How to identify if you have a spending problem

by Nick on May 31, 2016

How to identify if you have a spending problem Image Credit / depositphotos / wrangler


A female comedienne once quipped that when women get depressed they go shopping and when men get depressed they invade a country. But for some women and men their shopping habits are far from funny; they are out of control. Most of us would glibly claim that you can’t have too many dresses or shoes, but how do you know if your behaviour is outside the realms of normality?

Wonga recently conducted a survey in South Africa which clearly shows a worrying number of us are quite ignorant and irresponsible when it comes to managing our money affairs. Full data of the survey viewable here.

Often people with low self-esteem use spending money as a method of coping with problems. It is common for ‘overspenders’ to seek solace in spending, saying it makes them feel better and less depressed.

However this relief is short-lived; clouds of depression quickly reappear when financial problems are heightened. In addition, losing control of spending, whether the money is your own, partner’s or the bank’s, will almost certainly guarantee havoc in the family environment.

You are an overspender…

  1. If you walk into a store and buy items that you don’t need or can’t afford but you feel you can’t stop yourself, or question your motives.
  1. If you get into debt to feed your shopping habit.
  1. If you write out cheques knowing there’s no funds.
  1. If you have a belief that somehow things will sort themselves out, but you have no plan in place.
  1. If you are asking your friends to lend you money or even losing friendships.
  1. If the high that you achieve while purchasing the item dissipates as soon as you’ve paid for it, there are definitely some emotional issues that need to be dealt with.
  1. If you hide your new purchase from your partner.

If you recognise these traits in your character, it’s time, to be honest with yourself and refocus your attention to the reasons why you think you do it. They say it takes 28 days to change an attitude or form a new habit. Start now. Although you may lose your nicest person-to-know-at-birthday’s status, you’ll save a lot of money.

It’s also a good time to make yourself knowledgeable about healthy financial habits and smart money management. These are skills which we are all in need of learning and mastering. Particularly when the economic climate in South Africa couldn’t be any more uncertain. The first step is to learn to start saving regularly. This invaluable guide by Old Mutual should provide you with a fresh perspective and how to make your money go further.

Get into the habit of keeping a detailed spending record. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself these questions.

What is my money situation like for the month?

Do I really need the item?

If the item weren’t on sale, would I still buy it?

Will this purchase adversely affect my family?

Be clear about what you want, jointly and personally, and prepare a budget according to your committed goals and stick to it. Having a healthy respect for money is an important step towards financial stability.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Moore May 31, 2016 at 10:56 pm

This is a great resource and one I will share with a few of my female friends. I think it takes being honest and up front with oneself to truly accept if we have a spending problem. I have some golfing buddies that absolutely need to reconsider when it comes to the cost of their habits.



SB@OCAAT August 16, 2017 at 5:48 am

That’s quite true when it comes to seeking temporary relief from being stressed out under crisis. We must remember that our spending habits are likely to weaken our finances if we don’t stick to our budget every month. For those of you who were asked to pay for their own insurance policies right after joining their first summer job, it was actually a boon in the form of a curse.


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