When they handed out compulsive tendencies I am certain I ended up with more than the standard allotment.

I can sit down to watch the evening news and end up owning a pasta machine. I can stop by the mall to look around and come out with three dresses I'll never wear, a gift I'll never give and several things for the garden.

I can glance at a mail order catalog and in the time it takes to dial the phone, arrange for new Adirondack chairs and matching windsocks to be delivered by next day air.

Why? I see what I like and WHAM! something goes off in my head insisting I need it, I'm entitled to it and pity the poor soul who tries to stop me from having it.

While my compulsive tendencies will forever be part of who I am, thankfully I have found ways to tame them. I know how to manage them and how to quiet their demand for attention.

Parent yourself

When tempted to give in to my demands to have what I want and have it right now, I ask myself: Would I accept from my children the behavior I'm about to accept from myself?

Seeing my behavior as that of a spoiled bratty kid with an intimidated parent wrapped around her little finger usually stops me dead in my tracks. Visualizing myself in an on-the-spot temper tantrum is not pretty.

Avoid "slippery" places

Alcoholics Anonymous defines a slippery place as any situation, bar or restaurant that will provide a tempting opportunity to drink. My slippery places are stores, television shopping channels, slick compelling advertisements and mail order catalogs that provide a tempting opportunity to acquire. If I don't frequent them, I'm not tempted.

When I cannot avoid a trip to the store, I have a routine that pretty much guarantees this will not be a pleasure trip. I plan my route right down to where I'll park and which entrance I'll use so I can get in, get what I need and be out and back in the car before I have the opportunity to slip and fall. I've also reprogrammed the TV so it doesn't stop at shopping channels. A trash can sits near the mail box.

Make spending difficult

Think of all the ways our culture makes spending money so convenient: checkbooks, credit cards, debit cards, deferred payment, equity lines of credit, electronic transfers and on it goes. All of those options are very convenient and that's what makes them so dangerous for me. They are too convenient. So I choose to take the convenience out of spending, making it as difficult as possible. I carry enough cash to meet my needs for the day. I force myself to plan and anticipate. Sometimes it's a pain, but I do avoid many opportunities to be compulsive.

Enjoy non-ownership

I felt a sense of freedom when I finally understood that I don't always have to own things to enjoy them. Most of the things I purchased compulsively were enjoyed for only a short time until they joined all the stuff bringing more weight than joy to my life.

Talk to yourself

When confronted with a tempting compulsive purchase, self-talk is my lifesaver. If this wasn't on sale would you still buy it? (If the answer is no, and it usually is, I pass.) Why don't you just go home and think about it for 24 hours? (I rarely return.) Don't you already have something that will do just as well? (I usually do.) You don't have to buy this just to prove you can; no one really cares. (Reality check.)

Discover the cause

I'm learning that many of my compulsive tendencies find their roots in my need for approval. I've also had to admit that spending money is a mood-changer, even an anti-depressant. It's not easy to admit that spending was a mask I wore to hide deeper and more serious issues.

By reading good books, talking about compulsive behavior and receiving help from wise counselors, I've discovered why I do the things I do.

I can't change who I am, but I've learned how to change the way I respond. And that has made all the difference.


© 2004 The Cheapskate Monthly. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

 "The Cheapskate Monthly" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt.  What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt.  Today, "The Cheapskate Monthly" is read by close to 100,000 Cheapskates.            Click here to subscribe.


Seeking financial harmony in your marriage? Read Mary Hunt's book Debt-Proof Your Marriage published by Revell.