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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Confessions of a shopaholic (part 1)

'Tis the season to be jolly... and also to spend money like it's going out of fashion.

Crazy Christmas consumerism has been on my mind lately after seeing horrible video footage on the news of people stampeding into shops on 'Black Friday' and having actual physical fights with each other over television sets and laptops. People stomping on and crushing others in a desperate attempt to blag the best deal on crap they don't need and undoubtedly can't afford. 

Can anyone honestly take pleasure in watching their brand new telly knowing they punched someone in the face and acted in a completely unacceptable manner to secure it? It's disgusting behaviour! So much for goodwill to all men and loving thy neighbour etc... 

I must admit that I've noticed myself feeling tempted to join in with this seasonal shopping frenzy (although I'm proud to say I have never camped outside of Harrods or the Apple store to be the first one in for their after Christmas sale!). In light of this I want to take a step back and reflect on how I used to mindlessly shop, frittering my pennies away, and remind myself why I want to ditch that destructive behaviour for good. 

A while ago I blogged about my struggles with debt after spending the last decade or so getting deeper and deeper into it. Interestingly quite a few readers told me they thought I was brave to write so frankly about something most people consider to be a taboo subject and that my honesty was surprising and refreshing. 

I don't want to shy away from tackling difficult subjects on my blog - that's exactly why I started blogging in the first place. I'm keen to share with you my thoughts on the ups and downs of life, through the lens of my own personal experiences, in the hope we can all learn something along the way. 

I have been rubbish with money pretty much my entire life. I've no idea why, in fact it totally mystifies me how I ended up this way. My parents are financially responsible and they don't have debt other than a mortgage which doesn't really count. I wasn't spoiled in my youth, although I did have a very comfortable and happy childhood. When I was a student my parents kindly gave me a decent allowance and I also had a student loan, so there was no need for me to rely on credit cards to get by - but I used them all the same (just for essentials like clothes from Diesel and trips to Thailand - ahem!). 

Soon after leaving uni I started earning good money in my much loathed City job, yet I still didn't have 'enough' and so I extended my overdraft and used my plastic friends to pay for nights out, ski trips, weekends away in Europe, and pretty much anything else that took my fancy. 

The strangest thing about my behaviour is that I really had no sense of how wrong it was or how much trouble I was making for my future self. I genuinely and completely believed I could easily pay it all back 'later' when, in some imaginary lottery winning future, I would have loads of spare cash to keep up my lifestyle as well as pay off all my debts. 

Every time I reached for the credit card for something I couldn't really afford I justified it by saying to myself "hey, what difference will another £50 make on top of the mountain of debt I already have?". This is actually scarily similar to my attitude to food - over the years I have justified my over-indulgences by telling myself "one more chocolate bar won't make a difference!". Of course when you indulge 'just this once' most days year after year the pounds really add up (in more ways than one)!

So far, so stupid. 

Now fast forward to last year when Chris and I married and our finances became intertwined forever. This turned out to be a massive and much needed reality check for me and a real turning point. Chris is extremely careful with his money and plans his spending like a military operation. He actually has a pension, and savings, and - this is the big one - NEVER runs out of money at the end of the month while desperately awaiting pay day. Annoyingly his thrifty ways never rubbed off on me. 

In the lead up to the wedding last year we had a 'chat' (a.k.a. extremely hectic discussion) about my dire money situation. It was then that I realised fully for the first time how unacceptable it was for a woman of my age to still bury her head in the sand about debt and to be so careless with her hard earned income. After all, I was mostly working in jobs I didn't enjoy so it really was hard earned.

I knew that failing to sort out the mess of my finances and make long term changes to my spending habits would jeopardise my relationship with Chris, and that's a line I'm not willing to cross. So with a reluctant sigh of relief I handed over my credit cards and together we agreed Chris would help me help myself by keeping a very close eye on my finances and spending habits for the foreseeable future. 

And so began my money makeover...

- 'Confessions of a shopaholic (part 2)' coming next week! -

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