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What is a compulsive debtor?

February 5th, 2008 at 09:31 pm

I've had a number of people ask this question today. To learn the answer, go to Debtors Anonymous to take the debtors quiz and read about the signs of compulsive debting.

In case you're wondering, in my case, I can not have a credit card ever again because I will spend like crazy if I have one. I do have a debit card, but I rarely use it. Instead, I tend to deal strictly in cash and I record every dime I spend. I have to think out every purchase I make and plot out every shopping trip I take so my compulsive debting doesn't kick in. Buying a pair of socks is tantamount to buying a new car for me.

I wasn't always like this. I used to be a pro at the 30-minute power shopping trip.
When I was still doing the high-powered corporate job, I would run to the mall during lunch and in 30 minutes buy a new wardrobe. It was retail therapy at it's finest.

Now, I know if I live that way it will ultimately kill me.

I attend 12-step meetings regularly for my problem. I do not have credit cards; and God willing, never will again. I tend to joke about my "problem" here, but it is a very serious issue in my life. Yet, I refuse to let it define me and I also refuse to live in deprivation.

The difference, though, is that I'm not debting to live my life anymore. Yes, I'm going on vacation -- paid in full with cash. Yes, I shop at Macy's -- with cash only. Yes, I have a maid -- paid with cash twice monthly because frankly it's hard to work two jobs, volunteer 8 hours a week, raise a child and keep a home.

Someone mentioned in a comment that I've dug a big hole but I have a big shovel to use in filling it. This is very true. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say I will be disqualified from any government rebates this spring because of the salary cap. Don't feel sorry for me, though, my bills are paid on time each and every month thanks to the hefty salaries my husband and I make and I'm in no danger of losing my home due to stupid mortgage mistakes.

I know people who have dug bigger holes than I have and have used every dime they had to pay it off and then had something catastrophic happen that left them wishing they had saved a little of their emergency funds to help them get through the rough patches. This is ultimately why I don't pay off my debt with my savings. Also, I'm not joking when I say I don't want to be eating Alpo in my old age.

I think that it's easy for people who are not in my position to think they know what will solve my problems, just like I think I know what will get smokers and alcoholics to give up their "vices." Unless you've been here, you have no idea....

19 Responses to “What is a compulsive debtor?”

  1. LadyT Says:

    Very well-written! I appreciate your candor and thank you for your honesty.

  2. Nancy Says:

    Hello!
    Yes, it makes perfect sense not to exhaust your savings to pay off all your debts; we all need a cushion. I fully understand that and it makes sense. I still do not understand why you wouldn't allocate a portion of your savings to some of the consumer debt, but that's just me: I hate paying interest and, in today's climate, a conservative investment will not reliably yield more than 4.9% APY while credit card interest is anywhere from 12 to 26%. So that was my thought about paying off the non student loan debt.
    Now a lot of the rest...and I do appreciate your willingness to engage in a dialogue...is just a matter of different lifestyle and values. I would rather live simply and not owe a lot of money; as for compulsive debting, I can also see that where I am coming from is very different than your mindset. For example, it sounds to me that as a compulsive debtor, paying cash is an important part of control; so for you, going on a vacation that you pay cash for is not a luxury nor do you see it as spending money that might be better spent on reducing bills. Now, for me, the distinction between Cash and Credit Cards is not as black and white; whether I am paying for that cruise with cash or VISA, I still know that those funds could have gone to pay down a credit card (or bought a new roof). So, I think, for you, not "debting" is key to your financial plan. And there are many variables that might enable you to pay them off without paying so much interest....but yeah, I see that the "compulsive debtor" is a burden, very similar to something like alcoholism.

    Thank you for sharing your financial life.

    My last comment is, if you are adding your home equity to your savings balance, then why aren't you adding your mortgage balance to your debts?


    Nancy

  3. baselle Says:

    One thing that I'm curious about is your sidebar. Why describe your debt as "grand whoppin'" and your savings as "measly"? I've found that the less emotion you put into your money the better.

  4. Broken Arrow Says:

    Very interesting essay.

    It's true that people won't always understand what you're going through.

    I do try to be helpful without saying, "Oh yeah, I know exactly what you're going through." because I hated it when people did that to me when they clearly did not understand. Even if they meant well. Big Grin

    Still, I wish you the very best in battling your demons, as I go wrestle mine. Big Grin

  5. merch Says:

    I do think that just paying with cash and palnning your spending is a huge step for you. It probably is the hardest too. You're breaking old habits that took years to develop and new ones you want to instill will take time.

    Everyday is a battle and just focus one day at a time. I do agree to take care of yourself first to set yourself up for success. Remember even if you have a moment of weakness, it doesn't mean you completely failed. It's what you do after that moment that matters most.

    Good luck to you!!! And keep the focus!!!

  6. Ima saver Says:

    Keep up the good work!

