Her life must have seemed perfect on social media – but in reality, she was addicted to a life of luxury that drove her into debt.
Sarah Bartlett, 37, of Bristol, England, said her shopping addiction — fueled by the desire to take the perfect Instagram photo — led her to fall into $14,540 in debt on eight credit cards on one period of six years, South West News Service reported.
After receiving counseling to resolve her issues, she is back on track, owes only $908, and is sharing her story to raise awareness of the seductive nature of shopping.
“I definitely felt addicted,” she said.
“I forgot about it because I enjoyed the dopamine effect of shopping and would ignore it until I woke up,” she added.
Bartlett, who earns $33,924 a year working in human resources, managed to live within her means until buying a new car depleted her funds.
She treated herself to a $13,324 car with a zero-interest credit card after getting a promotion at work in 2015. While paying off her car debt, she discovered the appeal of transfer fees – and she then transferred his money from credit card to credit. map.
“I took out the credit card with a money transfer and ($13,324) went into my bank account, which then paid for the car,” she said.
“I was paying off that credit card with another one and continuing to follow the 0% deals I could find,” she added.
Bartlett always loved the finer things in life, but she started spending even more.
“I felt like I was paying for the car, but I managed to pay for things. But then I was buying more stuff, so it turned into a cycle and the balance was around ($14,535),” she said.
“I have always been a person who likes to spend money. I like shiny things – the newest things,” she explained.
She likes to buy the best clothes and the latest iPhone, go to fancy restaurants, buy expensive candles and go to the theater.
“I love musical theater and if you go to the theater you make it an event for the weekend, and I used to do three or four a year, and it all adds up,” she said.
“I love the finer things in life and I probably don’t have the financial means to do so, but I didn’t want these experiences to end,” she added.
Bartlett explained that she was able to pay the minimum on her card each month, but felt like she could “buy something now and worry about it tomorrow.”
“I knew I would get paid and so if I wanted something and it was the middle of the month, then it was ‘OK’ because I would get paid in a few weeks,” she said.
“But I never kept track of how much I was spending. It was a life cycle from paycheck to paycheck, in a sense,” she added.
Once accustomed to a certain lifestyle, she found it difficult to live in a less luxurious way.
“I presented an ‘Instagram image’ that I had created with this lifestyle that I needed to maintain,” she explained.
“I, too, wanted to feel part of a group,” she said.
Bartlett’s wake-up call that something needed to change came after he moved to a new home in 2021.
Her mortgage doubled to $968 – and she was still spending $605 a month beyond her budget.
Before that, she was living in a studio apartment during the COVID-19 pandemic and buying things to feel less alone.
“Living, sleeping, eating and working in one room was a real challenge. Receiving something in the message felt like a connection to the outside world,” she said of sharing her big life on social media.
“Waiting for the package to arrive was sometimes more exciting than receiving the item,” she said.
She ultimately sought advice to understand the origins of her spending so she could get her life back on track.
“Since starting my financial journey, I have also received advice about the need to feel included. That drove a lot of my spending, and it’s pretty hard to break that cycle,” she said.
“When I was at school, I was bullied a lot and didn’t feel included, and that’s something I look for so I don’t feel the way I felt when I was at school. “school,” she added.
With help, she began changing her spending habits and budgeting so she could pay off her debt.
“During the first year, I mostly just followed it and monitored it, but at the beginning of 2023, I realized that I had reduced this debt well and I decided to set aside a budget for certain things” she has explained.
“When you tap a card, you don’t think twice about it,” she added.
Going cash helped her preserve her funds.
“I have a harder time letting go of money, so I set aside money for grocery stores and eating out,” she said.
“I also do a zero-based budget, so when I get paid, I allocate every penny to it,” she revealed.
Bartlett also practices a viral trend called cash stuffing. She divides her money into different envelopes and allocates them to different things.
So far, she says, her spending has improved significantly.
“Since January 2023, I have been under budget every month, so whatever is left each month goes to paying off debt,” she said.
Barlett said most people don’t understand debt and now that she has turned her life around, she wants to help others by teaching about debt in schools.
“I wish schools would teach this to children. You can fall into it very quickly,” she says.
“At school, why weren’t we taught how to establish a budget or interest rates? ” She thinks.
The five ways she reduced her debt were admitting she had a problem, budgeting her money, taking on a side hustle, starting an Etsy business, and stocking up on cash.
New York Post