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How NOT to Handle a Spending Spree

Sometimes I feel like nothing shocks or appalls me anymore. But this last week, I found that I can still be shocked…by what other people think is a reasonable proposition. Squawkfox, a fellow blogger, received a PR pitch for shredders—so that you can get rid of the evidence of your spending.

That’s right, this wasn’t marketed as a security measure, or as a way to clean up after you’d recorded information, it was marketed as a way to keep yourself from feeling guilty about your “retail therapy.” Besides being horrible financial advice, it was also disturbingly sexist. You can read the whole e-mail in her post, here’s two bits that stood out to me:

As we approach the New Year and continue to navigate an ecomony [sic] that forbids the kind of retail therapy we women enjoy, many of us are looking to start off fresh. Depending on how budget-conscious one was in 2008, starting anew may require getting rid of sticky pasts.

…once all evidence of indulgences has been destroyed, thus keeping bills, credit card statements and receipts out of sight.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about shredders. As long as you’re aware of what you spend, pay your credit card bills, etc, I think they’re a great way to clean up. But that’s not how these were marketed.

If you’ve indulged in retail therapy, broken your budget, racked up debt that makes you feel uncomfortable, ok. You can’t change that. We all do it to some extent.

Shredding the evidence won’t help you do better in the future and it won’t make you feel better. Trust me on this, I’ve tried to ignore so many things in my life, in hopes they’ll go away. They don’t. You can destroy the evidence, other people may forget about it, but until you resolve it for yourself, you won’t find peace. You won’t be able to “start anew” until you start cleaning up the old (you can do both at once!).

What can you do?

First, stop, breathe, and remember you’re human. And no matter how much you spent, this isn’t the end of the world. What’s done is done and now what matters is making the best of what you can in the future.

Second, assess the damage. What did you actually spend? Looking at it may be painful, but actually knowing the numbers is better than being uncertain. If the receipts and statements make you depressed once you’ve gotten all the information organized, then you can get rid of them. But only once you know what they say.

Third, come up with a plan. Resolving things is the best way to feel better. Step one may stop you from panicking, but it won’t bring closure.

That plan may involve leaving your credit cards at home, cutting them up, joining a support group (if you’re worried that you may do it again), searching for the underlying problem (why did you need retail therapy?), coming up with alternatives to handle that problem in the future, and paying off your bills.

If you think a budget/spending plan might help you keep things in check, try this set of free spreadsheets: [download#8#nohits]

The point is that sweeping things under the rug or shredding them won’t make them go away. They’ll just build up until you’re one of those people on Dr. Phil is yelling at. Or if they don’t get that bad, they’ll still weigh you down emotionally.

But you’re not powerless over your situation either. You can take control and work on getting rid of it for good.

This came very close to being a rant about how companies are encouraging us to spend and then not take responsibility for our actions. And more…

{ 2 trackbacks }

TGIF Round Up: Final Countdown Edition — Living Well on Less
December 19, 2008 at 8:06 am
Sunday Money Roundup - Home Again Edition. | My Two Dollars
December 21, 2008 at 9:01 am


Mrs Micah's Mom December 15, 2008 at 9:32 am

I hope someone who likes the other advice will find your and follow it instead. It is amazing that anyone could think that destroying the evidence will make the problem go away.

Squawkfox December 15, 2008 at 10:47 am

Excellent response and action plan! You are SO right, overspending and hiding the evidence DOES NOT “make you feel better.” My brain is still boggled that people are pitching their products to the public in this manner. Thank you for mentioning this terrible sales pitch to your readers.

TStrump December 15, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Good post!
I went on a spending spree yesterday and bought $100 in clothing … why?
I just wasn’t feeling ‘100 percent’
I assessed today and realized I didn’t need the stuff – time to leave the credit card at home, I think!

Dad December 15, 2008 at 10:40 pm

I’m glad you brought this up. Unfortunately you may be preaching to the choir here. However, it gives your readers something to give others if they hear them going off this deep end. When I read SquawkFox, I though sure you might feel better for a few seconds but the bill is going to come back next month with interest. It won’t go away.

TStrump, I don’t know the details of your situation so this may not fit. But are the clothes returnable? If you recover from your spree that quickly some of the damage might be able to be repaired.

Lori E. December 16, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Mrs. Micah, can I just say that I love that your parents read and comment on your blog? I feel like I’m sitting in on a family dinner. It’s awesome.

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