Many people who struggle with emotional spending are not aware of it. But if you frequently buy things to make yourself feel better (and sometimes end up feeling worse) you may be using shopping as an escape from life’s natural ups and downs. Emotional spending can get you into real financial trouble, but even if your bank balance is managing to hang in, your emotional spending habits are likely to have a detrimental effect on your quality of life. It’s well worth the effort getting to grips with this habit and ensuring that you deal with those emotions, rather than putting them on credit.
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How do you know if you’re an emotional spender? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you probably are:
Does a feeling of dissatisfaction with how you look ever make you purchase a new item of clothing that you think you would look good in? Do you regularly buy something on the way to or home from work because you’re stressed in your role, and buying something makes you feel calmer? Do you ever splurge on pricey restaurant meals or entertainment at the end of the week because you’re exhausted and feeling down?
While it’s true that a little retail-therapy might make you feel momentarily better, it is only a temporary improvement in mood and can be followed by an even worse cocktail of emotions when you add purchase guilt to the mix. If you’d like to curb your emotional shopping habits, these strategies should give you a head start on your journey.
Find The Feeling
The first stepping-stone towards emotion-free spending is cultivating awareness of the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) emotions that accompany each purchase. Having a sense of how you feel when you’re handing over that cash will aid in rooting out the issue. Once you have identified these emotions, you’ll be on track to being able to confront and master them, rather than letting them control you.
Nail Those Triggers
Feelings are internal motivators for emotional spending. But where do the feelings come from? Often there are external triggers that cause the feelings to flare up. If you can identify the environmental factors that set you off, you’ll be one step closer to changing your habits. For example, it may be that reading fashion magazines is a trigger for your body anxiety, which you then relieve by shopping for something you think will make you feel more comfortable in your skin. Whatever your triggers, the more aware you are of them, the more you can limit your exposure to them, and the less you’re likely to spend.
Reach Out For Support
While curbing your emotional spending may be your personal struggle, you are not alone. Your close networks, be they friends or family, can be a great resource when your spending triggers seem to lurk in every corner. Give the people who care about you a heads up about your goal to combat emotional spending patterns, and they may be able to help you with reminders and inspirational thoughts when you’re in need of extra support. And if your spending has gotten a little out of control and you find yourself struggling to keep your head above water financially, don’t be afraid to seek help. There is no shame in admitting that you’re out of your depth: all that matters is that you’re taking positive steps. Whether it’s advice from an IVA company for your debt management or a few sessions with a therapist to help you identify those emotional triggers, a little expert advice can give you that extra boost to help you create the sustainable financial practices you’re aiming for.
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Get Off The Promo Mailing List
The purpose of promotional mail is to lure you into purchasing something you did not previously have the intention of buying. Marketing content works by triggering emotions, which you then try to alleviate by making a purchase. If you’re susceptible to marketing emails or catalogues you receive in the post, this is a good time to go cold turkey and hit unsubscribe. Some mailing lists make it really hard for you to leave, so you may need to unsubscribe several times! If you’re feeling a little low (or even excited) don’t expose yourself to marketing that is going to take advantage of your heightened emotional stage.
Limit Your ‘Want’ Spends
Categorising your spending into ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ can be really helpful. It doesn’t mean that you can never spend money on ‘wants’. It simply makes you more aware of what you’re spending your money on, which will give you extra information to help you identify your problem areas when it comes to spending. Before you buy something, ask yourself: do I need this, or want this? If it’s a ‘want’ then the cost is going to come out of your monthly or weekly ‘wants’ budget. That way, you can treat yourself occasionally, while keeping tabs on your extravagances. This is a great strategy for cultivating mindful spending habits.
Don’t Take Your Credit Card Shopping (And Forget Auto-fill)
If you’re an emotional spender, your credit card is not your friend. Leaving your credit cards at home doesn’t mean that you can’t buy what you want on credit. If you find something you really like, and you decide you want to buy it, why not ask the store to hold it for you until tomorrow, when you can come back with your credit card? Do this a couple of times and you’re likely to find that you’re not bothering to go back and complete those purchases. Later that day, the emotion that was pushing you to make that purchase may have lifted, leaving you feeling a little lighter without the unfortunate feeling of your wallet being a little lighter. Likewise, while it may seem convenient, resist the urge to save your credit card numbers on your computer. When browsing online (or when you open that marketing email) and that emotion rears its head, you’re less likely to make a purchase if you have to manually type in your credit card details. Auto fill is great, but not if you’re an emotional spender. Losing those few minutes of convenience will pay off when you open your next credit card bill and see fewer zeros than you expected.
Whether you’re spending a fiver here and there, or regularly breaking the bank, these tips will help you implement a more mindful approach to your spending.