Overcoming a spending addiction


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I love me some Lauren Greutman! This Syracuse, New York married mom of four was living the American dream … 3,500 square-foot custom house, two luxury cars parked in the driveway, new furniture, dinners out … and $40,000 in credit card debt.

Fast forward through slinging steaks at a local restaurant, selling off everything she and her husband owned, clipping coupons and budgeting like a mo-fo and relocating to a tiny condo in a community where she was shunned by moms who lived in big, newly furnished custom homes. All along this family has chronicled their journey out of debt, thanks to her platform for helping families live a fantastic life within their means — most famously for her slow-cooker Aldi meal plans (20 meals for $150 = mind blown).

What I love so much about Lauren, is that she is so freaking honest and real. Also, that she has parlayed her passion and authenticity into an incredible, profitable online business, and media appearances on TODAY, Fox & Friends, Rachel Ray Show, Steve Harvey … you name it.

In this episode, the hilariously delightful Lauren and I discuss:

  • Her new book, The Recovering Spender: How To Live a Happy, Fulfilled, Debt-Free Life, is really a 12-step program for shopping addicts, like Lauren.
  • How she pulls on her experience as a former drug counselor, as well as grieving the death of her brother to heroin overdose, to help herself and countless others address the very real issue of spending addiction.
  • Those snotty, rich moms in her neighborhood? Turns out they were underwater on their homes and living in the hole — and judging Lauren and her family as they lived within their means (huge life lesson there!).
  • The sad, sad day when her pink Cadillac was repo'd from her driveway … as a gaggle of teenage boys trailed the tow truck riding their skateboards.
  • Why she still is wracked with anxiety at the thought of stepping into a Target.
  • What it feels like to live each day knowing there is enough money to cover your basic needs, and reaching your goals.

Loving this? Check out her book on Amazon now:



Loving this podcast? Follow on RSS, Stitcher, TuneIn, SoundCloudGoogle Play or  iTunes. Leave a review, me love you long time. Muah! 



Full transcript of Like A Mother episode with guest Lauren Greutman

Emma Johnson: Welcome everybody. Today, I have a very special guest. This is a personal friend of mine, Lauren Greutman. You might know her as I Am THAT Lady, where she and her husband, Mark help millions of, right Lauren?

Lauren Greutman: Yeah.

Emma Johnson: Yeah. Millions of people. You guys have the enormous following, get out of debt, get their spending together and also make delicious Crock-Pot meals from Aldi.

Lauren Greutman: Love Aldi. love it.

Emma Johnson: I know you do. So you're like a personal finance expert really, but I know that term is intimidating and we'll get into that in a second. But your blog, you have this ginormous online following. You guys have this amazing program, where you teach people how to go shopping for two weeks for their family for $150 and make these amazing meals, and get out of debt. But really what we are talking about today is you have a new, and I'm going to say it because it is going to be a bestseller book and it is called, The Recovering Spender: How to Live a Happy, Fulfilled and Debt-Free Life. Lauren Greutman, thank you so much for being here.

Lauren Greutman: Thank you so much. I'm always so excited to chat with you, and next time I come to the city we have to do dinner again.

Emma Johnson: Again. So you're a mom of four little kids, you're married, you live like a very normal, accessible life, but you have this very, very remarkable story. And you have been on the show before where you told this incredible that you and Mark have been on. And just very briefly, tell us what your own debt and spending story was in a nutshell.

The spending addiction that got Lauren Greutman into debt

Lauren Greutman: So last time we were on the show, we talked about our story of getting out of debt. And well, this book talks more about how I got into debt. So I am a spender and for years growing up, I was a spender. I got myself into a lot of debt in college and then my grandpa paid it off for me and started to have-

Emma Johnson: What?

Lauren Greutman: Yeah. I know. I thought it was like a great thing, but looking back I'm like, “Why did he do that for me?” But my grandpa paid it all off as long as I got good grades. I just didn't have any personal responsibility of money and I got married really young. Mark and I actually just yesterday, celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.

Emma Johnson: That's fantastic. Congratulations.

