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My Shopping Addiction is Being Treated But My Husband Says I Need Credit Counseling. – Mary

Written by Steve Rhode

“Dear Steve,

I make $38000 per year, my position is “live-in” so I have no rent/mortgage nor utilities to pay, only my cellphone. I have about $15000 worth of credit card debt. I was close to being maxed out on most of them but never missed a payment (minimums) & always had money left over to shop online with after the bills were all paid. The real ROOT of my problem is a diagnosed shopping addiction, for which I am seeing a therapist for (& it’s working). With my husband’s love and support I have paid off six accounts (but not yet closed them). We are using the Snowball technique. I am comfortable with this & see results already.

Do you see any need for debt counseling or debt management? The way I see it, the only reason my husband insists on one of these is because he ABHORS paying interest, especially the high rates the stores – and/or website – charge. Also, he doesn’t believe the information in the little boxes on the monthly statements regarding prepayment amounts and lengths of time. I try to tell him that they work because I have used them in the past but he won’t believe me. He said he wants to hear it from a professional. So I have turned to you after much searching. Thanks for any help you can give via email.


Dear Mary,

needyCongratulations on your self-awareness in seeking professional help for the underlying spending addiction. In situations like this the debt is the symptom and not the problem. You’ve got this aligned in a good way for a better chance of a healthy outcome. I’m so proud of you.

When it comes to structured repayment plans the folks over at have a great free program to give you some structure and guidance to pay your debt off early without having to close the cards.

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If you are paying your way out of debt but unable to build your emergency savings account and save for retirement account at the same time, that’s when we need to evaluate if intervention is needed. See my 8 Easy Steps to Eliminate Your Debt Checklist.

I think your husband’s irritation isn’t really related to the math but maybe something else like an objection to paying interest for something he might understand that led to the debt.

Accounts you enroll in a credit counseling program will be closed by the creditor. That will be reflected on your credit report and it will terminate the positive benefit you get from a long payment history with those creditors. And a credit counseling program will cost you about $600 in fees a year. That’s money you can use to pay down your debt. But the advantage is enrolling the remaining cards in a credit counseling program could reduce the interest rate but the chances are the credit counseling group isn’t going to pay them down in the most cost effective way for you.

The logical solution here, if you can save and save for retirement, is to explore the program. It will give you something to show him about your progress and estimates to eliminate the debt. But then again, unless you husband gets over a distrust of math it probably won’t make a big difference with him.

We probably do need to come up with a strategy on which cards to close. You won’t need to leave them all open. If you can tell me who the cards are with I can point you in the right direction. I’m most interested in which are store cards.

I’m also curious what the driving force was behind your shopping. Most commonly it is a need to reduce stress or improve self-esteem. What has your therapy led you to believe the cause was?

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Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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