Can I Love You Without Buying A Goodie?

Tracey's huge and embarrassing as holidays approach

I swore this time it would be different. Do you do that? Do you ever make that kind of grand declaration, slamming the refrigerator door and yelling like Scarlett O’Hara, “I will never be hungry again!”

I do when it comes to getting rid of Tracey’s Huge and Embarrassing Debt. In my quest to pay off $85,000 in credit card debt, I’ll do whatever it takes. This month that “whatever” has had its ups and downs in ways I did not expect.

Recently I was traveling for work but was close enough to visit my only sister. I bet you can guess what my sister and I like to do together … that’s right, shopping!

So before I picked up my sister, I had my Scarlett O’Hara declaration that I would not shop. Perfect!

Then we drove past an outlet mall in the middle of the California desert. My sister said, “Let’s stop. I need some new shoes!”

Now I have always hated the desert. And the Cinnabon called to me. So I mentally played the negotiation game in my head. I gave myself a budget of how much I could spend.

I told myself if I was able to keep within my budget I could feel happy and proud of myself at the end of the day.

What was I thinking??? It was only weeks after starting this journey and I was celebrating by going shopping? I didn’t have money to spend. I had debt.

But this was my sister. And we love to shop together. This is how we spent time together. This is how we bond. This was something I was not going to give up.

Then it hit me: What was I giving up? Was I giving up shopping or was I giving up my sister?

I should have told her about my debt and not been embarrassed to share. But I was. I still am. Knowing my sister she would have been totally supportive. She would have driven past the mall and we would have still laughed ourselves silly as we always do — but I was embarrassed.

Plus, there is another kicker here. I love to give gifts, not receive them but give them. This is my Love Language to my family and friends. How do I show love without giving you a little goody?

I don’t know that. But if I am really going to get rid of Tracey’s Huge and Embarrassing Debt, this is one of the skills I have to learn. This is the next step for this journey. This is the question I need to answer.

So I hope you can help me answer that question. I need a different way to show love that does not involve buying things for people. How can I pass that mall next time and not feel I am missing out?

Because I know I am going to drive through that outlet-studded mall in the desert again someday. The shiny lights and the scent of Cinnabon will reach out for me. Willpower only goes so far.  And the Scarlett O’Hara declaration doesn’t work.

Do you have any suggestion for me?

About the Author

Tracey’s Huge and Embarrassing Debt is a new series starting on SpouseBuzz. Tracey is a military wife who attended one of our live Spouse Experience events and was inspired to make a life change. As she and her family work with USAA’s Scott Halliwell and JJ Montannaro, they will all be blogging about how military families really can get out of debt — one tiny change at a time.
  • Elyse

    Can you be that honest second opinion we all need in the fitting room?

  • sabrinacking

    What you need is a fundamental mind shift from consumer to producer. In todays culture that’s hard stuff. You need to relearn what has real value: time, your innate talents/gifts et all. It wont just help you value shopping less, it will help you value yourself and others more.

  • I’ve found small gifts mean the most. Are you crafty? That is your goody, did you see a figurine at a yard sale for $1 that reminde you of someone, that is how you say I love you not with a $50 sweater they can buy for themselves.

    Also learn the art of window shopping. Go, shop, even try on if you can withstand the temptation, just don’t buy. Shopping isn’t the problem, spending is.

  • IAgal

    One idea is to focus on their love language rather than yours. Perhaps they would prefer a hug or encouraging word or action instead. If gifts are their language, too, what about baking something for them or creating a scrapbook for them. etc.?

    Good luck!

  • Oh Tracey. I feel your pain. My husband and I keep reviewing our monthly spending plan (I refuse to call it a budget because budget is such a sad word). And every month we are on track in every category except one: gift giving. We have $20 a month set aside. Not nearly enough.
    Like you, I’m trying to shift my thinking and love language. This month I’m trying to write notes to friends to celebrate their milestones instead of buying them a gift. But with the rising cost of postage, maybe I should stick to email or a PM on Facebook?

  • Heather

    I love giving gifts myself, but not at our families expense. ;) We are downsizing in every way these days. We are recently debt free, except for our house (which we plan on selling in a couple of years) and just sold a truck. We now have one 6 year old car and a project car my husband works on for fun and is used to get around town. We pay cash for everything, we no longer have credit cards (it’s a fallacy that you need a credit card, we do just find without them) and if we want something we save for it. I have no problem telling anyone we are frugal these days. We recently had to make a large unexpected (cash) purchase which stings, but telling my friends I can’t do lunch for a couple of weeks or go shopping isn’t a big deal to me. They understand.

  • So….

    Tracey the biggest gift you can give is peace of mind for you and your husband. You are totally hanging yourself out to dry trying to please everyone else. Do these people give you gifts? Do they go out of their way and pocket to make you happy? I think there is a deeper issue beside you wanting to feel good about giving a gift if that was the only case I guarantee you that you would find more happiness volunteering time for the less fortunate. I’m not trying to sound snarky but I think you have a lot of guilt and self-acceptance issues. For example, you feel guilty about your daughter (I believe it was) so you take her to get her nails done instead even when you can’t afford it. You buy gifts for everyone gifts, do you think this will make them like you more…accept you more. I think you should figure these issues out before you begin to tackle this debt. You don’t have money issues, you have wisdom about money issues.

  • Rachel

    You can always give a gift of food. Invite someone over for dinner or bake them some banana bread.

  • Nicole

    It might be helpful to consider seeing a therapist for a process addiction like shopping sprees gone wrong. Process addictions can be sneaky things that society can brush off as not serious but when a repeated behavior is negatively manipulating a balanced life that’s pretty miserable and without help the consequences will probably, not possibly, only continue get worse over time. Hope you find the relief & empowerment your looking for.

  • Martha

    What about ‘coupons’ for things like babysitting, or a small item out (coffee or ice cream) instead of shopping? how about hosting a movie night… with lots of stove top popcorn and funny movies? Family game night and invite your sister over?
    do you have a hobby and all the things to go with it? (I crochet and have a LOT of yarn stashed – I’m attempting to downsize by making gifts, rather than spending more $)
    Good luck and thank you for the inspiration!

  • Denise

    i do the same thing, show love by buying things for people close to me. I’m now trying to cut that way back- I’ve spent far too much money on care package ideas just a few months into a deployment! Now, I’m making things (craft supplies are cheaper than actual pre-made presents) or baking, or writing. People don’t write letters any more, and every time I send just a small note card, I hear how much the receiver appreciates it. Much more than if I had sent a “just because” gift. Personal is better, and easier on the wallet. Thanks for your blogs- they’re really a godsend for me. :-)

  • Pamela Laynor

    Tracey. I understand. My husband loves to give gifts and pay for the check EVERYWHERE. I love to share with others but my husband is beyond generous. Especially with younger people. He tells me: they can’t afford to pay for this. Well, guess what? Neither can we. Our cc debt was over $20,000 and my husband still wouldn’t stop grabbing the check. We had to sit down and have our get real talk. I put all of our bills and debt on a spreadsheet and somehow that helped him see the extent of the problem. The bad news is we never go out to dinner anymore but I have lost weight. Once I got my husband to accept we needed to cut down on our spending, we have reduced our debt by over $7000 in less than a year. It has been hard, but I feel so good when I read by cc bills. We will be retiring within the next 3 or 4 years so it is essential we get the debt gone. You can do this. I suggest you come clean with your entire family! Thanks for your blog.