Lauren Greutman: Thank you. And we're only 35 years old. So we got married at 21.

Emma Johnson: I have to say statistically, because I write about divorce a lot, the younger you are, the higher chance of divorce. But I will say anecdotally, I always say the people that I know personally, who in my casual observation have the most most dynamic and strongest marriages, met and married very young. Anyways.

Admitting to her husband that she was in major debt

Lauren Greutman: But we weren't always super close. We had a bit of a rocky … I had a spending problem and I was spending a lot of money behind Mark's back early on. And so at the age of 25, I had to come clean to him and tell him that I had gotten us into $40,000 of debt. We had one child at the time. We had been married for about four years. So that's kind of our history of, we're in all this debt. We're running $1,000 deficit every single month. And then two years later, we are debt-free.

Lauren Greutman: A year after that, I started my website, iamthatlady.com, which was more of like a blog to teach people how to save money on groceries and a little bit about how we get out of debt and how they could too. So that was six and a half years ago that, that started and now here I am today, still sharing the same journey and most people know me as I am THAT Lady, but we just changed the website URL to laurengreutman.com about two weeks ago, just to kind of help with my name and all that kind of stuff, but you know still I am THAT Lady as well.

Emma Johnson: I just want to highlight a couple bits from your personal story because I think they're important. You guys were both making really great money, and you're simply overspending. You built a giant house and you're furnishing it, like you got swept up in this sort of following the Joneses thing. That's a big part of your story too.

Lauren Greutman: Definitely. We built this huge, custom home. We just spent whatever, whenever we wanted to. We never thought about the consequences. And I say we because Mark and I both did it, but then there was this secret spending that I was also doing, that he had no idea about.

Emma Johnson: Right. That's where the switch happened with you and we'll talk a little more about the psychology in a moment. But you were just kind of following the Joneses. You had the beautiful house. I think had a Cadillac and he had an Audi. This whole Instagram life and then you got so real with yourself and you're waiting tables. Like the only way you can make it work was to clip coupons and wait tables at a steakhouse.

Hitting rock bottom with a shopping addiction

Lauren Greutman: Yeah. And you know I've got to tell you that, that was probably one of the most humbling times in my life. I mean honestly. So I talk about this story in my book about how I won this luxury car and I don't say the name of the company in the book for legal reasons however, it was Mary Kay. I tell you. I was living this high life of driving a pink Cadillac and having all the fame and the money, or what people think happens behind the scenes. And I was so dead broke that it had to get towed out of my driveway. And I remember that it get towed out of my driveway and I'm like upstairs in my huge master suite like peering through the blinds, looking at the car getting towed away just feeling like I had failed in life. Like such a low point. And in order for us to be able to pay our bills and not skip a mortgage payment, I had to go out and get a waitressing job.

Lauren Greutman: Thankfully, I was able to get a good waitressing job at a Ruth's Chris Steak House. I knew a manager there and he hired me on the spot. But I worked with, it was me and like 21 males and that was it. And all the males were career servers so that means that that's all they do, is like that's their life. So they're all older guys who have been in the industry for 15 years and here I am this 25-year-old young mom, broke as hell, trying to make ends meet. And I had to compete every single day to get money and get tables. And it was just the hardest thing that I had to go through. Now looking back, it's worth it, but it was so humbling that I would come home crying every night. Just like, “I got to do this, but I'm so embarrassed.” I'm so embarrassed.

Emma Johnson: It was like tough love on yourself after you were spoiled by this rich grandpa back in the day.

Lauren Greutman: Right.

Emma Johnson: So let's just get into your book a little bit because it is called The Recovering Spender. And it's fascinating because it talks about spending as an addiction. And you have 12 steps. I mean there are 12 steps to this recovery process. And you, yourself identify as … Well, do you identify as the shopping addict?

Lauren Greutman: Yeah, I would.

Emma Johnson: And your background is before you are doing what you're doing now, earlier in your career, you were a recovery counselor, is that right?

