Black women have a tendency to literally shop until their bank balances drop towards the red. While they freely spend money on clothes and other items of little value, their finances and priorities are completely out-of-order. It can be soothing to spend, but in the end the stress of not being able to meet your bills and expenses doesn’t seem worth it anymore.

When I was younger I was known to go all out at the mall, at the movies, it didn’t matter. What 20 year-old kid isn’t frivolous with her money? I would squeeze the last little bit of money out of my bank account and go shopping for clothes, shoes, cd’s, you name it, all in the name of a short-term pick me up. Retail therapy is a very expensive reality. As a waitress, I was spending the cash as quickly as I was making it. My savings was more like a rotating account, where the money was never deposited long enough to ever accrue any interest. In the end, one too many feel good trips to Filene’s led me to get evicted from a cute downtown apartment and having to crash with friends who had extra space. Ouch!

** Claudette was a full-time college student whose complete self-worth was attached to having the newest clothes. She knew she’d officially crossed the line when she intentionally mailed bad checks to a catalog company knowing they would send the clothing first and chase her for their money later. When asked why she would do this, looking back, Claudette has no explanation. She was used to being the girl who had the next “it” outfit before anyone else. She has since paid off the returned checks, but says at the time it never occurred to her she shouldn’t have the outfits because she couldn’t afford them. Her continued lack of control racked her up over $7,000 in credit card debt and money owed. Claudette’s negligence eventually prevented her from getting a basic checking account. Her bad check writing scheme got her name flagged within bank electronic verification systems, and has also negatively affected her credit score.

Why Black women can be so precarious with their finances is a mystery. Even well-to-do salaried sisters are blatantly living beyond their means.

“You can live check to check on any sized check, and lack of child hood financial guidance, insecurity and irrational brand loyalty are a few causes that lead women to struggle between pay periods,” says Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation and senior vice president of ING’s Office of Corporate Citizenship & Responsibility. “An inclination to spend combined with an extraordinary desire to help others financially has left many Black women behind the curve in terms of savings.”

In a bad economy, having some kind of nest egg becomes even more crucial. These days even the most secure jobs are no longer a sure bet. Downsizing through all industries and sectors is the norm as company try to keep their balance sheets balanced.

“An inclination to spend combined with an extraordinary desire to help others financially has left many Black women behind the curve in terms of savings.”

A study conducted by ING found 40 percent of Black women shop to cheer themselves up. Black women are also more likely to shop impulsively. They are more intensely brand loyal and more times than not do not keep a budget or track how much, when and where they spend. Financial Advisor Glenda Bridgeforth’s book, Girl Get Your Money Straight, is a great guide for targeting how bad spending habits may have formed in your own life. She looks at the cultural history of African-Americans and the role it has played in how we manage our finances. The book asks you to critically think about the role money plays in your life. Do you still carry child hood anxiety of not having enough, did a parent or grandparent spoil you, and now you do the spoiling yourself? Bridgeforth’s follow-up Girl Get Your Money to Grow, helps you plan to make that next critical step of investing, by arming the reader with practical easy to follow steps to get into the stock market and assess other potential investments.

The reasons for which Black women overindulge in the delights of consumerism are varied, but if you are that Black woman, the resources to overcome are available if you want them. You should want more for yourself than the stress of bills and overwhelming credit card debt. The reality is, if you can forgo the quick high of impulse buying, you can fortify your savings to where splurge shopping isn’t preventing you from taking care of your personal financial business.

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  • Kay

    When it comes to clothes, I mostly shop at consignment stores or Ebay. I don’t see the need to go to a store and buy all the designer crap they sell that won’t last past a few dry cleanings anyway. Pick a few classic pieces, get some low cost accessories and shop smart. I had to realize this after hitting a place in my life where I’d jump every time the phone rang, thinking it was some creditor. Bump that. I can find the same designer pieces from people who paid $500 for $5.00. And who needs designer anyway? Sometime the unknowns are just as good if not better.

  • Shay

    I’m a couponer! I’m not extreme but using coupons over the past year with food items and beauty items has helped me to save a lot.