How to Identify Emotional Spending and Conquer It

Emotional Spending

With advertisements at every turn, it is nearly impossible to avoid the temptation of shopping nowadays. From TV commercials to billboards, advertisers are constantly trying to convince consumers that their products will make us thinner, happier, successful and fulfilled. These ads can also be particularly damaging to those prone to emotional spending.

Why We Emotionally Spend

Emotional spending occurs when someone buys something they don’t necessarily need and, in some cases, don’t even really want. This spending is often caused by feelings of stress, boredom, loneliness, dissatisfaction, incompetence, unhappiness, etc. These outside factors can leave a person feeling out of control. Emotional spenders seek to regain that control by shopping.

Emotional spending can kill your savings, and leave you feeling guilt-ridden and even more stressed than before. In fact, an American adult has an average of $4,717 of credit card debt, yet 63% of Americans do not have enough in the bank to cover a $400 emergency.

Signs of Emotional Spending

Many emotional spenders spend the most money when they feel vulnerable. They often don’t realize the connection until after the purchase. This is when feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety arise (otherwise known as “buyer’s remorse”). This shame often drives emotional spenders to shop alone, hide purchases and engage in other cover-ups to avoid the interference and disapproval of others.

How To Break The Cycle

Tarra Jackson, also known as Madam Money, recommends the following steps to break the vicious cycle of overspending.

1.  Admit there is a problem.

Like any addiction, the first step to recovery is recognizing the issue and its triggers.

2. Seek help.

Reach out to a mental health professional to tackle the root causes of your overspending. This will help prevent the same triggers from repeatedly leading you down an overspending path.

3. Remove the temptation to spend.

a. Limit your access to cash by opening accounts that make it harder to get to.

b. Limit your exposure to ads by blocking shopping sites and unsubscribing to store emails.

c. Don’t take credit cards out with you; only bring the cash you need.

d. Always take a shopping list to the store. Stick to the list!

4. Find healthier ways to deal with your emotions. Hang out with friends, call a loved one or exercise. There are more productive ways to “let it go.”

5. Embrace accountability. Go to the people you live with or spend the most time with and tell them that you’re trying to spend less. Have them hold you accountable for any unnecessary purchases. If you live with a partner, consider having a monthly meeting to review spending.

The goal here is not to stop purchasing fun items altogether, but to be more conscious of your shopping habits in order to gain greater control over your finances. By stopping the cycle of emotional spending, you will learn to enjoy the pleasure of occasional shopping and develop a much healthier relationship with money.

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