finance

"I couldn’t control myself": At 23, I was addicted to shopping. The debt almost ruined me.

For a few years now, I have been the biggest cheerleader for the ‘shop now, pay later’ scheme, Afterpay.

If you know me personally, you would know that I have used and loved this notion of ‘responsible spending’ since the launch of the business in 2015.

Quite frankly I don’t even remember a time without it… and that’s the problem.

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I will never forget when I discovered its existence, and thinking about what an amazing idea it was (but also annoyed that I didn’t think of the idea first).

It was exactly what I needed; a guilt-free way of spreading out my purchases over a period of time to make it more financially manageable. The world was my spending oyster as far as I was concerned.

I could never understand why people were so against the business because it just made SO much sense to me, and to an extent, still does!

My advocacy for the fortnightly scheduled payments never wavered. It became annoying to me when people would question my spending habits, tell me I didn’t need to purchase what I had, or laugh at my constant use of the app.

‘They just don’t understand,’ I used to say to myself. ‘If I was earning as much as they were, I wouldn’t need to use this!’

There was not a single doubt in my mind about my use or dependency on this app, whatsoever.

That was, until the weeks that would roll by where I would be left with nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not a single cent. Not even enough to buy myself a coffee in the morning with a staff discount (that’s $3).

That’s when it hit me – that I physically could not spend money normally anymore; everything I was purchasing was being divided into four payments in my mind. I was totally incapable of spending my money responsibly.

I was an addict. I was completely addicted to spending money and engulfed in the feeling of having everything I wanted. If you search the definition of being an addict, it characterises it as an ‘enthusiastic devotee’, but I knew that it was more than that.

Growing up, I never wanted to miss out on anything, no matter what it was. I always wanted to be included in plans, invited to birthdays and buy into trends that everyone else was wearing or doing.

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It was always so exciting to me when I had more to offer than the next person because it made me feel cool. To this day, the need for acceptance has never left me and I can admit that about myself.

I suffered a lot from the fear of missing out, and this notion has now spiralled into my adulthood.

And then came the credit card.

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I’m sure you can imagine how damaging this was to my spending habits. ‘It’s just for emergency purposes and bills’, I said, over and over again.

I will never forget the day when my pay came in, and quite literally every single dollar had to go towards paying off my credit card and Afterpay instalments.

It was more than humiliating.

There would not go a day where I wouldn’t see people I know on social media buying houses, and yet here I was with not a cent to my name because I couldn’t control myself. The only credit that I would give myself is that I was always really strict with paying back what I owed.

You know those people that say they woke up one day and decided to make a change? I became that person.

Over the course of this isolation period, I started to recognise my bad behaviours and really understand why I had dug a hole this deep. Whether it was all some self-justification or to feel a certain high, I knew it all had to stop. The stress of it all was quite literally eating me alive.

So, I decided I’d had enough.

My Afterpay and Zippay accounts are fully paid off and closed. My credit card is paid off, cut up, and never to be opened again. It’s been an expensive lesson, and one that I don’t wish to learn again. The feeling of freedom is second to none.

I have always been one of those people that have lived in the ‘now’ and enjoyed the moment but I never thought about the repercussions for the future. The shift in learnt behaviour is going to be hard but oh my GOD is it going to be worth it.

One of the big motivators out of all of this has been joining a community of like-minded women, who share similar experiences and pursue money goals that I aspire to.

‘She’s on the Money’ has been a massive driving force to this change, and I would highly recommend the podcast and Facebook group if you are, or were, someone like me.

I’m so excited to build a financial future for myself.

This post originally appeared on 23 and (almost) financially free, and has been republished with full permission. 

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