About Susan B.
I’m Susan B., a financial sobriety evangelist and spending plan expert. I’ve been writing and speaking about personal finance and recovering from compulsive spending since 2010.
I have been free from compulsive spending since April 25, 2009. At that time, I had $34,000 of unsecured debt. In February of 2016, I finished paying off that debt.
I first came into recovery from compulsive spending in 1999. A few years later, after paying off over $22,000 in credit card debt, I thought I had the answer and left the program that had saved my life. I was able to maintain my sobriety with money for a couple of years, but eventually, the straw house collapsed and I reverted to my old debting ways.
In March 2009, My son was getting ready to go off to college and thankfully, I had prepared by putting money into a college plan for his tuition … but never thought about the rest – housing, food, etc. – which would total nearly $10,000 per year. His father wasn’t willing to contribute. In addition, I had accumulated another $34,000 in credit card debt. And I continued justifying out-of-control debting and spending despite diminishing lines of credit.
Though I became sober in 1990 and abstinent from compulsive eating in 1998, it became clear that I was still a liar about money. The situation turned desperate and I could no longer fool myself about what I was doing. It was devastating, and I felt like my whole life was collapsing around me, and I wouldn’t be able to send my son to college, which I had promised myself I would do from the day he was born. This, in addition to the wreck I was making of the rest of my life and finances.
And so I went back to the 12 step program that had helped me before.
I cut up all my credit cards the next day. I was terrified, but haven’t looked back and haven’t had anything happen that I couldn’t fund somehow or delay. This is truly one of the miracles of the program.
Today, I can say that I paid cash for all four years of my son’s college tuition and for the first two years of his living expenses. He worked and got student loans for the rest, and graduated in 2013. Thankfully, he is not a compulsive debtor and has already paid off most of his student loan.
But the biggest miracle of all is that I was able to do all of this despite having to go on disability in 2010!
There is no way I would be surviving … much less living within my means … especially under my current health circumstances … if it weren’t for the 12 step program.
My Mission & Philosophy
Through my blog and podcast, I tap into the emotional and spiritual aspects of compulsive spending by sharing my own practical experience around living in recovery from this devastating addiction. In addition, using a targeted, step-by-step approach, I teach compulsive spenders how to overcome the terror of looking at the reality of their spending and take the first steps to creating a spending plan, something no one else has directly addressed.
Financial gurus, like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey, provide tools and guidance to help people make sound financial decisions and get out of debt. But as a recovering compulsive spender myself, I recognize that for those struggling with this addictive behavior, there’s just no way they can simply “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and live responsibly with money, as the gurus advise. Further, I believe that compulsive spenders often feel shamed by the implied message that they could succeed if only they tried harder.
Instead of looking to experts, I urge people to go to a 12-step program like Debtors Anonymous, Underearners Anonymous, or Spenders Anonymous if they can’t stop the destructive cycle. While I understand that there are many paths to recovery for compulsive spenders, 12-step recovery is what worked for me, so that is what I recommend to those who are suffering as I did from out of control spending.
That’s where I found the support of others who truly understood what I was going through — because they’ve been there. They were able to guide me through the steps so I, too, could recover one day at a time. Because of my own experience, I believe that only after the core addiction is addressed might the tools of financial gurus be useful.
I have lived within my means since 2009, and paid off the last of my $34,000 credit card debt in 2016. I believe that there is no way a compulsive spender can live soberly with money without a spending plan. But, all the budgeting tools in the world are meaningless if you’re too terrified to even begin the process of looking at the reality of your spending.
Overcoming that terror and making a start is the key to the practical side of recovery, whether you’re in a 12-step program or not. I have developed a simple and successful method to walk people through this crucial process, which includes understanding key budgeting concepts they will need ongoing.
My approach is not meant to replace either the 12-step programs or the gurus. Instead, I see my mission as helping people tackle the practical aspects of making a start and continuing to live within their means despite the inevitable challenges. As part of that mission, I have also written a daily inspirational reader for compulsive debtors and spenders.
All music for the podcast by Kevin MacLeod incompetech.com
(including Intro: “Life of Riley”)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Susan B. caricature and signature drawn by Barbara Leo.
Artwork created by Debbie Hefke, Illustrator
Podcast art designed by Jenny Hamson