Overspending May Wind Up Costing You More than You Think

Many people can fall into the habit of overspending when they have difficulty budgeting, understanding necessary expenses, and finding bargains--but the price may be higher than you think.

By Stacy D. Phillips, Author and Certified Family Law Specialist
Updated: March 17, 2015
Divorce Financial Planning/Investment

The following is the second in a series of thirteen pieces, all of which deal with self-abuse in one way or another, based on the book, Divorce: It’s About Control — How to Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars, by renowned family law specialist and managing partner of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation in Los Angeles, Calif., Stacy D. Phillips. While the Control Wars often center around the typical three — Emotional, Psychological & Legal — other wars can include the Internal Wars and the Enemies Within, some of the most destructive of all. The first in this thirteen part series dealt with alcohol and drugs. This segment addresses overspending.


Most people who go through a breakup suffer financially in some fashion. Losing income (if both parties were income-bearing), having to pay attorneys’ fees and costs, spending money to set up a new home, and splitting assets are only a few financial realities/drawbacks people face when the relationship is over. As such, the last thing you need is to find yourself heavily in debt because of a compulsive need to buy things you may not need or cannot afford. Overspending is certainly the remedy of choice for many because it tends to ward off depression and, if only temporarily, makes people feel they are being bolstered or soothed as they surround themselves with nice things from gadgets to garb.

It is fine to spend lavishly if you have the means to do so! There is nothing wrong with enjoying what you have. However, when your spending exceeds your financial means or limits, then you definitely have a major War to fight: the urge to buy, buy, buy!

One major problem with overspending is that it often depletes the resources you could be using for more long lasting financial gains. With what you have been throwing away on clothes through your marital breakup, perhaps you could have purchased mutual funds, or put a down payment on a house.

The following are a few good reasons why you may want to change that behavior:

  • You could force yourself into bankruptcy.
  • You could ruin your credit.
  • Overspending will keep you in debt.
  • You may grow tired of what you purchased and want another new "one"(whether it is a car, a dress, etc.) sooner than when you can afford.
  • You may find yourself constantly needing to borrow more money just to stay afloat.
  • Those whose opinions mean something to you could find you shallow.
  • You can use the money for more gratifying things that may have staying power or a longer shelf-life in terms of your future such as a home, a college fund for the children, or an IRA (toward retirement).
  • If you are overspending in one area, another area that needs your financial resources may suffer. For instance, do you skate on the dental bill because you have to make a minimum payment to that department store bill instead?
  • You are creating a dangerous pattern, one that may be hard to extract yourself from once the divorce is over and the rest of your life settles down.
  • You are setting an example for your children of fiscal mismanagement.
  • You will find yourself being controlled by the Enemy Within— "Compulsive Spender."

Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. She is co-chair of the Women's Political Committee and a member of Divorce Magazine's North American Advisory Board. She can be reached at (310) 277-7117. View her firm's Divorce Magazine profile here.

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October 10, 2009
Categories:  Financial Issues

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