10 Strategies for Beating a Money Addiction

Some 5 percent of Americans have a serious spending addiction, reports The Recovery Village. If you spend without thinking about it, then can’t pay the bills or if you crave spending money, you may have a money addiction problem. And if you do, you’re not alone.

Why beating a money addiction is vital

What’s the impact of a spending addiction? From the Recovery Village survey, of those who have a serious spending addiction, 58 percent have large debts and 42 percent can’t make their debt payments. If you’re addicted to money, finding a new direction is vital. Here are 10 strategies that can help beat a spending addiction and help you become a recovering spender.

In this article

    10 strategies for beating a money addiction

    1. Be honest

    You have to be fully honest with yourself. You don’t have to publicly admit your mistakes, but you need to be honest with yourself and admit that you’re making missteps.

    A good tool for financial honesty is assembling a true picture of your financial shape. When it comes to personal finance, the numbers rarely lie. Calculate your net worth, just to see the overall financial state of your life. Are you happy with where you’re at?

    2. Figure out what you want to change

    It’s easy to decide that you want to change your spending, but it’s not an easy change. Everyone needs to spend money sometimes. You have to home in on what you want to change with more care.

    What spending choices are the ones that fill you with regret? What decisions led you to the realization that you have a spending addiction? Most importantly, what makes those decisions and choices different from the ones you want to keep?

    Ask yourself if there are certain places that trigger your spending. Or it might be certain people or items. You don’t need precise answers yet, just a sense that real change is going to require making meaningful, specific changes.

    3. Talk to loved ones and ask for help

    If you’re going to break your spending addiction, you’re not going to do it alone. Talk to a few core people in your life, particularly those who haven’t facilitated overspending and are strongly supportive, and ask for their help.

    Tell them the honest truth: You’re addicted to spending, you’ve identified it in yourself, you feel it’s keeping you from your goals and you want to change. Tell them you need help with your spending addiction, even if you’re not immediately clear on what that would entail. What you need at this point is support.

    4. Inventory your spending

    Go through your recent bank statements and credit card statements and assess your spending. How much did you spend on non-essential things? Total that up for the last couple of months. That number tells the truth.

    At this point, you may want to categorize that spending a little bit. Sort your expenses into groups that are meaningful to you. You should sort them into expenses you regret and ones that you don’t, but you may also want to consider other categories, like all expenses from a particular place. Total up those categories and see how much you’ve spent in the last month in those categories.

    5. Look for patterns

    Take the expenses you regret and sort them a little further. Are there any businesses that show up time and time again? Are there any types of expenses that keep showing up, particular food items or hobby items or entertainment items?

    Within those regretted expenses, you’re likely to find patterns, and it is those patterns that you need to break if you want to succeed at overcoming a spending addiction.

    6. Put down roadblocks

    In order to break a bad pattern in your life, you need to put down roadblocks to make that pattern more difficult and, in some cases, open up new paths for alternate behavior.

    For example, let’s say you’re addicted to online spending at a particular website. One thing you can do is delete your payment information from that website, as well as change the password to something difficult to enter and not have your browser save that new password. This puts a roadblock in place that forces you to go through a lot of extra effort to shop there. This is extremely effective at cutting impulsive spending online.

    There are lots of potential roadblocks you can use. You can literally cut up your credit card. You can find a less tempting commute to and from work. You can start using a different grocery store, one with less tempting selections. You can stop hanging out with friends who just encourage you to spend, then fill your social calendar with friends who aren’t all about the spending.

    Make it hard to spend and you’ll make it easier to not spend.

    7. Consider those impacted

    For some, seeing the impact of your spending choices on the lives of others can have a profound impact. Consider the cost of your spending addiction using the numbers you calculated earlier, then consider what that money could have done for those impacted by your choices.

    Perhaps you could have afforded to save for your child’s college education. Maybe you would have had the money to give your mother an actual Mother’s Day gift instead of a quick regretful phone call. Could you have afforded piano lessons for your child if you hadn’t spent all the money?

    Consider the impact on you, too. What would your life look like if you had all of that money back? Would you have any debts at all? Would you be worried about your finances? Use that picture of a brighter future as motivation.

    8. Discover frugal hedonism

    Many people view cutting back on spending as misery. They think a frugal life will be a much less enjoyable option.

    Consider it through a different lens, that of frugal hedonism. Frugal hedonism refers to the seeking of pleasure through the constraint of little or no spending. Because of that constraint, it’s all about opening yourself up to new experiences, particularly social ones.

    Make it your intent to try a wide variety of new things, with a wide variety of people. There’s an infinite array of things to do in the world, so just filter that through what’s inexpensive and start exploring a whole new world.

    9. Have a debt repayment plan

    As your commitment to breaking your addiction to money grows, success will follow, and you’ll see that in the form of more money in your bank account. Start using it wisely and don’t let it tempt you.

    For most spending addicts, debt is a real problem to overcome. You can begin to address it by forming a debt repayment plan and executing it by covering the monthly payments on all debts and making extra payments on the debt at the top of your debt repayment list. This will get you to debt freedom as efficiently as possible.

    Before you dive in, you’ll want to have a healthy emergency fund in place. You can make this happen by opening a new savings account at a new bank. You’ll want this emergency fund to have some separation from your normal accounts, but still be easy to access, so a new bank, perhaps an online bank, is a great choice.

    10. Start a healthy budget with goals

    The next step in your financial journey is to begin identifying your big long term goals in life, now that you’re past your spending addiction. What is it that you’re working for? Break it down into a smart financial goal.

    From there, use that goal and your current spending habits to come up with a workable budget, one based on your own life and the spending categories that come natural to you. This will be your ship that will take you to the financial destination of your dreams.

    We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Trent Hamm

    Founder & Columnist

    Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.