How to Manage Bipolar Spending Sprees

bipolar spending sprees


About this one. I have trouble with spending sprees when I’m hypomanic.  I have no answers myself. So, today, I’m going to do some research about bipolar spending sprees – and I’m going to share what I learn with you. Maybe by the end of this post, we’ll have some helpful information. Maybe an action item or two. Hokay. bipolar spending spreeOn with the reading. Let’s see what we can find.

I’m already feeling embarrassed. Why can’t I just have a normal relationship with life? Why this, this, this… bipolar… thing?

It’s important to remember that this is a medical condition, not a personality flaw. I’m a lovely person. So are you, probably.

Edited to add: By the time I finished researching and writing this post (which I did simultaneously) I found the best piece of advice for bipolar spending I have ever heard. I’m putting it into practice starting now. Read to the end to find out what it is!

Basically, (Hypo)Mania Makes Us So Exuberant That We Spend a Lot of Money


According to Psych Central, flights of fantasy, new business ideas, or shining goals can lead to a shopping spree meant to buy supplies. too broke to eatFeeling (hypo)manic can make us feel unstoppable, which can make an unplanned shopping trip feel not only sensible but joyful. And these shopping sprees can lead to such debt and a lack of spending money that many people with bipolar disorder often find it difficult to find the money to eat.

“It didn’t seem like an unrealistic plan—the universe wanted me there. I had to go. The rest was just details.”

Erin Stewart talks about getting her first credit card when she was 20 to fund an impulse trip to France. She was a full-time student. She scheduled the trip for halfway through the academic year. She talks about the feeling that “It didn’t seem like an unrealistic plan—the universe wanted me there. I had to go. The rest was just details.”

And, as we’ll learn more about later in this post, spending money when you’re (hypo)manic is involuntary – and, not only that – we need to the freedom to spend at those times.

Spending All of that Money Has Consequences

Dr. Tom Richardson conducted a study and discovered common themes when he researched the relationship between people with bipolar disorder and their finances. bad consequences

“A study I conducted in Portsmouth, which is in press in the journal Clinical Psychology Forum, asked 44 people with bipolar disorder how they saw their finances as related to their mental health and found a number of themes:

  1. Overspending, and within this impulse shopping and excessive generosity: for example giving all money to charity when high
  2. Anxiety and depression, and within this suicidality: for example feeling depressed when people realise how much debt they are in
  3. Regret/Guilt: for example regretting overspending when manic
  4. Poor planning/avoidant coping: for example ignoring bills
  5. Vicious cycle: For example realising in that they are debt and feeling depressed, and then comfort spending to cope
  6. Poor employment: For example having to take pay cuts due to mental health problems
  7. Comfort spending: For example buying things to feel better when down” — Tom Richardson

Sarah Freeman talks about her “manic money meltdown” – the one that destroyed her savings and left her with no retirement money – even though she was at one time close to becoming a millionaire.


How to Manage Bipolar Spending Sprees

“It is hard to help someone who does not live with bipolar disorder understand that spending while manic is involuntary. There is a pressure associated with it, a need to be freed of the strictures of everyday life. It is more than simply being rash and indulging ourselves carelessly; we legitimately need the freedom to spend unusually during these periods.” — Theresa Colon

How do you avoid bipolar spending sprees?

You don’t.

Theresa Colon has the most magical advice: keep a second savings account devoted to mania-induced spending sprees.

She goes on to explain. “This [second savings account] is kept at the same bank as the checking account and I am free to dip into it when I am manic and need to indulge in some spending. This account gets deposits when I am stable and able to think clearly. When mania hits, I can spend freely out of this account…”

Well. Wham doozle. Will you look at that. An approach that meets us where we are, doesn’t judge, and gives us the freedom to perform involuntary, necessary behaviors. That regards spending sprees as neutral. That gives us a way to plan for them when we’re stable.

Hot dog.

I, for one, am stunned. I’m grateful.

You can bet I’ll be reading more of Theresa Colon’s stuff. Sometimes, our drive for creativity, mastery, and flow can make living like we are poor a fun game. Other times, that method is downright oppressive and unappealing.

Here’s Your Homework

Consider if creating a second savings account devoted to manic spending is a good idea for you. If it is, set up that savings account ASAP. Try it out. And let me know how it goes for you.

If you found this post useful, you might also like Cooking During Depression.

bipolar spending spreesMy favorite part of this whole site is the book reviews.



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6 thoughts on “How to Manage Bipolar Spending Sprees

  1. Hey Wendy! I have been wanting to find a better way to manage my spending sprees and found this article very useful. I didn’t think about creating an account specifically for my bipolar spending sprees. How often do you think we should have a spending spree though? I mean, money does have to accumulate in the account but sometimes we might get more urges than others. What would your advice be to control it during my more frequent episodes?

    1. Hi Marlinda! That’s a really good question. I think it’s unique to everybody, but I’ve maintained one rule for years now: always keep a buffer of $300 in my checking account. That helps me avoid overdraft fees when bills hit. 

      As far as managing the frequency of spending sprees? I think that depends on the intensity of the need to spend. If you can set yourself a budget and stick to it (only $100 at a time, for example), that might be helpful. 

      One technique I read about during my research was to have someone watching over your shoulder to see if you’re getting manic, and to give them permission to manage your finances for you during the episode, perhaps by handing you an envelope full of cash and then taking away your debit and credit cards for a bit.

      Another tip I read about was reducing internet usage during episodes. That definitely makes sense to me!

  2. I did not knew that bipolar condition also carries involuntary shoping sprees. You really surprised me with that fact. I do not know if I suffer from bipolar but I often have mood changes. I like your idea about having a special fund designed only for shopping when you have the immediate urge to purchase something in order to feel better and fix your feelings.

    Awesome website by the way.


  3. Thank you for the post. Occasionally I have bipolar spending and I simply just forget my budget.

    I like your solution for this. Creating a second saving account devoted to my manic spending. The problem is that I generally shop using credit cards. All my credit cares have high limit of spending, more than $10,000, which is also the reason I shop without thinking.

    I think I need to have a credit card connected with the second saving account with limit of spending each month.

    It is kind of you sharing this useful approach of controlling spending.

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