The Crushing Blow of Manic Spending

I have been struggling lately with my spending and I’ve had to do some soul searching to figure out why I had been spending more than I needed to be and these are the things I’ve come across.

Manic spending is the idea that money is endless, and it is used to self-medicate a problem. It sometimes involves spending a lot at once on things like trips or a new car or a lot of small purchases that lead to a drain in finances.

There have been moments when I’ve spent so much, there’s no money for food or gas or other necessities. That’s when I know I’m in a manic episode and I needed to bring a halt to all the spending. However, at this point, it would be too late.

Generally, after the spending, I’m thanking God for refund policies. I get frantic trying to return everything I’ve bought once the high comes down.

Unfortunately, I’m so forgetful that I lose receipts. So, some of the time, I’m stuck with whatever it is I bought.

Yikes.

You would think I would learn this lesson by now, right? You would think going through this repeatedly would leave a sting that sticks with me and helps me to prevent the overspending?

But no. That’s just not how my brain works. The high is always worth it. The pacifying of my pain is always worth it. Buying things (especially expensive things) temporarily increase my self-worth so of course, it’s worth it.

Until I’m struggling to pay bills. Then I’m cursing at myself for being so dumb.

And it doesn’t take long for me to be back on the manic spending train again.

I’m finally off this “high” that wasn’t much of a high at all… and I’m sharing what I’ve learned.

Manic spending, shopping, overspending

When do I know it’s overspending?

There are times when I need things. For example, spending money to get my hair done wouldn’t count. I know I’m being excessive when I’m buying things I already have a lot of. For example, I recently bought a ton of “summer dresses” while completely ignoring the fact that half of my closet is summer dresses (I’m in Florida so duh!). I also love buying tech I don’t need, like newer headphones or speakers, and completely disregarding the stuff I have at home.

In addition, I usually can’t afford it. I’m a teacher and nothing about that says I’m balling. So, yea. Anything I buy that isn’t groceries or gas is probably over my non-existent budget.

UGH.

Why am I overspending?

That’s the first question I’m confronted with when I’m staring down a bank account of only $20.

I try to backtrack to my emotions or maybe an interaction that started it all. For me, overspending starts when I realize I’m alone. To make myself feel in-control and “powerful”, I buy whatever I want… whenever I want! I tell myself I don’t need anyone to get these things for me.

In reality, the real test is in being alone and appreciating what is around me.

I also feel a general lack of self-worth. If I’m struggling appreciating my current body after 3 kids, I buy new clothes that I think will hide my figure or make me look better. I try to dress different, wear something tighter or looser, trying to get comfortable with my body again.

What I need is to appreciate my body the way it is and to quit comparing myself to others. Ugh, such a hard thing to do!

Finally, my sweet kids are my kryptonite. I’m raising them alone and I’m always hyper-aware that I’m doing it alone. I try to overcompensate by trips to theme parks or expensive toys. If they want it, I buy it! I don’t want my kids to want for anything!

However, I’m realizing that it was always in me to do this alone and not have to overcompensate with material things! I am enough for my children! I don’t need to play 2 roles because the 1 I do play encompasses all things and I thank God for that!

Where is my accountability?

Accountability is truly the only way to survive with a mental health disorder. The more accountability, the better! My sisters are a huge help with this when I’ve been overspending. We all have one mental health issue or another and try to remain accountable to each other when things get hard.

I usually go shopping and must “submit” my receipts to my sister. She’s amazing at letting me know when I’m being purposeful or excessive. What helps is when she goes shopping with me. She helps me to stay on budget and only buy what I need.

Now, this is not the case ALL the time. She only comes with me when times are hard, and I need the support to not clean out my bank account. Despite the fact, she never judges me or makes me feel terrible about my spending. She simply tells me what I need and what should be returned to the store. It’s a huge help to stay on track.

How can I replace the overspending with something healthy?

This has been something I’ve fought with for a long time. I’ve had to go back and forth on what is healthy and what isn’t when it comes to spending and filling the void I feel. Here are some things that have helped me through.

