048: Letter to a Suffering Friend, Spending Plan Training, the Future, & Inspirational Reading 5/27 “The Enemy of Creativity”

As of the date of this post, there are still many people suffering the consequences of Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Harvey in Texas. We live in South Florida and were very lucky to get our power back quickly, and suffered minimal damage to our property. For us, life has returned to normal. But for so many others, it’s a continuing nightmare. I just wanted to send heartfelt wishes to those who are still struggling to recover soon.

Episode Summary

Well, I’m back. Since my last episode in February. I took a much needed break. My mind began to clear. And a few ideas emerged and began to take shape, which I’ll tell you about shortly.

In today’s episode, I’m going to:

  • Share a letter I wrote to a friend who is struggling with compulsive spending.
  • Tell you about my spending plan training programs.
  • Explain the new format for the “I Can’t Stop Spending!” website.


I’m so happy to be back walking the path of recovery with you!

Listen to the podcast

Read the Blog Post

Letter to a Suffering Friend

A friend of mine is deep in the clutches of compulsive spending and reached out for help recently. I was struck by something she said. Essentially, she felt she had no Higher Power and wanted to find one. And that led me to think about other suffering compulsive spenders who may react quite differently from my friend, agnostics and atheists who are repelled by the suggestion that a Higher Power could help them.

The disease of compulsive spending is not a joke. It can kill you as well as destroy your life and relationships along the way. If you’ve listened to this podcast or read my blog, you know that my (one day at a time) recovery came in the form of a 12 Step program. I surely would never maintain that this is the only path to healing from compulsive spending, but it’s the only one that worked for me. So that frames my point of view.

I wanted to share my response to my friend (with some editorial changes and additions for this podcast) because I hope it might help you, too, if you are struggling with your spending and feel you have no Higher Power or don’t want one. Now, I’m not a religious person, so please do not mistake my zeal for spiritual recovery for any kind of religious dogma. OK, here goes:

To my dear friend,

I would maintain that you absolutely do have a Higher Power – but right now it’s the voice of the compulsive spending god convincing you that you will die if you don’t buy that next item. It’s the voice of pain and distraction and fear of discomfort. It manifests as the god of the Credit Card lying to you that debt is free, or the voice of that monstrous tyrant insisting you don’t need that money for something else, when in fact, your rent or electric bill or some other very necessary expense is due.

Hitting bottom is no fun. But it is the only way we can get willing to do what is necessary to crawl out of that dark, ever-downward spiraling hole. But you can decide when you have hit that bottom.

You say you feel low and so you spend. I spent when I was low, when I was high, and everywhere in-between. But the truth is that every time you buy compulsively when you don’t have the funds to do so (and when you desperately want to say no even as you pull out that credit card or press the Pay button), once the high passes (sooner rather than later because there is no ultimate Ahhhhh – remember the last purchase you couldn’t live without just a few days ago) … anyway, once the high passes, you are left with two problems – the original situation that provoked the feeling that triggered the binge purchase (a feeling that, I promise you, would have passed eventually because nothing lasts forever) and the shame of having spent money you couldn’t afford to spend.

Plus now, if you are debting to make this purchase, you have the additional problem of finding a way to pay off your ever increasing balance. Not to mention the fact that many of us feel we need to hide our handiwork from friends and family, adding to the self-loathing that this disease inflicts upon its unwilling victims.

I’m sorry for being so blunt, but I know the pain you are in and I know the seriousness of this disease. When I was where you are, I, too, truly believed I would die if I didn’t give in to the compulsion and obsession. I believed with all my heart that this purchase would solve my problem and make me feel better for good. I lied to myself time and time again that this purchase would be the last compulsive spending, because I was sure that it was the one that would stop the cycle. It never did.

But I am here to tell you that recovery showed me that I wouldn’t die from delaying gratification and saying no to the purchase. And indeed, I was stunned to discover that the craving and obsession did pass when I didn’t give into them. If this can happen to a severe, gutter level money drunk like me, it can happen to anyone.

So it is not true that you don’t have a Higher Power. It’s just that the Higher Power you have chosen is one that wants to destroy you. But if you choose to walk into the light of recovery (whatever that may mean for you), you will find a Higher Power who can do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

But do not feel that a Higher Power must be called God, even a God of your understanding. Your Higher Power may be the power of a group and those who have walked the path ahead of you or it can just be the Power of love and healing within and without.

I am here to tell you that you are not alone. There is a Higher Power who can help you. And a network of people who have been right where you are and who can light the way for you.

With love and respect,

OK, so I sound a bit like a televangelist. But I am a true believer because I have not had a spending binge since April 25th of 2009. And I paid off over $34,000 of credit card debt despite becoming disabled in 2010 and losing half my income.

