Big spender Ann Carver: ‘How I beat my shopping addiction’

Ann Carver, who has set up a financial awareness programme to help people suffering from addictive spending 
Picture Ian Hargreaves (161251-2)
Ann Carver, who has set up a financial awareness programme to help people suffering from addictive spending Picture Ian Hargreaves (161251-2)

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‘The trigger started back when I was a teenager.

‘I went through mental abuse in my younger years because my father was shellshocked from the war, and fuelled his torment with alcohol. There was a lot of turmoil in the family home.

‘I buried my mother on my 29th birthday, and as I was walking through Havant after her funeral, my physiology was down and I was feeling depressed.

‘There was a mannequin in a shop window wearing a bright red jumper with a big daisy on the front, and it distracted me.

‘I remember trying on the jumper and smiled at myself and I said ‘happy birthday, Ann’. I just didn’t want to take the feelings off.’

‘In the 1990s, I found lots of places to feel better in the material world, and spent excessive amounts on clothes, ornaments and appointments with nutritionists and reflexologists.

‘When I was going through my bereavement, I was going shopping to be around people, and to have like-minded conversations with people who didn’t know me.

‘My credit card bills skyrocketed, and my mortgage had shot up from £10,000 to £100,000.

‘When I reached the peak of my debt, I knew that it wasn’t really about the money. The money was just a reflection of the underlying turmoil and turbulence that had gone on in my life.

‘I decided to be brave, delve beneath the surface and address my past.

‘The first time I came out of counselling, I had to run into a shop. The second time I came out of counselling, I walked halfway past the shops and then I ran into a shop.

‘The third time I came out of counselling, I walked all the way through town, I got to my car, went to put the key in and saw the spire of Chichester Cathedral.

‘I went and sat in the cathedral in absolute silence, and then I began to cry, I blubbed like a child.

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back was actually the good thing. I was in so much pain with my guilt that it fired me up to get angry and force myself to make a change.

’I enrolled in a budgeting course and attended seminars on life coaching, before creating Hey Big Spender seven years ago.

‘I realised that there is a gap between earning and spending, and that’s managing. I also learnt that if you mess up, it’s not a bad thing because you have a pattern and you can undo those knots to find a better way forward.

‘It was never my intention to coach other people, but when I began to have a heart and wrote my book, I was awarded a place at the School of Social Entrepreneurs and won a Hampshire Winning Women Business Award in 2011.

‘As I’ve been in this line of work, I’ve had people come to me who have been through abuse and had the same problem.

‘I’ve helped people from all walks of life, from professional clients who come to me privately to people in social housing, and I’ve noticed that whether you spend a little or spend a lot, the problem is the same.

‘The reason why I’m doing this is because I want people to recognise it, or at least admit it, a lot sooner than I did.

‘I don’t think I would be doing it if I hadn’t have gone through my own personal experiences. I wouldn’t have felt the need to, and when you turn those experiences around and go on to help other people, it’s so empowering.

‘Going through my adversity has made me very insightful. When you see how many lives it is changing, that’s what keeps you going.’

*Ann, 55, is from Havant. For more information on ‘Red Dot Shopping’ and the ‘Hey Big Spender’ programme, go to www.heybigspender.co.uk