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What’s the first thing you do when something big happens in your life?
If hitting the shops – online or in real life – for some retail therapy – whether out of joy, frustration or sadness – sounds familiar, you might have a problem with emotional spending.
Fortunately, it’s not a hopeless situation! There are myriad ways in which you can gain control over your feelings and curb your emotional spending.
Let’s take a look:
- What is emotional spending?
- Why emotional spending is so problematic
- 5 ways to curb emotional spending
- If all else fails…
As the name suggests, emotional spending is the tendency to shop up a storm whenever your emotions are in flux.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- I just heard I got that promotion I applied for, so I’m going to celebrate by buying a new dress for my first day on the job!
- Had a horrible first date with someone who I thought had real potential, so going to debrief with a friend over an expensive meal.
- Just found out exciting potential holiday plans have fallen through, so going to book a luxurious weekend away to comfort myself.
- I’ve just been feeling so awfully ugly lately, so might as well go blow half my salary on quality make-up.
Unless you’re something close to superhuman, we’re pretty certain that at least one of these would strike a chord of recognition.
While there is nothing wrong with buying yourself something nice, it becomes problematic when it turns into a habit.
This is especially true if your tendency to spend is connected to the need to deal with your emotions.
While it may start as a small personal indulgence, emotional spending can grow into something that affects various aspects of your life, including the following:
First and foremost, emotional spending can have a hugely negative effect on your finances. Even if you think you’re getting something for a massive bargain, you probably did not need it in the first place, which means that money could probably have been better spent (or saved!) elsewhere.
The fact of the matter is that we’re bombarded with ‘special offers’, ‘sales’ and ‘bargains’ on a daily basis. If you’re triggered to spend money every time, you’ll soon find yourself out of money before the next payday or, even worse, in a deep pit of debt.
Of course, if you’re married, have children or are responsible for family members, this becomes even more problematic.
On a less tangible level, your emotional spending habit may be linked to something you’re not dealing with adequately in your psyche.
It could be as simple as being a tad too impulsive to a more complex anxiety-related issue. Whatever the case may be, if you start feeling that you’ve lost control of your spending habits, it might be time to speak to a professional about it.
If you’ve ever been in any sort of relationship, you will know that finances can make or break a peaceful environment.
As mentioned in the section about finances, your spending habits have a direct effect on those around you. This is especially true if you are responsible for children, elderly parents or other family members.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which you can help yourself to curb your emotional spending.
Here are five that have been proven to work:
Identify your emotional spending triggers
The first thing you need to do is identify the emotional triggers that set you swiping.
A good way of doing this is to go through your recent impulse buys and analyse what led you to make them. Write down your findings and spend some time contemplating them. You can also talk to a trusted friend or family member to gain their insights.
Just being aware of these triggers can already go a long way in helping you gain control of emotional spending.
Ask someone close to keep you accountable
Now that you know where your weak spots are, you can ask that same friend or family member to keep you accountable.
Normally, having someone give you a hard time for your personal financial choices is super annoying. However, when you have this it can be quite empowering.
Do make sure that the person you choose to do this has a generous streak of kindness in them, so they don’t take advantage of your vulnerability.
Unsubscribe from all the tempting mailing lists
Never has the old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ been more applicable.
If you unsubscribe from all the online shopping mailing lists, you won’t see those ‘specials’ and, therefore, won’t be tempted to spend. Easy!
If it’s a luxury item, give yourself a 24-hour ‘cool down’ period
When you spot something you really, really LOVE and simply need to HAVE, give yourself some time to honestly assess this feeling. Normally, about 24 hours will probably be sufficient, but if possible, push yourself to 48 or more.
If you still feel the same way after this cool down period, then maybe you really will appreciate having it in your life. However, in most cases, you will probably find that the LOVE and NEED will wane quite dramatically.
Pursue alternative hobbies and activities
If your emotional spending tends to happen with a certain person while doing certain activities, a good way to curb this may be to identify alternatives.
For instance, if a shopping spree with that one friend always ends in unnecessary purchases, perhaps the two of you simply should not shop together. Invite them over for dinner or do something outdoorsy instead and enjoy each other’s company without temptation.
Seek professional help. If you aren’t seeing a therapist already, you can ask for a recommendation from trusted friends, family members or your GP.
A therapist/counsellor/psychologist will be able to help you identify harmful patterns and equip you with tools to deal with them.