Budget Extra for Feelings

spent_bookcoverDailyWorth recently reviewed Spent. The following is an exclusive post by Cardella for our readers.

So often we focus on the dollars and cents necessary to get our financial life back on track—and fail to acknowledge the emotional currency required.

After years of struggling with a compulsive shopping disorder, I faced this issue when I had to grapple with my credit card debt. Obtaining the money to pay back my debts was one thing; creating a sustainable emotional budget was another.

No pain, no gain
I had been taxed by fear and loathing for far too long. I feared facing the numbers on my credit card statements, and loathed the idea of having to contact a credit-counseling agency.

I needed a strong dose of bravery and as soon as I heard the counselor’s voice, I knew I was doing the right thing.

I was carrying close to $9,000 in debt at that time, which may not sound monumental, but on my freelance writer’s salary, it was enormous. I wish I had budgeted more strength for the pain of revealing those cold, hard numbers to a total stranger—and for the bad news.

The counselor calculated that with payments of $175 a month, I could pay off most of my debt in forty-four months—nearly four years. I was stunned. It sounded like an eternity of paying for things that were probably gone, or never used. It took me while to cope with the shock.

As I adjusted, I realized that payback wasn’t going to be easy, and that I’d have to budget some stamina to stay with the program:

  • Stop the shopping binges.
  • Find healthier outlets.
  • Live within my means.
  • Make those monthly payments, without fail, for four years.

Humiliation was the next emotion that came up—one I wasn’t prepared to confront. When I received my contract for my payment schedule I felt the sting of having gotten in over my head with credit cards.

Now I also recognized that it was time for some budget cutbacks: I no longer could give myself the luxury of woe-is-me moments. I needed that energy to keep moving forward.

Instead, I focused on the windfall of extra energy that I got, as the relief slowly sank in. After years of high-priced denial, I was finally managing my debt—and my life. And being able to get a good night's sleep for a change went a long way toward restoring my emotional reserves.

Avis Cardella is the author of "Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict."

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