tweed jacket ($50 at Goodwill), my Ralph Lauren black label 2-ply cashmere turtleneck ($35 on eBay), my “Akris, Made Exclusively for Bergdorf Goodman” exquisitely tailored 3-season wool black jacket (perfect for job interviews and funerals! and only $99 at Filene’s Basement Vault).
Amanda understands that I am not a haphazard shopper, and she pointed out to me how in these instances I feel like I’m getting away with something.
When she first said this, my gut reaction was “No—you’re wrong!”
But, she’s right. And, while my little steals aren’t illegal, I am now imprisoned by my credit card debt.
What’s next? I went over my monthly expenses with Amanda, and she was surprised by how frugal I am in other ways. I don’t indulge in manicures, massages, or getting my hair done (a friend cuts it and I highlight it myself).
I don’t own a car; I jog instead of paying for a gym; I got rid of my landline; I don’t have internet at home; I bring my lunch to work.
So, the bulk of my “extra” money—aka my plastic crack pipe with the CVC code—is spent on deals. As Amanda recognizes, this has been working for me for a long time. I put myself, repeatedly, into situations where the shopping stars align and I can find the great pieces at the great prices.
The trouble is: Why would I stop doing something that I enjoy so much?
Seriously. Why? I am trying to answer that question. The amount of debt I have seems so beyond comprehension that I think, “What’s another $50 here, $9.99 there?”
My next assignment is to think of 10 non-spending things I could do, when I am faced with a deal that I feel I can’t walk away from—call a friend who can empathize and make me laugh, for example.
I'm just having trouble thinking of what those 10 things could be.
In the past, a handful of DailyWorth commenters have posted cruel or insulting comments on posts written by readers with spending problems. Arden has taken the step to share about her trials publicly so that she can help herself and others. She deserves our respect. Abusive comments will be removed.