Overspending is like a drug addiction

On TV the other night, there was a story about a guy who was a workaholic beggar in Portugal.

I know this sounds strange “workaholic beggar” but the guy worked a lot harder each day compared to his compatriots.

The only difference is that he was a workaholic for his drug habit, and he needed to work a lot to get at least 70 EUR a day for heroin.

Photo Credit: Streetroots

To put things into perspective, the show said each hit was about 10 EUR, so he was shooting up 7 times a day, 365 times a year.

Assuming he managed to get 70 EUR a day:

70 EUR x 365 days = 25,550 EUR a year or $35,134.91 CAD a year

The average salary of someone in Portugal was 12,000 EUR a year.

It’s about an average salary of a Canadian going up your arm each day.

Of course as a beggar, it isn’t a set salary so we can assume he got less than 25,550 EUR a year, although I don’t know how much, the show just said the guy aimed to make 70 EUR a day.

It made me think that overspending is a lot like a drug addiction.

Shopping can definitely be an addiction

This isn’t news to me (or to you either, I’ll bet), but if you track your spending consistently, you might find the same patterns.

I was someone who reallyenjoyed shopping and I still do, and it’s partly why I was curious to test myself with a year-long shopping ban.

Read: After my yearlong shopping ban: How does it feel?

I am not “cured” of it, but but I’m certainly a lot more conscious of my spending than I was before I got out of debt.

See, on the show “Til Debt Do us Part“, Gail always shows a spending report of people who like to go out shopping. She’s usually out of breath before she goes through one month:

“You went out shopping on the 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, ….”

If you put things into perspective of 7 hits of heroin a day, shopping multiple times a day is the same thing.

You get  multiple ‘hits’ of your shopping drug by scoring something on sale and it makes you feel good each time, so you go back for more and more.

Once you start seeing your overspending in a new light as being detrimental to your wallet and your sanity, things can only start to turn around.

For me, I learned new habits such as loving when I saw my savings balance grow (and my net worth!), and especially getting those compounding interest payments on my saved cash each month.

It feels almost illegal when a bank pays you interest each month, because it’s ‘free money’.

So how do you start?

  1. Track your spending: I saw what I actually spent, not that rosy picture in my head of what I think I spent
  2. What do people spend in an average budget?: Be realistic & use what others spend as an idea
  3. Come up with a flexible budget: Use your net take-home pay or income as the ‘hard stop’ of spending
  4. 5 Lies we tell ourselves to keep spending: Stop and question yourself each time you reach for an item
  5. Learn that you CAN delay purchases and wait for things: We live in an instant gratification society
  6. Watch out for the signs of frugal or debt fatigue: Be careful you don’t run yourself into exhaustion
  7. How to combat frugal and debt fatigue: Cut yourself some slack if things are unrealistic
  8. How to make saving less painful: It doesn’t have to feel so painful all the time
  9. Can you survive on an extreme budget and make tough choices?: Get some perspective on your situation
  10. You’ve got the money, spend it!: Be careful of falling back into old habits if you relax too much
  11. Owing is not Owning: Be careful of any future debt you take on

You can read a lot more of these posts here: Best of Fabulously Broke (FB) Posts


About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.