How to Control Your Emotional Spending

woman holding credit card

Have you ever bought something you didn’t need in order to make yourself feel better? Perhaps during a time of stress or grief when your emotions were running high, like when you had a bad day at work or something in your personal life wasn’t going right. Often times, you buy something, believing it will make you feel happier, only to find out that happiness was temporary. This is known as emotional spending. Everyone does it from time to time, but if you’re not careful, it could have a negative effect on your finances.

The problem with emotional spending is it doesn’t fix your real problems, and can end up making you feel worse when you get your credit card bill at the end of the month. Often times, there are better and healthier ways to deal with your emotions rather than going on a shopping spree. Here are some helpful tips for how to control your emotional spending.

Take a walk

If you’re feeling down or having a bad day, sometimes comfort food sounds like a good way to lift your spirits. Instead of buying an expensive meal or snack, go for a walk instead. A little fresh air and exercise releases endorphins that will actually make you feel better than your comfort food. Endorphins help calm you down and boost your mood. Plus, later you won’t regret over eating and over spending.

Work on a hobby

When you feel that urge to buy a new pair of shoes you don’t really need, just to make up for a stressful day, try working on one of your favorite hobbies instead. This could be something as simple as reading a book, putting together a puzzle or fishing. People who regularly participate in hobbies are less likely to be depressed. It's a great way to reduce anxiety and stress.

Create something

Similar to working on a hobby, being creative is another great outlet for stress. Instead of impulse shopping, create something instead. Write a blog, cook a healthy meal, draw or paint. Whatever gets your creative juices flowing and takes your mind off your stress and desire to spend.

Try the 24-hour rule

Another trick to try is the 24-hour rule. Whenever you get the impulse to buy something when you’re feeling emotional, give yourself at least 24-hours to think it over before making the purchase. A lot of times, you’ll realize you don’t really need that item and will end up not making the purchase. Or you might decide to wait until that item goes on sale to get it for a cheaper price. Either way, it’s a good idea to think over every purchase you make to determine if it’s worth the money.

Ask questions

Before you make any purchase, ask yourself why you’re buying it. Is it because it’s on sale? Are you rewarding yourself for achieving something at work? Are you trying to cheer yourself up after a bad day? Do you really need this item?

This process will help you learn more about your spending patterns and why you buy things.

Identify the real problem

When you make an emotional purchase, you’re often trying to avoid thinking about something or trying to avoid dealing with the real problem at hand. There are normally less expensive ways to deal with your emotions and much healthier, long-term fixes.

For example, if you’re feeling alone, reach out to friends or family to hang out before buying things to make yourself feel better. Figure out what the real problem is that’s making you want to spend money on things you don’t really need.

Avoid triggers

We each have our own different emotional spending triggers. It can help for you to identify yours. Start keeping a list of times when you feel like you’re emotionally spending. Keep in mind, not all emotional spending is done when you’re having a negative emotion. Some people spend more when they’re happy or having fun.

For example, you may notice that you’re more likely to spend money when you’re hanging out with friends or on vacation. Because spending time with friends and going on vacation are positive things, you may be thinking to yourself that these are triggers you don’t want to avoid because they make you happy. Rather than avoiding these activities all together, rethink how you could spend less is these situations. Maybe when you’re hanging out with friends you find actives that don’t include shopping or spending a lot on entertainment.

Online shopping is another popular trigger for many people. It’s so easy to spend when all you have to do is click a button and the item is delivered right to your door. Try deleting your payment information from websites you use often. It creates an extra step for you to make your purchase by having to type in your credit card number every time.

Once you have your list of emotional spending triggers written out, take a look and see what triggers cause you to spend the most. This can help you determine when to use one of the other coping methods mentioned here to keep you from spending.

Emotional spending may seem like a difficult thing to control, but knowing what triggers you can help you select a healthier option to manage it better.

If you’re wanting more information about spending habits and your relationship with money, register for our upcoming free webinar, Psychology of Spending. You’ll learn more about your money personality and how you can monitor and adjust your spending behaviors.