From spendthrift to saver

In recent news, celebrities are finding themselves in the pitfalls of debt. Many of them attribute their debt to living an extravagant lifestyle. One celebrity was even quoted to have said celebrities are expected to live a certain lifestyle even if it means exceeding their income.

Compulsive spending is one of the leading causes of debt in America. According to a study conducted by Stanford University nearly 17 million, or 1 in 20, Americans are compulsive spenders. Famous compulsive spenders are said include Marie Antoinette, William Randolph Hearst, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Princess Diana. Debt-stricken celebrities are proof that it doesn’t matter how much income you earn, but rather how much of it you spend. Below is a look into the behaviors of compulsive spending and tips for overcoming.


  • Feelings of deprivation as a child
  • Need for a thrill-seeking high
  • Need for approval
  • Seeking acceptance into a certain socio-economic class
  • Need to feel in control

Warning signs

  • A gratifying emotional rush when shopping
  • Extreme guilt after a purchase
  • Dishonesty to your spouse about the amount of a purchase
  • Multiple retail store credit cards
  • Items in your home that still have the tags attached
  • Constant arguments about money


Admit your problem. Sometimes the simplest solution is the hardest. Before you can change your behavior and receive the necessary help is to first admit there is a problem. Review the warning signs above and see if at least three of them describe you and your relationship with others.

Seek help. Depending on the severity of the problem compulsive spenders can seek help in a number of ways including talking to a psychologist to get to the root of your compulsive behavior. Another option is to seek credit counseling to help develop a budget and spending plan for your finances.

Find a new hobby. Compulsive shoppers spend hours shopping for their item of choice, whether it’s clothes, shoes, art, etc. Find a more constructive and less expensive hobby to enjoy like join a book club, volunteer with your favorite local nonprofit, or learn a new skill like swimming.

Get rid of crutches. Credit cards are a useful tool to have. However, if owning one is a financial crutch you may need to get rid of them until you learn how to have them without abusing them.

From spendthrift to saver alternatives

Spendthrift – buying boutique and/or name brand merchandise
Saver – buy at discount or resale stores; look for sale items and use coupons

Spendthrift – using credit to finance purchases
Saver – research the cost of an item and save a little each month to purchase it

Spendthrift – regular visits to a spa salon
Saver – get a do-it-yourself salon kit and use it at home

Spendthrift – eating out multiple times a week
Saver – cook at home and opt for dining out maybe once a week

Spendthrift – lavish vacations in a 5-star resort hotel
Saver – drive to your neighbor state and enjoy local festivities

Renee McGruder is a former communications coordinator and grant writer at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

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  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.