Spending as an addiction

Lauren Greutman: Yeah. I was a drug and alcohol counselor, which kind of ironic that I got into that field. But personally, I lost a brother. My brother was a drug addict and he died from his addiction when I was 24 years old. So he was 26 and I was 24. And that really set off a lot of stuff with me. And when he passed away, I was working in the drug and alcohol counseling fields, right out of college. And so it hit me in a few different areas. I actually ended up quitting that counseling job because I just couldn't face it anymore. Like there was too much damage in my heart. And there's a lot of addiction in my family years prior, alcoholism and things like that.

Lauren Greutman: And so my weakness is shopping. And I really identify with that being something that I can't control and have to know my boundaries. And that's why I called it, The Recovering Spender, not the recovered spender because I don't know if I'll ever be recovered, but I know how to handle myself now and live a happy financial life.

Emma Johnson: Yeah. For people that are not familiar with the recovery community and philosophy and research, that's what people say when they are an addict. They will say, “I am … ” Even if they haven't had a drink for 30 years, they will say, “I am an alcoholic and I am recovering.” And explain that for people not familiar.

Lauren Greutman: Yeah. So for me, I've been out of debt for about six years now. I've been debt-free, but we worked hard for nine years. It took us two years to get out of debt and then I've been debt-free for six years. And I really had to learn that I am not good at shopping. I cannot walk into a Target, like without feeling now extreme anxiety because I just want to buy everything and I know that I can't. I can't go shopping at Hobby Lobby. I have to know what boundaries are around myself so that I keep safe and not overspend.

Knowing boundaries and when to say no

Lauren Greutman: So for me, I'm not sure that that anxiety or that desire to spend more money will ever go away. But part of me being in recovery is that I know my boundaries and I know when to stop and I know when to tell myself no. I say in the book, it's like me walking into a mall with a credit card and telling myself that I'm not going to shop is like an alcoholic walking into a bar with a beer in their hand, telling themselves they're not going to drink. It's just a lie. And that's really important for me to stay within a budget and live a happy life.

Emma Johnson: Okay. So it's self-awareness. So talk to people that maybe do have financial problems, whether it's debt or they're not saving or whatever. They're not doing what they want to be doing. Where is the boundary between just like needing to get their act together a little bit this month and being an addict?

Lauren Greutman: So when I'm talking to people I think that anybody can relate to this book. I don't talk about it necessarily in the fact of addiction. I do talk about it more in the way of that so many people are trying to keep up with the Joneses. And they're spending more money despite living in these beautiful houses and looking like they have it all together, they're missing credit card payments and they're feeling like out of control. Whether you're a spending addict and you just don't know where your money is going, I think that anybody can relate to what my message is. So I think that the fine line is when you realize that you're spending is out of control and that you can't control it anymore without some sort of accountability partner, but I think the biggest thing in the book is that, I don't know, we're so easy to put labels on certain things. Like, “Oh, you have to do this or you have to do that.” But this book really is kind of encompasses anybody that's having financial problems and that they can see a part of my story that can help them.

Emma Johnson: Well, absolutely. And I know you and I have talked about this in the past. You tell me because I see this in my own work, in my blog work. People, they are a lot more broke than anybody would guess. You tell me, what do you see in your work? I mean do you think that most people mostly have their act together financially and are roughly meeting their financial goals or what experts would recommend, or are they a hot mess?

Lauren Greutman: I think they're a hot mess.

Emma Johnson: Yes.

Most people don't actually have as much money as it would seem

Lauren Greutman: You know I actually am doing, I don't know if I told you this, but I'm doing a documentary. and it's going to come out right before the book comes out. And this documentary is with a family, I had over 60-70 applicants to be the family in this documentary and it was really hard for me to choose just one family because I want to help everybody. So I've been flying to Cincinnati, Ohio the past couple of months to go and help this family that lives in a gorgeous, gorgeous like $300,000-$400,000 house. Their kids go to private Catholic school. They look beautiful. They have beautiful clothing. Everything looks like it's together, but they're in $38,000 worth of credit card debt and they're eight months behind on their mortgage.

Emma Johnson: Whoa.

