Spenders Anonymous: Twelve Steps to Beating the Addiction to Spending

Spending is a psychological addiction. It is quite easy to fall into a routine where you just spend money on things you don’t need over and over again because it begins to feel right. You slip deeper and deeper into credit card debt buying stuff and falling further and further behind.

Among my family and friends, I’ve had several people who were able to beat psychological addiction through a twelve step program. The twelve steps are designed to help a person beat any addiction. What can these twelve steps teach us about defeating an addiction to spending? Let’s take a look.

Twelve Steps to Defeating the Addiction to Spending

1. We admitted we were powerless over spending — that our lives had become unmanageable.
If you find yourself sinking into credit card debt, deeper and deeper, and you find your life becoming unmanageable, yet you continue to buy things you don’t need, it may be time to admit that you have no control over the spending – and commit yourself to defeating the problem.

2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Someone is going to have to help you down that path, whether it be a religious higher power or else others that you can trust to help you. Look for friends who aren’t addicted to spending, or seek out the fold of family.

3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
This doesn’t mean you have to believe in God, merely that you’re willing to allow yourself to be guided by a force beyond yourself for a while until you’re able to find your own two feet again. This can take the form of trusting in a religious faith, or in any great force that you believe in.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
You can start by trying the free 31 Days to Fix Your Finances program, which starts out with just such an inventory. You can also simply try making a list of everything you’ve spent in the last month and grouping them into what is essential and what is not.

5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
If you don’t believe in a higher power, this step is still vital because of the admission to yourself and to another human being your failings in spending too much money.

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Ask yourself if you’re truly ready to make a change or not. If the answer is no, it’s going to be difficult to really commit to the changes.

7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
This part is difficult for people who do not have faith, but is essential to people who do.

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
This is an incredibly powerful exercise. Who have you harmed by spending too much? Did it hurt your spouse? Did it prevent you from saving for your child’s future? Did the guilt strain your relationship with people? Think about this for a while, because you might be surprised how many people your spending has affected.

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Start saving for your child’s future. Put some money away in a 401(k). Draw up a will and living trust. Get appropriate insurance. Tell the people around you how much you love them.

10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
It’s difficult to extract unnecessary spending from your life – it’s an ongoing process. When you make a mistake, realize it, admit it, and work to not repeat the mistake.

11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Even if you don’t believe in a higher power, meditation is an incredibly powerful way to clear your mind and open yourself to a greater understanding of both yourself and the world.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to spending addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
In a way, this is what The Simple Dollar is – practicing healthy personal finance and sharing what I’ve learned with the world.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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