Overspending Grandpa

Thursday , 16, January 2014 Comments Off

Dear Susan:

I’m a divorced father of three grown children and the grandfather to eight.  I can’t seem to keep my spending under control.  I live on a fixed income and so this is getting to be a real problem.  I overdraw my account almost every month, then write bad checks and take out pay-day loans to make up the difference.

I think part of my problem might be that I’m just lonely.  The kids are busy and I only get to see them a few times a year.  I don’t have a lady in my life and most of my neighbors are gone at work all day.  Shopping gives me something to do.  I get a real high from buying things.  And the people at the loan companies are so nice, even when I’m slow paying.

I used to be so good at managing my money.  I’m ashamed to have to ask my kids for help, but if I don’t make good on these loans pretty soon, I’m going to be prosecuted.  What should I do?

Overspending Grandpa

Dear Overspending:

You probably hit the nail on the head when you linked your loneliness to your overspending.  Don’t mistake the friendliness of the loan people for real concern.  They just want you to sign up for more debt!  And that “shopper’s high” is a real phenomenon and a real problem.

It’s time to widen your social circle and to find something productive to do.  You might accomplish both of these goals by joining a church.  Many of the area churches also host Celebrate Recovery groups.  In these groups people find support for all sorts of problems, not just alcoholism and drug-abuse.  Remember that overspending is just another type of addiction and it follows the same trajectory.

First you start getting the “high” which is reinforcing so you keep doing it.  It becomes a consuming habit and you start having negative consequences from it.  But the high is so good, you still “give yourself permission” to “use”, or in your case buy, despite the risks.

Telling your kids about the problem might be a good idea depending on how mature and trustworthy they are.  Admitting your problem is the first step in any recovery.  And having an accountability partner can really help – someone to call when you are tempted who will help to talk you down.

But finding new friendships is really the key here.  Look into volunteer opportunities.  Check out the Seniors Center in your area.  These are great places to meet people and get involved.  Once you have things to do and people to share the experience with, you will have an easier time staying out of the stores.