Convenience is usually the main factor in my emotional spending. If I am stressed and can’t deal with making supper it means a quick trip through the drive through. When I’m feeling like I’m not being taken care of myself but am expected to care for everyone else it means a trip to the coffee shop for a coffee made for me by someone else. Advertisers also spend billions of dollars annually convincing us that products can make us feel better than we are currently feeling or make us feel like the products they are are necessary to happiness. Combine these and it can lead to a huge hole in our success at being thrifty!
Emotional spending is when you buy something you don’t need out of stress, boredom, feeling under-appreciated, unhappy, or any other emotion. In fact, we even spend emotionally when we’re happy – what did you buy yourself the last time you had something to celebrate? There isn’t anything wrong with buying yourself something from time to time as long as you can afford them and you are choosing to buy with a clear conscience, but when shopping is based on impulse and emotion it can negatively affect your finances.
6 Steps to Stop Emotional Spending
1. Impulse Buys
One way to cut down on emotional spending is to avoid making impulse purchases. That doesn’t just mean you should avoid buying gum in the checkout line at the grocery store. It also means that if you are at a store, even an online store, and you find yourself wanting to buy something you hadn’t already decided to purchase before you got there, don’t buy it. Make yourself wait at least 24 hours, if not longer, before making a decision about whether to buy it. Most of the time you will forget about the item soon after leaving the store. If, after 24 hours, you still really want it but a nagging voice in your head is telling you that you don’t need it or can’t afford it, try to postpone the purchase for a week or a month so you can think more clearly about the decision. If it helps, keep a wish list of the items you’ve refrained from buying so that you can ask for them when your birthday comes around or you can pick them up when you know you can afford them.
2. Limit Advertising
Take steps to limit your exposure to advertising. The less you are aware of what’s available for you to buy, the less likely you are to develop a sudden “need” for that item. Unsubscribe to the product catalogs that arrive in your mailbox and the promotional emails your favorite stores are always sending you. To further avoid internet advertising, download a program that blocks ads and prevents them from appearing on your screen. If you have a dvr you can easily fast forward through commercials if you record the shows you want to watch. For relief from radio ads, listen to a cd.
3. Limit Temptation
The next step is to limit your exposure to the situations that tempt you to spend. When I shop it’s because I need something. I stick to my list and buy only what’s on the list. Get in and get out!
4. Make Yourself Accountable
Track your spending and make a list of your financial goals. Check in with it often. This will help you to connect the spending with the goal. When you have to mark in another emotional expenditure, there is your goal list reminding you why you won’t be doing that next time
If you’ve had a bad day at work and want to treat yourself to something nice, call a friend. If you’re feeling stressed out, get some exercise. If you want a new book head to the library. Do something to get your mind off of whatever is bothering you.
6. The Goal
The goal here isn’t to stop buying anything fun. The goal is to plan spending within our budget so that we can feel good about our purchases and keep our finances in our control!
Do you spend emotionally? Are you taking steps to stop?