Are you guilty of emotional spending?

Do you often buy things you don’t really need? Or do you rely on spending money to boost your mood? If this sounds familiar, you could be guilty of emotional spending

Written by Verity Hogan
Written by Verity Hogan
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What is emotional spending?

Emotional spending is the act of buying something in response to your mood, whether that mood is good or bad. Usually, it’s unnecessary spending, and it can easily get out of control. If you’re an emotional spender, you could end up spending when you feel guilty, jealous, sad, fearful, hungry, or even to celebrate!


Am I an emotional spender?

Let’s face it; we can all be guilty of letting our emotions rule our wallets. Who hasn’t treated themselves to something new as a reward for a job well done or found consolation in a bit of retail therapy after a tough week? Emotional spending only becomes a problem when it becomes a go-to quick fix and starts affecting our bank balances.

There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself occasionally, but if you find you’re spending money whenever you feel stressed, sad or happy, you might have become reliant on emotional spending. It could also cause issues if you start spending beyond your means, buying things you don’t even really want or need, and missing important payments or hitting your financial goals because of reckless spending.


How to combat emotional spending

As with most addictions, the first step to overcoming emotional spending is admitting it’s something you do. Don’t worry; there’s no judgement here. Once you’ve accepted the role your emotions play in your spending, it’s easier to start making changes.

If you feel that your emotional spending has got out of control and become a compulsion, it could be worthwhile seeking help from a professional counsellor or therapist to help you get to the root of the problem – the mental health charity Mind can help you find useful resources near you. But, if you’re mostly in control with an occasional slip-up or two, you can take steps yourself to break the habit.


Find alternative coping mechanisms

When an emotional spender starts trying to cut down, they can find that they miss the rush that spending gives them. If this is you, you could even struggle to find a way to unwind or reward yourself without that costly treat. Try to look for alternative coping mechanisms that give you the same buzz as spending without the sting. Exercise, a good cup of coffee, a great Spotify playlist or a chat with a close friend could all help provide that uplifting feeling for free.


Make it harder to impulse spend

While it isn’t always practical to leave the house without your purse, you can still make changes that make it more difficult to impulse spend. Perhaps experiment with taking out only as much cash as you’ll need for the day and leaving your credit cards at home. You could also remove the saved card details from your favourite online shopping sites or set up a direct debit to move a percentage of your pay straight into a savings account so it’s a little bit harder to access on demand.


Set a budget and stick to it

Having a working budget – and sticking to it – could help you stop emotional spending. You could even think about adding a bucket in your budget dedicated to luxury spending so you can still treat yourself guilt-free. When you know exactly how much you need to cover your monthly outgoings and how much you have leftover, you could find that you’re less tempted to eat into that essential cash.


Unsubscribe from shopping mailing lists

Few things are more tempting than a surprise sale. They can give you permission to buy things you normally wouldn’t – it’s a sale, after all, you’d be stupid to miss out! But the thing is, what you don’t know can’t tempt you. You’re not going to kick yourself about skipping a sale that you didn’t know about and you might not know about it without that sale notification landing in your inbox. Unsubscribe from all those shopping emails that could test your willpower. 


Write down your financial goals

Just like keeping a budget can help you stay on track, knowing your financial goals can also help you curb your emotional spending. You could be saving for a house deposit, a holiday or a new car or simply working towards building an emergency back-up fund, paying off your credit cards or escaping your overdraft. Whatever your financial goal, making sure it’s in your mind and you revisit it often could help you resist temptation when you get the urge to spend.  

Written by Verity Hogan
Verity Hogan

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