Peeling back the layers of your financial onion

Discover the Real Problem Behind Your Overspending

by Kimberly Danger

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The number one reason why people go into debt isn't lack of money. It's a lack of something else. Something that doesn't have anything to do with money. What else? Well, that really depends on the person.

In most cases, overspending is only a symptom of a larger problem. The problem could be one of many things: low self-esteem, boredom, loneliness, etc. Our inner problems usually have a way of manifesting externally, whether it's a weight problem, an addiction, or spending too much.

The problem with overspending is that it creates other problems in the process: debt, clutter, or even strained relationships. Suddenly you've created a downward spiral that perpetuates itself.

If you're suffering financially, ask yourself why. Many people are quick to place the blame on some factor outside of themselves: their husband is underemployed, high mortgage payments, or (fill in the blank). Often you need to peel back the layers of the onion to see what problem lies underneath.

For example, Rob and Mindy are a family in their mid-30s with four kids. Mindy is a stay-at-home mom. She is upset with her husband and his failure to adequately provide for his growing family. To cheer herself up, Mindy indulges in retail therapy. It's not a lot. She may buy a new outfit one week and go out for lunch with friends the next. Mindy rationalizes her spending by telling herself that she isn't doing anything extravagant, and she certainly doesn't spend as much as some of her friends. Rob doesn't say anything to Mindy about her overspending because he wants her to be happy. But after several years of doing this, they've dug themselves into $40,000 of credit card debt, and their relationship is more strained than ever.

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Let's peel back the layers to see what the issues in this story really are. Rob has a hard time holding down a job, and when he does find one, he finds his talents and skills under-utilized. Why? Rob's lack of support at home makes him feel inadequate. Because of these feelings of inadequacy, he often sells himself short during his interviews and under-performs at work. This is largely due to his low self-esteem, which is a result of not being appreciated by his wife. This couple is in vicious circle of the financial kind.

While this is a fictional example, it's not an uncommon story. The truth is that you create your own financial circumstances. If you're struggling with financial issues and the emotional issues behind them, this probably isn't what you want to hear. Until you're willing to accept responsibility for your situation and work on the real underlying issues, it's unlikely to change. However, because you do often create your circumstances, you also have the power to turn things around. Here's how to get started tracing back the origins or your debt and overspending habits.


Where are your spending weaknesses?

Why do you feel the need to buy (fill in the blank)?

I feel (fill in the blank) when I buy this item.


My debt is largely a result of ___________.

___________ is a result of ___________________.

And so on…

When you discover the real problems behind your financial issues, you can do something about them. The power is shifted back to you, and you can choose whether or not to take action or perpetuate your current situation. When you get to the heart of the problem and begin to solve it, your spending issues tend to take care of themselves.

Reviewed July 2017

Kimberly Danger is the owner and publisher of, a site for moms living well for less. Portions of this article first appeared in her blog, Forget the Joneses, which also appears on her website at

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