When we think of addictions, few us think of money as a habit-forming substance. However, it is completely possible to become addicted to money.
And it’s not just about becoming addicted to spending money.
“Like with other resources that have mixed uses — for example food and sex — money is a resource that we both need for functioning and one we use to help soothe ourselves,” says Alicia H. Clark, PsyD, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
When you start using money to deal with your problems, or when you become dependent on money for thrills, it becomes too easy to let things get out of control.
Two Kinds of Financial Addictions
“Money is vulnerable to misuse, as it is hard to avoid the duality of purpose,” says Clark. “Like with food, sex, and alcohol, people can misuse money and become addicted to the thrill of spending or the thrill of saving.”
I find it interesting that Clark points out that saving can be an addiction. Often, when we think of financial addictions, we think of spending. It’s easy to point to a shopping addiction and say that it’s a problem. After all, spending money to escape troubles is a recognized issue.
But what about miserly behavior? According to Clark, that can also be a financial addiction. The thrill associated with saving money can have a darker side. You might not buy the things you need, or you might deny help to others — even though you have the means to provide relief. Hoarding your money isn’t always the healthy choice.
How to Tell if You Have a Problem
The real problem isn’t that you spend or you save. The real problem is that you use these actions as crutches. If you feel bad every time you spend money, because you’re addicted to the thrill you get from saving, that’s not exactly a healthy money attitude — especially if you can afford to spend a little bit in order to improve your family’s quality of life.
Likewise, it’s problematic if you seek solace from your cares and worries on a shopping trip. Spending can make you feel good for a little while, but if you’re already having money problems, spending more isn’t going to put you ahead.
Ask yourself if you’re basing your happiness, in some way, on the way you interact with your money. If your happiness depends too much on spending money, or on seeing your bank account grow to no real purpose, you might have a financial addiction that needs to be addressed.
“Money is a resource that you have to manage much like your time, your energy, and your attention,” Clark points out. Don’t pin all your happiness on it, and don’t use your financial actions as a way to escape the other problems in your life.
Instead, consider how you can use your money to benefit you, your family, and others, now and in the future. Create a plan around your whole life goals and use money as a resource, and you’ll be less likely to fall into habits that might be classified as addictions.
What do you think? Can money addiction be a serious problem?