Spending Plan Training

So, as they say, take what you like and leave the rest. And in that spirit, I want to tell you about my spending plan training programs. For years, I’ve been working one-on-one with compulsive spenders helping them develop their foundational spending plan. It’s an amazing process, as I watch people who are terrified to look at their spending patterns, and freaked out about dealing with numbers, actually overcome their fear and courageously create a solid, foundational spending plan within a week or two max!

It’s because I’m a recovering compulsive spender that I understand what they’re going through. So I don’t just deal with the numbers. I deal with the emotions that come with facing the truth around their spending.

Now, once my clients have their foundational plan, I take them to the next level and teach them how to work with their spending plan ongoing. I used to use Excel as my recommended software package. Now, I use YNAB®, a virtual envelope system, the perfect tool for compulsive spenders, and the one I have used since 2009. But a lot of the core concepts I talk about are relevant to any way you track your spending, whether it’s pencil and paper, Excel, or another software program. And again, I help people overcome their fear of technology, and show them how easy it is to integrate a spending plan tool with their life.

I also do YNAB-specific training. For instance, with people who are confused about certain types of functionality in YNAB, such as tracking cash or reconciling with their bank account. And I troubleshoot peoples’ spending plans when there is a problem they cannot figure out.

So I think it’s obvious that I’m passionate about spending plans. Seriously, my goal is to teach every compulsive spender how to develop and maintain one. So now, I’m working on ways to get my training to more people who need it. I’m creating a mix of audios, videos, written instructions, and group training calls, all to help more compulsive spenders create and maintain a spending plan. For instance, I’m just finishing up a video showing you step-by-step how to track cash in YNAB. I’ve seen peoples’ lives miraculously transform when they incorporated this training into their recovery program. You just can’t be sober with money if you are a compulsive spender without a spending plan.

But I need to add this crucial caveat. Having a spending plan will not cure compulsive spending. My training is designed to give you the emotional strength and technical know how to create and maintain one, which is an essential tool for anyone who wants to recover from compulsive spending. But in no way am I suggesting that just having a spending plan will get you sober with money. My training program is an adjunct to whatever recovery process you are engaged in, not a replacement.

You can find more information about one-on-one training at ICantStopSpending.com/training, and sign up for updates as I develop these online and group training modules.

News about “I Can’t Stop Spending!”

So that leads me into letting you know about some changes to what I’m doing. The podcast will stay just the way it is, though I’m going to incorporate more interviews into it. But, I will be no longer be blogging on “Getting Out from Going Under“. Instead, I’m going to blog right along with my podcast on “I Can’t Stop Spending.”

Now, the “Getting Out from Going Under” blog will stay online, and it contains hundreds of articles specifically written to help people working a 12-step recovery program for compulsive debting and spending. But please note that the blog is neither affiliated with nor endorsed by any program. I just share my own experience, strength, and hope around recovery just like I do in the podcast. But, where “Getting Out from Going Under” is targeted to 12-Step recovery (for instance, I wrote about sponsor/sponsee issues, step work, pressure relief groups, etc.), “I Can’t Stop Spending” takes a broader look at compulsive spending, bringing in outside issues and points of view, and focuses less on debt and more on living within your means.

For awhile, I did post the blog from my “I Can’t Stop Spending” episodes on “Getting Out from Going Under.” But I think it’s appropriate to keep a singleness of purpose to the “Getting Out from Going Under” blog. And I hope it will continue to be a source of comfort and support to those walking a 12-Step recovery path.

Finally, because I’m working on getting the new training programs ready, I can’t commit to a weekly schedule. So my aim is to produce at least two podcasts/posts a month for now. And instead of coming out on Monday morning, new episodes and posts will come out on Friday mornings.

I hope you will continue reading or listening. Oh, and you can sign up for our newsletter at ICSS. If you do, you’ll get a free PDF copy of the Five Year Recovery Journal as a thank you gift. As always, I’d love your feedback. Go to icantstopspending.com/048 and leave me a comment.

Inspiration from the Daily Reader for
Compulsive Debtors and Spenders

Again, I’m so happy to be back walking this path with you.

Resources Mentioned in this Post

YNAB (You Need a Budget)
My recommended budgeting tool. Acts like a virtual envelope system. 34 day free evaluation period.

Music Attribution

“Life of Riley” (Intro and Outro), “Carpe Diem,” “Dream Culture,” “Industrious Ferret,” and “Odyssey” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Help with Your Spending Plan

I can help you overcome the fear of looking at your numbers, create the foundation for your spending plan, and provide one-on-one technical help to teach you how to use your spending plan software. Click here to read how I can help you with your spending plan

Please Leave Comments, Questions, and Suggestions

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this podcast. Please share your comments, questions, and suggestions. You can leave a voice message if you have a microphone (see the link on the right side of each page and on the Contact page), email me from the Contact page

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