5 Common Debt Triggers and How to Counteract Them

Do you know why you spend? Many of us buy things -- big and small -- for emotional reasons rather than logical ones. See if the situations below ring true for you, and learn what you can do to bring your spending under control.

Sense of Entitlement
I'd "treat" myself after a rough day or week to a lipstick or cassette or CD. Later, it took a higher-cost item or more lipsticks or CDs to give me that same sense of feeling good. That was probably my intro to "entitlement" spending: the "I'm working hard, I deserve something nice" syndrome. Quite a few of us were doing the same thing at work, so there was also a sense of camaraderie and kinship about spending. One woman bought a new car to make herself feel good.

There are countless ways to give yourself a treat that won't cost too much and will help you feel better, not worse, about yourself. How about trying your hand at gardening as a spiritual exercise or cashing in on these beauty freebies?

Upset and Depressed
My main spending trigger is feeling upset or depressed. If I am frustrated with the way my life is going, or if I have a fight with my family or my boyfriend, that's when I spend money. And I justify it by telling myself that my life is terrible so if I buy this one little thing (or 10 little things) that it isn't so bad and anyone would understand.

While the ups and downs of relationships may feel temporarily better with this type of response, they aren't really addressed by buying something. To truly feel better you need to confront the problem head on. For advice on handling problems better, be sure to check out the problems section of the Relationships channel. As for that feeling of depression, reach out for help. Start by visiting the iVillageHealth channel, to get answers about the way you feel and what you can do about it.

Hobby Shopping
Part of my overspending problem is that I'm so used to using shopping and eating out as a hobby.

Shopping is definitely a great American pastime. However there are also many other great alternative hobbies that won't burn up your money but still allow you to relax and bond with friends. For instance, you can join an iVillage book club, catch up on the latest fiction by trading books at a Book Swap and find new tricks on iVillage's Cooking How-to site to enhance your current kitchen skills.

Bargain Hunting
I get the Sunday paper and the first thing I do is look through the sale papers. I love to highlight things I want and need, and this is how I end up in the store, applying for the store card (gotta get that 10 percent off). I am pretty good about ignoring commercial ads and online ads, but knowing that the paper is coming Sunday with "deals" -- it's a challenge. Also, I have to learn to live within my means. And one more thing: I know I have a problem with impulse buying when it comes to sales. Just this weekend I bought another sweater because it was on clearance, no other reason. I definitely don't need it (I live in Alabama and don't need many sweaters to begin with).

Retailers are always going after our money -- that's their business. But our business is to take care of ourselves by handling our money well. Figure out exactly how much you do have to spend on items like this. Use a budget-setting tool to figure out that amount -- your so-called discretionary income. Then stick with your budget by using some of these easy ways to save. Also, be sure to visit the Frugal Living and Creating and Managing Budgets message boards to find great ways to save.

Using Credit Instead of a Budget
I got my first credit card when I was about 19. I was working three jobs at some points to try to make it through school. I wasn't living high on the hog by any means. But when the ends didn't meet I covered the gap with credit cards. As a first-generation college student, I was on the loose with no training on how to budget, how to save or how destructive credit can be. ("Hey, a $2,000 credit card balance is only a $50 monthly payment, I can afford that!")

Don't feel alone: Credit cards have spurred many people to spend without a budget. It's a form of abuse that is rampant among all age groups and educational backgrounds. Here's help learning how to create a budget and how to master credit-card basics.

What are your spending triggers? Recognizing them will help you control your urge to spend. Share them and tips you have for curbing spending on the Compulsive Spenders board.

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