Debtors Anonymous

Do you ever feel out of control when shopping? Most of us have experienced some “temporary insanity” when shopping, but there are times when it’s more than getting caught up in the moment. There are times when shopping becomes a compulsion, like a drug addiction. Sometimes heavy debt is more than just bad decision-making or poor financial literacy. Sometimes it’s a true addiction that needs treatment beyond what a new budget and some baby steps can provide.

Here are the signs of compulsive debting.

  1. Being unclear about your financial situation. Not knowing account balances, monthly expenses, loan interest rates, fees, fines, or contractual obligations.
  2. Frequently “borrowing” items such as books, pens, or small amounts of money from friends and others, and failing to return them.
  3. Poor saving habits. Not planning for taxes, retirement or other not-recurring but predictable items, and then feeling surprised when they come due; a “live for today, don’t worry about tomorrow” attitude.”
  4. Compulsive shopping: Being unable to pass up a “good deal”; making impulsive purchases; leaving price tags on clothes so they can be returned; not using items you’ve purchased.
  5. Difficulty in meeting basic financial or personal obligations, and/or inordinate sense of accomplishment when such obligations are met.
  6. A different feeling when buying things on credit than when paying cash, a feeling of being in the club, of being accepted, of being grown up.
  7. Living in chaos and drama around money: Using one credit card to pay another; bouncing checks; always having a financial crisis to contend with.
  8. A tendency to live on the edge: Living paycheck to paycheck; taking risks with health and car insurance coverage; writing checks hoping money will appear to cover them.
  9. Unwarranted inhibition and embarrassment in what should be a normal discussion of money.
  10. Overworking or underearning: Working extra hours to earn money to pay creditors; using time inefficiently; taking jobs below your skill and education level.
  11. An unwillingness to care for and value yourself: Living in self-imposed deprivation; denying your basic needs in order to pay your creditors.
  12. A feeling or hope that someone will take care of you if necessary, so that you won’t really get into serious financial trouble, that there will always be someone you can turn to.

If you answered “Yes” to 8 or more of those statements then you may be suffering from a spending/ debting compulsion. After reading the list is seems like our whole country could be considered to be compulsive spenders. But just because debt and spending has become part of our culture doesn’t mean it’s healthy. We’re all fat too, doesn’t make it ok. Unfortunately because debting is so much part of our culture it’s harder to see when you or someone you love has a real problem. It’s easier to live in denial because spending and debt fit so easily into our daily lives. Plus, there are no outward signs, not like with a drug, drinking, or an eating problem. This addiction can easily hidden for a long time.

So what do I do?

There is a group that is based on the same format as Alcoholics Anonymous called Debtors Anonymous. I think most people are familiar with the basic format of AA so I won’t get too deep into the specifics but along with meetings and the 12 steps they also have “Pressure Relief Groups”. In these groups the struggling debtor meets with two or three more experienced members and works out a budget and debt elimination program. They also focus on steps to improve the income of the debtor.

The program focuses on “unsecured debt” which kind of surprised me. I would think cars and houses would also be considered debt in their eyes but their website specifically mentions unsecured debt.

You can find groups near you on the DA website. I looked in my area and there weren’t any within a 200 mile radius, which is discouraging since I live in a pretty big city. However there are online groups so be sure to check those out if you are looking for help and there aren’t meetings near you.

If you or someone you know needs help with compulsive debting this program can make a huge difference. I’d also love to hear from someone who has been part of DA.

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One Response to “Debtors Anonymous”

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  1. I’ve always looked at the reason I accumulated a mountain of debt was due to a.) my non-confrontational personality unable to say “No” to my family’s requests and b.) complete lack of self control with respect to using credit cards.

    Is that a spending/debt compulsion? Is there a difference? Hmmmm, something to think about I guess.

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