  7. compulsive debtor Says:

    Nancy, I've already used a portion of my savings to pay down my debt, so I'm not going there again if I can avoid it, which I obviously can. Also, the debt I've listed is only my unsecured debt. In DA, secured debt (i.e. a car loan -- which I don't have -- or mortgage) is not considered debting. I'm not putting my numbers up for your benefit. I'm putting them up for my benefit. It helps me to see the debt go down and the savings go up. If I put the remaining mortgage amount in there, my debt will double. I'm trying not to scare myself into thinking I'm never going to dig myself out of this debt. Which, by the way, I anticipate paying off -- minus the mortgage -- in under 10 years. According to a certain financial professional who I have sought the advice of, this is highly doable even given my overindulgent lifestyle and questionable values.

    Baselle, I spend a lot of time sitting in 12-step meetings listening to people cry and whine about their situation -- just like I cry and whine about mine. I have this blog for fun. I know some of you are more serious about what you post here. I am not. I do not. It's a place for me to make light of my situation. Let's face it, $163,222.81 IS a "GRAND WHOPPIN'" amount of debt! There's no way I'm going to overcome that without a sense of humor so I suggest we all just lighten up a little bit.

  8. Nancy Says:

    Hi!
    Let me say that you are amazing and that your attitude is very positive; for me, I would not be able to sleep at night or would file BK if I owed that much money. I think your situation is, for you, manageable and that you have a goal in mind. Keep up your good work!

    Nancy

    PS Still can't figure out the sidebar thingie but when I dom, you can see my numbers.

  9. compulsive debtor Says:

    I'm thinking the "amazing" comment isn't "amazing" as in "GREAT." But I'll take it for what it is. As for bankruptcy or a settlement, those are not options for me personally. I racked up more than $160,000 in debt through credit cards and student loans. I'm a responsible adult who is very capable of working full time and then some. Barring death or some catastrophic illness, I plan on paying back every dime I owe in full and on time and I guarantee I will still have a hefty savings account leftover when I do. As for lying awake at night worrying about money, what good is that going to do? Seriously, I go to bed at night knowing my family is healthy and happy. Beyond that, does anything else matter? I don't think so....

  10. Nancy Says:

    No, I meant "amazing" as in "great," which your attitude surely is;

    unfortunately, for me, much of my family's well-being comes from the stability that money has provided and that a savings account provides; our health is not only God given but maintained with the use of our health insurance plan (that we pay for) and our prescription plan (ditto); we have a home that is heated and a kitchen filled with food and the ability to use the internet and the TV from our home as well; all of this is due to our financial stability. I understand that you have a very, very different mindset, but I still respect your ability to have a positive attitude and strive to maintain your lifestyle while paying your debts!

    Nancy

    PS If I may comment further: it doesn't sound to me as though your stepson's educational debt is "your" debt -- that seems to be more like family debt or your husband's debt or however you want to delineate it -- there is a difference between random charging and tuition for a degree that is low interest and hardly a spontaneous, uncontrolled expense!! It's VERY generous of you and your husband to provide his tuition.

  11. compulsive debtor Says:

    My husband's debt is my debt, just like my debt is his debt. As for my stepson, we were very generous because we had to be according to the divorce court. Personally, we would have preferred a more reasonably priced state school, but that wasn't an option.

  12. baselle Says:

    You explained the "grand whoppin'", now what about the "measly"? I don't anyone around here would think of 400K as measly. Its a good total, even if you're lighthearted about your blog, you should be proud of it.

  13. compulsive debtor Says:

    If you had any idea the money my husband and I have made, you'd understand why I say that's a measly amount of savings....

  14. katwoman Says:

    Anything that one can do to reduce their debt is a great thing and no one here will argue that. We're just not used to seeing those kinds of numbers (debt or savings or spending or earnings) from someone in your shoes. At least not on an open blog. That's why you're so interesting.

    I, for one, appreciate the candor so please keep blogging!

  15. compulsive debtor Says:

    Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere for a while.

  16. zenith Says:

    I enjoy your blog and reading about anothers viewpoint on finances. I think you should handle your money any way you see fit.
    But, if you put up public entries on a blog you should expect people to comment on it. And those comments may not always be what you would want to hear.
    In other words, I think you are being a tad "touchy?"
    That said, "I can kind of see why you don't pay off all of the debt. Is it a reminder of where you've been and what could happen again? I think I can identify with that kind of thinking.

  17. compulsive debtor Says:

    Zenith, honey, you don't know what "touchy" is. But I'm not even going there with you because I know your heart is in the right place -- healthy and beating strong....

  18. DeniseNTexas Says:

    Interesting that I see shades of myself in your explanation. But I've never thought of myself as a compulsive debtor. Hmmm, something to ponder over the weekend! I appreciate your honesty and this is a great entry.

  19. luxlivingfrugalis Says:

    Thank you for being so open with your life. Wishing you well!

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