Lauren Greutman: They were just like the typical, average American family and they make good money, but they just didn't know what they were doing. And so for the past three months, I've been working with them. And this documentary is going to show their story and how I've been able to help them through the principles that I share in the book, to get their life back together. And I'm so excited. They're doing great. Great work. So I'm super excited to share that story, but we both work in personal finance now. I've been teaching people how to get out of debt for the past six years and I've seen so many families go through this. But what I find is that there's this group of people that are in the finance industry, whether they're accountants or planners or whatever and they love money, they love talking about money, they like geek out over it.

Lauren Greutman: And then there's this other big group of the population, which is probably more like 70% of the population that just, they're like living paycheck-to-paycheck. They have no idea how they're going to save for retirement of for their kid's college, but yet all the people writing the finance books are the ones that are in this 30% that love money, that there wasn't a finance book that was talking to this 70% of money, who just felt like they sucked at it and they couldn't get their lives back together. And so my finance book is geared towards that 70%. I'm a part of the 70% so I know what it takes to go through this. I know what it takes to feel like you're the black sheep in the finance world, where like everybody's telling you just budget, but you just keep on messing it up and you keep on bouncing checks and you can't figure out like why isn't this working. That was like the big thing for me. You know you were talking about the people that meet. I rarely meet somebody who's like, “Oh, I've got it all together financially.” Right?

Emma Johnson: Nobody. I mean-

Lauren Greutman: No.

Emma Johnson: No, I'm going to say that 2% geek out over money.

Lauren Greutman: But those are the people that are writing the finance books most of the time, right?

Emma Johnson: It is so true. Would you even say now, you Lauren Greutman, you guys are doing great. I know you share your business numbers with me. You guys are totally killing it and I'm so proud of you. It's amazing. But would you even say, you're just like that, that you're one of the 70 people, you're not any giant financial wizard, you're a brilliant woman. Anybody can do this.

Lauren Greutman: Oh, totally.

Emma Johnson: You don't have to be a chemist to figure out how not to drink. It's really an emotional, intellectual, social process that you have to go through. And I think that's where you are brilliant, is that you help people see how accessible and doable this is to get it together and get on that right track.

Helping others see how doable it is to get over financial issues

Lauren Greutman: It's so true. You know you're in finance and when you're in finance, and I say that just because of our titles online, people come to when they find out what you do and they're like, “Oh, I got to talk to you.” Right? it's like if you're a marriage counselor, people come to you and talk to you about their marriage. Well, when you're in money, they come and talk to me about their financial problems all the time. I have yet to hear somebody tell me that they're doing very, very well.

Lauren Greutman: So people are struggling and I have been there. And I know what it takes to get better, not just in the stop spending money because it's like, “Yeah, right.” That doesn't work. You need to figure out the psychological and the emotional triggers. I mean there's stuff that happens in your brain chemistry and that's where I love my counseling background is that I know all of that stuff. I know what happens in your brain chemistry. I know the dopamine receptors and the insula and all these things get triggered when you spend money and that can be more addictive to others than some, but in this book I wanted to be so real. And I almost was so raw that probably some people might feel a little uncomfortable because I get really raw with a lot of my struggles that I had growing up, and how I feel like it led me to the debt.

Emma Johnson: Give me an example. Because I've heard you say that this was one of the hardest things that you've ever had to do, is write this book.

Lauren Greutman: Yeah.

Emma Johnson: I mean I just know as a fellow writer, if I'm crying while I'm writing something, that's the best. Because it's making me upset, it's going to touch somebody else and that's where the stuff gets really good. So where was it really hard for you to write, where it was most important?

Admitting to theft in high school and getting caught

Lauren Greutman: So I remember that one of the hardest things for me to write was when I was in high school and I would steal a lot. I mean I came from an upper-middle-class family. So I had a lot of money and I had everything that I needed plus whatever else, but I always wanted more. And so I started stealing things that I couldn't have and I got caught one time by my mom and she made me return the clothing to the store, but I think I had this realization as I was writing the book that I was kind of, going through my journey of when I got my first credit card and what happened and that my grandpa paid it off, and then I got another credit card and then we got married and that whole thing. And I started seeing this whole pattern of using credit cards the same exact way as I had when I was stealing from the stores.

