Debtors Anonymous helps stop the urge to splurge

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shoppingMove over AA, NA and other 12-step programs, now there is Debtors Anonymous for those addicted to overspending. Patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous, DA is a 12-step program to help spenders recover from chronic debt and compulsive spending.

In DA, the first step for recovery is accurately tracking every dime, nickel and penny of spending for 90 days. The new DA member is then paired up with two or more veteran members who assist in formulating a new plan for spending and budgeting. The weekly meetings offer support and encouragement to members, particularly if there is a spending relapse.


Compulsive shopping and spending are not isolated problems due to our "buy more to feel good" culture. We are taught from an early age with billions of dollars of advertising that MORE will make you happier. A 2003 study by Stanford University found that 2%-8% of the U.S. population has compulsive shopping disorder, which is defined as a preoccupation with shopping for unneeded items and the inability to resist buying them.

Compulsive shoppers use buying as a way of feeling better. In spite of negative consequences that catch up with the shopper, like guilt, debt, or feeling secretive about your compulsion to buy things -- they may embark on yet another shopping binge, charging or writing checks for things that really don't need. They may lie about how much money is being spent and conceal price tags and receipts. Spending addiction is an attempt to try to "buy" happiness -- to feel admired, accepted, empowered and to push away troubling feelings.

Worried about your spending? Take the Debt Quiz and find out.

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For her FREE e-mail newsletter, please visit: The People Pro.
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