After breaking up with a guy who I had dated for almost 10 years, I immediately went to the mall and spent over $1,000 on new clothing. The next day, I decided that I wanted to learn how to go camping and went to REI to buy over $500 in camping supplies.
Retail confession: this was the start of a debt-filled journey to get over my ex. Spending a ton of money on new clothing, new hobbies (along with every accessory for that hobby), and all-girls trips to the spa, fancy restaurants, and the hottest new bars would make me feel better, right?
My plan in retail therapy completely backfired months later when I came to the realization that I had racked up thousands of dollars on my credit cards. I felt even worse about myself, because I had lost control of my finances. I felt completely irresponsible, helpless, and confused. I slowly crawled my way out of debt, but I wished every step of the way that I hadn’t gotten myself there in the first place.
Breakups are terrible, and you’re left with so many emotions: anger, pain, grief, loneliness, insecurity, etc… It’s not easy, but I can tell you from my experience, it is exponentially worse if you drive yourself into debt trying to find happiness. By the time you’re emotionally ready to stand on your own again and move on, you’ll have a trail of bills following you around. Here are a few things to remember when you’re grappling with a breakup so that you don’t end up broke.
Love Don’t Cost a Thing
Excess spending and shopping often stem from a person’s need to fill an emotional or physical void. You think you have a hole in your life, and it’s easy to want to fill it with stuff (shopping), food (overeating), or someone else (dating). While these options aren’t always bad in moderation at one time or another, filling the void is about caring for yourself and addressing your emotions and your needs, and it doesn’t have to cost a thing.
For example, it’s always a good idea to meet new people after a breakup to help you gain new perspective on life. You can join activity groups in your area for fitness classes, weekly book club, or hiking trips. Or, why not reconnect with old friends about life, work, or shared interests?
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Spending time in meaningful conversation with new and old supportive friends can help you realize your potential and grow your professional and personal networks. By growing and strengthening your networks, you’ll feel more confident about yourself and realize that your breakup void is nothing but an opportunity to take better care of yourself by developing new skills and meeting new people.
Empower Yourself by Taking Control of Your Finances
Indulgences are not always bad, but don’t fall into the trap of constantly splurging on items for instant or short-term gratification. New clothing and accessories might make you feel confident and attractive today, but remember that in the long run, you will be more empowered if you’re firmly in control of your finances.
Consumer culture often leads us to believe that the more goods and services we enjoy reflect how valuable or powerful we are to society, but the reality is that overspending on items are often short-term fixes that hinder chances at long-term financial stability and happiness. You should treat yourself to things or activities you enjoy, but always stay in control of your budget and know your limit.
When you realize the power and sense of self-worth in being financially stable and responsible, it becomes easier to understand why saving money can feel just as good as spending it. Putting your money away in savings or in investments actually increases your individual value and potential for the future. You are taking better care of yourself by keeping to your budget than by throwing your money away on frivolous expenses.
Reach out For Help
I slowly learned how to take control of my finances after my breakup, and the process made me realize just how linked my shopping habits were to my emotions. I’ve always been conservative with my pocketbook, so the thousands of dollars on my credit card forced me to finally face the fact that I wasn’t dealing with my emotions in a healthy way.
Talking to supportive friends and family helped alleviate the guilt and regret I felt about overspending, but I wish I had turned to them sooner. If you can’t seem to handle your emotions, or you keep turning to dangerous and unhealthy coping mechanisms like overspending, do not hesitate to ask for help. Friends, family, and therapists can all help you reflect on the emotions that are driving destructive behavior.
“Retail therapy” doesn’t work long term. If you’ve relied on it for too long, racked up major credit card debt, and can’t see a way out of it, you have to remind yourself that it’s never too late to take control of your finances. Recovering from any emotional trauma like a breakup is a long journey, so if you make mistakes along the way, forgive yourself, learn to take better care of yourself by ensuring a financially stable future, and move on.