  • When the loneliness hits, I reach out to friends or family. I try to spend quality time with them which usually doesn’t involve spending money. I do playdates with my best friend or we take a dip in her pool. Being around people who care about me recharges my energy and although I am alone, I am far from lonely.
  • When I struggle with my body image, I do something about it. I exercise and try to eat healthily.  I remind myself that my body has been through a lot and this is where I’m at after 3 kids. If I’m going to spend a lot, it needs to be on healthy foods that will benefit me in the long term.
  • When I am trying to fill two roles for my children, I focus more on making the time quality versus quantity (with material things). We paint or go outside to blow bubbles or play at the park. A good friend reminded me that my kids won’t remember who was absent- they will remember who was present. So, I strive to be present for them.

How do you deal with manic spending? Please comment below I would love to hear your journey!

If you feel that your spending is out of control, please speak to someone. Counselors are always ready to help you process why you are overspending and encourage better habits.

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This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Love this post. Such REAL info and digging into whys and habits of ourselves.

  2. Overspending is such a trap, especially when someone is symptomatic. Great tips and I’ll be sure to print this out and put it in our resource folder at the crisis facility.

  3. Thank you, this was a really useful article for someone with a partner with bipolar – manic spending is one of his symptoms which we are (slowly) learning to manage now. Great tip on learning to appreciate what you have already!

    1. I’m glad these help! I’m boderline bi-polar and this is one of those struggles that affect the entire household! I’m glad you all are managing! I hope he gets better and better at it!

  4. You’ve gotten very real in this post and I appreciate it. I feel like I could go manic all the time with my money, but somehow manage to control myself. I’m very aware that as a freelancer I need to be aware that my income isn’t regular, and so I can’t go spending money willy-nilly. That being said these tips are very helpful to help reign myself in when I feel like I could go out of control.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. I know the feeling girlfriend! I have a regular income but on a tight budget. It’s rough!

  5. Great great tips. I was not even aware that this type of spending had a name. I have learned to hold back, but it has taken time. There were past occasions when I purchased things and then had to make returns. Great post.

  6. It’s good that you reached out to others to help analyze your spending! Your story reminds me of this book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. He explains the cycle of cue-routine-reward and how changing a habit requires altering the routine that is triggered by a cue but has the same (or similar) reward. I think the book will be helpful since it relates so much to the tips you provided!

    1. Ou! That sounds awesome! I’ll look into that book. Thank you for sharing!

  7. I get it! It is really tough, It could be a manic spending or eating feeling the void. I think realizing the problem is the first step to fixing it!

    1. It definitely is! Self-reflection is everything!

  8. Good for you for taking a stand against that habit. You shared some great insights. Praying for continued success for you.

  9. It sounds like you are working through your “whys”, and that’s excellent! Accountability is great too.

  10. I have family members who are manic spenders. The entire idea actually scares the daylights out of me, but that is likely triggered by the other family members I knew who were.

    1. I understand… especially if you’re close to it. It gets scary. However, if you’re supportive of those family members, I promise they will start to get to the root of the issue and try to overcome it. Hang in there!

  11. Overspending is so easy to do these days. I find myself doing it more since I have a little more extra money then i use6 to. Sounds like you have a great sister to help you along your struggles. That’s so wonderful.

  12. Wow. I love, love the way your broke down this blog article with ALL your over-spending actions in relation to what self-affirming, healthy thoughts you should be practicing! I can certainly relate with some of these points. I appreciate your honesty, authenticity, & taking the time to share your experience.
    Xx, Morgs*

    1. Morgan you’re so sweet! Thank you for your kindness! I hope it helps others to come to terms with their truth and tackle it!

  13. Hi Stella,
    Excellent insight!

    It is so easy to get caught up in overspending to fill a void. Most people don’t even realize that’s what they are doing. Good for you that you not only recognize the problem, but you also know when to ask for help.

    And I can certainly testify that kids always appreciate quality time more so than material things.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing girl…you’ve got this!

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