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How can I control my impulsiveness with money?

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I just realized that I have an impulse problem. I just left a husband and I am retiring from a job of 33 years and 3 months. I was spending money that I did not have and now I am temporarily out of money. I took a new job because I was dead at my old job.

I must admit I am scared. What I am asking is how can I manage my impulsiveness? I realized today that I hate being broke or unable to buy what I want when I want. But that is what makes my bills so high. I don't really need anything other than money to pay for my bills and the people that I owe. I want to stop the madness and get back on track. Do you have any suggestions?

Wallace's reply
You need to do three things. Firstly you need to improve the feedback from your account, so that there is a direct and immediate relationship between what you spend and what you earn. I suggest you cut up your credit cards and work a cash system of payment. Each month set out the income you have after tax, and deduct from that your monthly bills. Leave the money to cover your bills in your account and pay for those bills with a check at the correct time as the month progresses. Withdraw the remainder as cash. Keep most of it in a secure place at home and take from the monthly cash supply enough to cater for your daily shopping needs. Discipline yourself to ensure that the supply of cash is enough to see you through the month.

In time you may wish to improve your cash flow discipline further so that there is money put aside each month for your future financial needs, like pension or other needs that require saving.

The second thing you need to address is the lack of self worth you feel. You are trying to fill up an inner void from the outside by fulfilling your desires for worldly goods and services. We achieve happiness and contentment not by fulfilling our every worldly desire, but, through a process of learning to love ourselves, reduce the number of desires to which we are subject. This will empower us to live on very little if necessary and be happy and contented.

Remember for a moment those days when you felt completely at peace - when you were at your most relaxed - when you felt an inner contentment. At those times did you feel this compulsion to shop? I will give you an example from my own life. Only yesterday I went to do some business in Dublin where I live. I was feeling particularly relaxed and contented. The people I was to see did not turn up for their appointment - so I called them on my mobile. They said they could see me in an hour, so I told them I would wait down the road in a local pub. I sat in the pub for an hour and spent nothing - I did not order any drink or food. This wasn't because I was miserly. I was feeling so contented that I realized I did not need anything on offer so I sat there and watched the customers drinking and eating. After the hour was up I left and went to my appointment.

Therefore the third thing I want you to do is each month to leave a small amount of money in your account to pay for some counseling, psychotherapy or life coaching with a local person. Interview a few people and choose the person with whom you feel the strongest connection. At this monthly meeting work with them to go beyond your addictive tendencies and improve the quality of love you have for yourself. You may discover that your impulsiveness with money is tied up with a grief reaction to leaving your husband and life long job. If so work with your coach to help you let go of the grief and find a new level of inner peace, contentment and self love. Once you improve your quality of self love you can once again trust yourself with money.

Further Help and Resources
The issue of impulsiveness was discussed by Peter Shepherd in a recent article, in connection with mindfulness. If we suppress our feelings, he says, then at times of stress or with a little provocation those feelings erupt in a reactive way, leading to impulsive behavior. The solution is to be more mindful, to take a pause before reacting, and then when we are in a safer place we would do well to express those painful feelings, experience them and learn to accept them, and then let them go.

Read more questions on this topic

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