If you're anything like me, which is to say compulsive and good at denial, you had to be happy with the news a while back from a study done by doctors in the health sciences field.
The findings? It is not our fault. We can't help ourselves from binge shopping and overspending because our brain chemicals are out of balance.
Dr. James Mitchell of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences says these brain chemicals get fouled up when we anticipate buying something.
Our hearts pound and our brains surge. And what is it that relieves this unbearable pressure? Why, shopping, of course.
Buying stuff, shopping, spending money - all of these activities are the equivalent of releasing a pressure valve to allow our brains to function optimally. It only stands to reason, then, that the more we engage in these activities, the healthier we will be.
Perhaps you read about Betty Jean Barachie of Kunkletown, Pa. This woman had a brain surge to end all. During her eight-year shopping binge, she bought many, many things, including 3,000 books, 58 coats, 16 chain saws and a $25,000 John Deere tractor.
Surprisingly, Betty Jean did not use credit cards to relieve all that built-up brain pressure. Nope, she paid cash for everything - with the $1.5 million she embezzled from the credit union where she was the branch manager.
A psychologist called as a witness at her trial testified that Betty Jean is a compulsive shopper and suffers from a
I'm not messin' with you. This story is true, and so is the study. I concur that compulsive shopping is real. Even for Betty Jean, who spent every last penny she embezzled, causing the credit union to go bankrupt.
It's a personality trait that never goes away but over which the afflicted can choose to take control. Sadly, the minute you think you've got it licked and you let your guard down, beware. That's when it is most likely to rear its ugly head.
One of my most effective behavior modifiers is to always remember that even when it feels as if I have no choice but to act compulsively, I do have a choice. I can turn around and walk away. Of course, picturing the entire readership of this column staring at me works wonders, too.
Betty Jean had 27 months in prison to think about her choices - not nearly long enough, if you ask me. Just think of her fellow employees who had their lives turned upside down because of her choices. As for restitution, I hope she was required to make restitution for all she stole, including insurance payouts to make the depositors whole.
At the very least, she needs to return the tractor.
Write to mary@everydaycheap skate.com or Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.