How to Avoid Emotional Spending
Emotional spending is a way to deal with the highs and lows in life. You may buy things impulsively when feeling anger, disappointment, sadness, envy, insecurity, guilt, denial, fear, stress, or anticipation. This may make you feel better in the moment, but in the long run emotional spending can prevent you from paying bills or saving up for important purchases. Avoid emotional spending by acknowledging your spending triggers and the emotions that cause them. Distract yourself with other activities instead of shopping, and start a budget to keep track of your spending and savings.
Avoiding Impulsive Purchases
Ask yourself if this purchase is necessary.Let the initial rush of excitement pass, take some time to breathe, and then reconsider your purchase. Do you need this item? If so, what purpose does it serve? If it is a needed item like toothpaste or dish soap, you can buy it knowing that this purchase is not based on emotions. If the purchase is not necessary, consider why you want it. Do you want that new shirt because you're mad about how your day at work went? If so, hold off on the purchase.
- Also ask yourself if this something you can afford today. If not, start saving for it.
Use the “24-Hour Rule” for larger purchases.Think about your purchase for 24 hours before buying it. It is common to forget about the item all together after you think about it for awhile. If you still want the item the next day, buy it knowing that you thought it through.
Leave your credit card at home.It is easy to distance yourself from your money when you pay with a card, and your purchases can stack up quickly. Leave your card at home to reduce the temptation to make emotional purchases. Use cash instead of swiping your card. Seeing and holding the physical money in your hands will help you be more conscious of what you spend it on. With a limited amount of money, you are less likely to go on a shopping spree.
- To make things easier, cancel your credit card(s) and commit to not using credit at all. This way, you won’t be able to spend any money that you don’t have readily available in cash form.
Delete your credit card information from shopping websites.It is easy to pull the trigger impulsively on a purchase when you don’t have to type in any information. By not saving your credit card information on your favorite websites, you give yourself a few more moments to consider how necessary the purchase is before you press “order.”
- Consider trying to stop making purchases online altogether. This forces you to travel to a store, making each purchase a little more time-consuming and difficult.
Check in with an accountability friend before making each purchase.Ask a frugal close friend or family member if they’d be willing to help you decide when you should and shouldn’t make a purchase. Call them every time you’re about to buy something and let them decide if it’s a reasonable purchase or not.
Take stock of your belongings.Before you run off to check out the latest sale, take a look in your closet and see what you already have. You may find that you wanted a new black dress, when in reality you already have three black dresses with tags still on them. This will help you differentiate between purchases youneedor just want in the moment.
- Consider donating unnecessary belongings to your local thrift store.
- Commit to giving away or selling a piece of your clothing each time you buy a new one. This may make the shopping experience feel more consequential and difficult.
Commit to price shopping to avoid impulsive, emotional purchases.Make comparison shopping into a game so that when you find something that may be an emotional expenditure, you won’t buy it right away. For each item you want to buy, do some research to try to find something similar for a cheaper price before you decide to buy it. This should help you to look at the purchase more logically.
Budgeting Your Income
Track your emotional spending totals.Save all of your receipts and write down your totals. Record them on paper, smartphone app, or spreadsheet on your computer--whatever works best for you, as long as you are writing it down. The act of writing down your spending totals shows you just where your money is being spent. Tracking your spending helps you stay conscious of your spending habits.
- Grab a notebook and write down the headings: date, purchase, amount, and necessity. Then take your receipts of recent purchases and fill out the corresponding headings with the information on your receipts. Write down the date you purchased it, what the item was, the amount you spent, and how necessary the purchase was. You can base this off of a "yes or no" system or numerically, such as "1-5," with "1" being the least needed and "5" being a necessity.
Create a budget.Write down how much money you earn each month, how much you spend on bills, and how much you need for expenses like groceries and gas. Make note of how much you have left over after taking care of your expenses. This will help guide your spending habits and keep you focused on your financial goals.
Open a savings account.If you don’t already have one, open a savings account to invest in yourself and your future. Commit to contributing a certain amount to the account each month. This should leave you with less extra money after paying for living expenses each month, which means less money for potential emotional spending.
Set a spending limit.After budgeting, you will know how much extra money you have each month. Set aside some of this total for your savings and some for your spending. Only spend as much as you budget for. You may have to use some discipline to not overspend, but budgeting helps you resist emotionally spending money.
- If you blow through your spending for a given month but still want to shop, tell yourself, “It’s not in the budget.”
Finding Alternative Mood Enhancers
Aim to exercise for 20 minutes a day to reduce stress levels.Instead of going to the mall when you are stressed out, go for a walk in the park instead. Grab a friend or two! Not only does exercise help relieve stress, it can also be a perfect substitution to your need to shop. Try a new sport, take a yoga class, or hop on a bike.
Read a book to distract you from feeling sad or angry.Reading is a great activity to get out of the shopaholic thought cycles. Giving your mind a break may be just what you need, rather than that latte. Magazines and blogs work well, too!
Start a new hobby to boost your confidence.Instead of spending time in shopping or strip malls, pick up an activity you've never tried before. What is something you’ve always wanted to do? Try knitting, woodworking, or karate, for example.
Try DIY craft tutorials to get creative and express yourself.The act of creation will boost your mood. It will also give you the personal satisfaction of making something yourself, while distracting you from the need to go shopping. If you like fashion, experiment with making your own accessories or customizing your own clothing.
Spend time with friends for support.While going shopping can be social, you should find other activities to do with friends if you know spending is a problem. Find ways to celebrate like going out for a drink with your girlfriends rather than purchasing a new piece of jewelry. Coffee dates, museum visits, or trying new restaurants are other ideas of things to do other than shop.
Ask for help from your family and friends so you don't feel alone.Inform those close to you that you are having problems with emotional shopping, and they can help remind you when you are acting like a shopaholic. When you shop, have a friend or family member go with you to act as your voice of reason, telling you “no” when necessary.
Seek professional help when all else fails.“Retail therapy” may seem harmless, but it can very quickly turn into a compulsive spending problem. After you have tried a combination of everything above, it is time to get help from a professional. Don’t feel bad or guilty about admitting you need assistance. Emotional spending is a habit that can be overcome by working with others.
Video: The Cure for Excessive Spending
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