The big Red Bullseye. I can spot it from a half mile away. Once I see it, it beckons me. Within seconds, I remember a couple of small things that I have to pick up. Suddenly I'm pushing a red cart holding a $4 latte I grabbed from the Starbucks at the entrance to the store.
An hour later, I leave the store buying about $135 worth of stuff, when I only planned on picking up toothpaste and toilet paper.
They got me. Again.
Most Spenders have a few areas where they are weak in spending – it could be Target, or Starbucks, or shoes, or clothing. Mine was Target (with Starbucks included).
Because of this weakness, I have given myself a rule – I cannot go to Target alone.
Creating healthy boundaries and guidelines for yourself are hugely important in any aspect of life. Someone who is getting help with a drinking problem might make a rule for themselves that they can’t go into a bar alone. Use this concept if you have a shopping problem. If the Mall is a weakness for you, don’t go there without accountability. Don’t think that your will-power and good intentions are enough to break your spending addiction overnight. I’ve been debt free for over 6 years and I still don’t go into Target alone. I know what I am capable of, and I don’t want to even go there!
If you are in debt, typically these weak areas are responsible for your extra debt load. Keep your eye on these areas. Just as it is dangerous for an alcoholic to be in a bar, if you frequently overspend at a specific store, stay out of that store. I still live by a rule I made for myself a while ago, and I to this day, will not walk into a Target without another adult.
It's not Target's fault! It's mine. They have a great store with extremely clever and successful marketing.
As an aside, their marketing has been so successful, that they have somehow evaded all of the criticism that WalMart receives about low wages, high CEO pay, and selling products mostly made overseas. But guess what? Target's average wage for their employees is actually less than WalMart, and their CEO is paid more! And they sell the same stuff… I know criticizing WalMart is trendy, but let's be fair here.
Ok – tangent over. Back to Target's pretty products… I am a huge sucker for pretty things and Target is like the ‘pretty things headquarters'! Even if I were to go into Target with one thing on my list to buy, I'd leave with a bunch of stuff. I just couldn't help it! I had a total lack of self control.
When we were still in loads of debt, I would regularly go to Target with my son. I would buy him a new Lightning McQueen toy every time we went. Every. Single. Time. I wanted him to be happy, and it was only a few dollars I would tell myself. What I didn't realize was that I was teaching him that he could get whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. This was something that I was struggling to unlearn myself.
6 years later, I refer to myself as a spender in recovery (hence the title of my book, The Recovering Spender).
I needed to change my spending habits and set up proper boundaries for myself if things were going to change. You need to do whatever it takes to set yourself up for success by not going near temptation and caving into emotional and habitual spending. Boundaries are one of the method I talk about at length in my book.
Set. Up. Boundaries.
If online shopping is a weakness of yours, delete all of your credit AND debit card information from those websites. You need to make it as difficult as possible to fall into another spending trap. If you do need to buy items online, budget for it and get a prepaid debit card to use on those websites. If being around specific people makes you want to spend, have an honest talk about your problem with them and ask for their help, or maybe change the places you hang out with them that make you want to spend.
On my journey to recovery, my husband and I decided that I cannot go into Target without another adult, and only with a budgeted shopping list. One huge piece to this equation was switching to a cash budget. I absolutely had to stop carrying my cards with me. I was just too swipe happy. So, we forced ourselves to switch to cash. We took the plunge, and shredded our credit cards. We did try for a brief season to use credit cards again, and it did not work out so well.
Using cash for some things is just impractical, but we've found its actually better for much of our every day spending. For these every day expenses that we use cash for, we plan for during our monthly Budget Night. We take the budgeted amount out of the ATM ahead of time and put it in specific envelopes. Each category has a different envelope. That way, when the money is gone, it's gone until we budget the next month. When I go to Target, I take another adult with me, a written shopping list, and the cash that we've budgeted. This makes my Target shopping trip a success I can be proud of!
I don't want to be so comfortable with my present state that I forget how easy it is to spend. Staying within the fence is what gives us financial stability and healthy boundaries. To set yourself up for long-term success, honestly identify your weaknesses and make boundaries to keep yourself from hopping over that budget fence you just set up.