Lauren Greutman: It was the same exact mentality that I was using credit cards, having no idea how I was going to pay off the money, but still using them because I wanted things that I couldn't have. And I think I had a period when I was writing the book, where I was just in tears just feeling like it became really real to me that I really, really had an issue with wanting things that other people had. And thankfully I don't have that anymore. I'm kind of like the opposite. Like I could care less what people think about me, but that was after years and years of practice. So I think that was really hard for me to see that a lot of times when people are using credit cards without having any idea how they're going to pay it back. It's the same thing as theft.

Emma Johnson: That's right. And it's just the bank and we all hate the bank. So it's okay.

Lauren Greutman: Exactly. It's like a legal way of stealing.

Emma Johnson: Right. That's a really interesting way of thinking about it. You know I was just thinking, I heard a great quote and it was something to the effect of, “Being rich is a whole lot easier than being broke.” Because when you're broke, you're constantly stressed out, figuring out how to move debt from one card or accounts to the other. That takes so much maneuvering and finagling to be broke, while it's hard to make money, but it's easier than just being broke. That was so liberating for me personally. I feel like it opened up a whole lot of opportunities for me immensely and spiritually even.

Keeping up with the Joneses culturally means going into debt

Emma Johnson: Well okay back to the whole idea. You're keeping up with Joneses and that term is run around so much, but I really feel like that is a huge, huge part of what is going on. The size of our homes has been growing for decades. I'm just reading how SUVs are now back. They are out for a minute and now they're back. So our cars are getting more ginormous. Credit card debt is not getting any better. Student debt is not getting any better. I mean forget about National Security issues. That's like for another expert talk about, but at the same time, everybody I know has an iPad. Everybody I know gets new clothes shopping as a hobby. Shopping is a legitimate hobby for people. I mean it's part of our culture to keep up. How? How do you step away from that and stop caring?

Lauren Greutman: That's such a hard thing Emma. Well let me tell you a little story. So when we decided to get out of debt, we had this meeting where we talked about things we were willing to do. And one of the things that we did was actually we sold our custom house and we moved back to New York State. We were living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time, when we had come clean and built that house and everything. We moved back to New York state, where Mark's family was from and where we had met and got married. And we rented this itty-bitty town house. Like it was probably 800 square feet and at that time, we had two kids. So there was four of us plus all our stuff from this 3,200 square foot house in this 800 square foot townhouse. Most of our stuff was in storage. We sold 75% of the stuff we owned because we were just so sick and tired of being broke all the time.

Lauren Greutman: And I remember when we lived in this teeny tiny town house, it was in like … There's just one little dead end development and as you drove into the development, it was all these kind of like crappy townhouses and as you drove past the crappy townhouses, there was these like beautiful custom homes at the end of the development. When we first moved in, I would walk with my two kids in the stroller, we would take walks around the development, and I would have to walk by all of these beautiful homes, the ones that look just like the one that we had just sold. And all the moms will be out there playing with their kids, and they'd have play dates, but I was never included in on them because I live in the crappy townhouses.

Lauren Greutman: And for a few months, that really, really bothered me. I had a really hard time. I felt like, “You know what? I'm just like you, even though I'm living in this town house. You don't know what I've been through. You don't know what I just sold. You don't know what I am doing for my family right now.” And a few years after, when we ended up moving out of that town house and into a … We ended up buying another house, which is the one that we still live in. It's small and it's humble. I found out that a bunch of those moms that were living in those houses were in a ton of debt through a friend of mine. And I thought to myself like, here I am doing something good for my family, sacrificing my appearance and my looks to live in this junky town house and feel less than and walking around and comparing myself to all these beautiful houses and beautiful women, but yet they were in the same exact position that I was in. And which-

Emma Johnson: I'm going to interrupt you because they weren't because you are keeping it real and they weren't.

The pain of living within your means is less than the pain of changing your spending habits

Lauren Greutman: Well and that's what I was going to say, yes. We are in financially the same place, but I was making a better decision than they were. And I was being humble and I was changing my life for, not just me, but for my family. When I started looking at it that way, that yes I might not look the part of what other people do, but my values is my family, my relationships with my family, my relationship with God, my relationship with my friends. Those were all more valuable to me than this status of having a nice house and all of that. And my marriage, obviously was number one priority as well. So that was like a real turning point for me, where I just stopped caring what other people thought because you can take your value of what you want in life, if it's retiring or saving for your kids college or going on to Disney, whatever your value is or being debt-free. And always have to weigh it with the other things that you're putting in front of it, your nice house, your nice cars.

Lauren Greutman: When you're sick and tired of being broke, and the pain of being broke is less than the pain of changing your spending habits, that's when you're going to make the change. And that's where I got.

Emma Johnson: I want to talk about values because what I'm hearing you say is the pain of not living within your values, right?

Lauren Greutman: Yeah.

Emma Johnson: That was the tipping point. I was just thinking about, I was very recently dating a guy for a few months, and the first couple months I knew him, he wanted and the whole world to think he had a ton of money. Like he'd spend all these money, taking me all these fancy places, and he live in this very expensive, fancy, high-rise in Manhattan. Then I got to know him and he let his guard down, like that apartment was really a stretch for him financially. And I started … You know, it was a huge deal breaker for me was that it's a one-bedroom apartment. And when his daughter would come and stay with him. You know he's divorced dad. He would give up his bedroom. So he didn't really have a bedroom for his daughter to sleep in. So he couldn't afford really to be a dad, but he was like the super flashy guy throwing his money around. And he was living within his values and his values didn't match mine.

Lauren Greutman: Right.

Justifying overspending or spending outside your values

Emma Johnson: So yes. Let's talk about that because I think people tell themselves lies and like, “Oh, whatever. I just have a weakness for shoes.” Or, “I just really want to live in this ZIP code with the good schools and that's why we're over leverage on the house.” They tell themselves these stories, but it's really about values. And I want you to talk about aligning your moneys and values and how you cannot separate them. It's impossible to separate them.

Lauren Greutman: People always say, where your values lie, your money is spent. So I can ask for somebody's checking statement and credit card bills and I can tell you where their values are. It's painful for them to hear. But I had to do that with this family that I was doing documentary with. I went through all of their credit card bills and they are checking bills. And had to be like, “Hey, you say your values are this however, you're spending like $4,000 on this a month, and it's not bringing you any joy, it's bringing you stress.”

Emma Johnson: What were they spending $4,000 on?

Lauren Greutman: They just spent it on random, fun stuff. Like $4,000 as a ATM fees. So it was like going out to the movies, doing this, $4,000. It was crazy. Every month, over. And that put them $5,000 over budget every single month.

Emma Johnson: What?

Lauren Greutman: Just because they weren't paying attention to what they were spending their money on. It just a lot of crazy stuff. It just didn't make sense to me. However, they just needed somebody to help them and help them sort it out, but you want to know where your values lie, look at where you're spending your money and that might be a little wake-up call to some people. But for me, I had to do that and it wasn't pretty. It was like, “Oh.” But now, you can see where our values lie by where we spend our money and now I'm proud of that. For years, most of our money went to our mortgage and our house, and now a lot of our money goes towards private school for our children and less money towards our housing because we value our kids getting a private Christian education.

The emotional change of being realistic about your finances

Emma Johnson: Right. So that I think just highlights your philosophy in helping people with their money. You don't need to be a like a quantum physicist, like a mathematician nerd to figure that out. It's really an emotional change of looking at your credit card statement, which everybody can do, adding up those numbers, seeing what they're attached to and putting them against their values.

Lauren Greutman: Yup. It's so true. And one of the things that I have people do, and I call it the financial bucket list. So when people are trying to figure out their values and how they want to spend their money, I always tell people to print out this financial bucket list, and if they're married, they sit down separate, and they fill out this financial bucket list together. And I can send you a link to that so people can sign up. I have a free five-day challenge where people can sign up and get a copy of this bucket list.

Emma Johnson: Where do they find that?

Lauren Greutman: Laurengreutman.com/fivedaychallenge and then if they pre-order the book, they also get a free video series and they get a whole printable pack of all these budget sheets I'm talking about as well.

Emma Johnson: Awesome.

Lauren Greutman: And that's at the recoveringspender.com, where they can clean those bonuses. I have them fill out this financial bucket list sheet, and then when they com together, they get to look at each other's values. Like, where do you want to be when you retire? You know, if one person wants to own their house and be around for the grandkids, or if another person wants to own a private island in the Philippines, you've got to figure that out. That's going to come up as an issue sometime in your marriage or in your relationship. So I always have them do that because it shows your values system and where you want your values to take you throughout your life with your money.

Emma Johnson: All right. So if you can leave us with one bit of more inspiration about how you can turn your situation around no matter what it is. Because I really do believe that. There is always, not only hope because that sounds kind of flimsy, you can flip it and you can kind of do whatever you want in this world, I believe, but what's your philosophy when it comes to money?

Lauren Greutman's White Fence Budget Analogy

Lauren Greutman: I share this in the book too, but I call it my white fence budget analogy. And I think the term “budget” freaks some people out because like … I don't know for me, as a spender, the term budget turned me off from trying to handle my money for so many years. So we have for kids, like you said and we have a fenced-in backyard. So the kids can go and play in our backyard within the fence and have fun and I know that they're safe, they know that they're safe, but yet if they go on the outside of the fence, they can get lost, they can get run over by a car. There's just danger.

Lauren Greutman: And so when I think about money now, I think about a budget or whatever you want to call, spending plan as a fence around my money. And all that does is it provides safety, it gives me a boundary, and it keeps me safe. So I can still have fun with the money that I have, but as long as I'm telling it where to go and creating a budget, that's where I find freedom. Not on the other side, where I can go get lost and overspend. Whenever I'm going throughout my day, I always tell myself to stay within the fence. We still budget every single month and we give ourself play money and we still have fun and we go kayaking and we do fun stuff with the kids, but it's within the boundaries of the fence that we have set up for ourselves.

Lauren Greutman: So I guess my word of advice would be that don't be afraid of the budget word, that there's freedom in telling yourself in what kind of money you can spend and where. There's freedom in, but if you go outside of it and you continue to spend without knowing where your money is going, there's danger in that and it can lead you down a really slippery slope.

Emma Johnson: Once you get your money together, it feels so good. Like I love … [Mint.com 00:28:49] should pay me because I promote them all the time. It's free. It's so awesome and their app is beautiful. When you look at that and you can see your money growing and you can see you know your credit card debt related to your balance, and those numbers are looking good, man, it is awesome. And when things aren't doing so well, you know it, and you don't ever open that app and that denial is what gets you in trouble and that is a really negative, dark place to be.

Lauren Greutman: Exactly. So I always tell myself, stay within the fence. I have a little screen thing on my iPhone that says, “Stay within the fence.” So whenever I want to go spend, I always remember, “Wait. Is this in the budget? Is this what I told my money I'm going to do this month?” And then it helps me stick within it.

Emma Johnson: Right. Because back to it, you identify as this is going to be a lifetime challenge for you. You embrace that and you just have set of rules and a support system for yourself so that you will always stay within the fence.

Lauren Greutman: Exactly.

Emma Johnson: Beautiful. Lauren Greutman. Check her out, laurengreutman.com and her book is The Recovering Spender: How to Live a Happy, Fulfilled, and Debt-Free Life. It is available now on Amazon.

Lauren Greutman: Yes.

Emma Johnson: Lauren, I cannot wait to have you back. Many best wishes for many, many book sales.

Lauren Greutman: Yes. Thank you so much Emma for having me on. I always appreciate talking with you. It's always fun.





About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Paige on September 12, 2016 at 1:55 am

    This woman is so relatable. Thanks for sharing her. I’m off to order her book….

    • Emma on September 13, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      great! She’s awesome.

  2. […] post Overcoming a spending addiction appeared first on Emma […]

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