It’s common to treat yourself to something sweet when you’re feeling down, or celebrate achievements over dinner. However, little “treats” may be emotional spending in disguise. If you’re frequently feeling guilty for buying things you never use, you may be an emotional spender, and this budget-breaker may be more common than you think.
In a recent study, over 49 percent of Americans have purchased products in an attempt to spark happiness, and 30 percent of those regretted it. With the holidays coming up, stress, family issues, or holiday excitement may heighten your emotions. To curb holiday emotional spending, read our tips below or skip to our infographic.
What Is Emotional Spending?
Emotional spending is when you buy something you may not need to ease your emotions. These emotions could range from stress and sadness to happiness and celebration. Emotional spending can also be categorized as impulse spending — these purchases are in-the-moment decisions to buy something unneeded or out of budget. An example of an impulse purchase may be buying a new set of headphones when you went to the store for coffee creamer.
If you have a tendency of making last-minute emotional purchases, you’re not the only one. As roughly half of consumers admitted to buying products to boost their mood. And, each emotional purchase costs, on average, $114.32. If you were to make one emotional purchase a month, it would cost $1371.81 each year. Not only could this put a dent in your savings, but you may also lose out on future investment opportunities. To adjust your spending habits, you may be looking to pinpoint your spending flaws first.
5 Common Emotional Spending Triggers
Emotional spending commonly stems from five main emotions — jealousy, guilt, fear, sadness, or achievement. If you find yourself browsing shopping apps instead of facing fearful projects, your emotions may get the best of your budget. Keep reading for a full breakdown of each emotional spending trigger.
1. Jealousy: You Shop to Keep up With Your Peers
You may feel jealous when someone gets an item you’ve wanted for a while or think is fashionable. When jealousy arises, you may go shopping for things you don’t need to keep up with others. Ask yourself, do I make purchases to keep up with those around me? If you answered yes, you may find yourself impulse buying a new pair of shoes to outshine someone else. Even if these expenses are budgeted for, keeping up with others may feel exhausting.
Healthy swap: Gratitude journal. Every morning, write out five things you’re grateful for. You may feel happier with what you do have rather than what you don’t.
2. Guilt: When You Fail, You Treat Yourself
You may feel guilty when you don’t take care of your body, miss a deadline, or fail a test. When feeling uncomfortable, it’s common to seek comfort through other outlets. Instead of learning different ways you could improve, you may order expensive takeout food as a treat. Little “treats” may help ease your emotions temporarily, but too many bad habits may push your budget into the red.
Healthy swap: Learn, and improve. Figure out why you’re feeling guilty and three things you could do to improve. Then set goals to work towards these improvements and kick bad habits to the curb.
3. Fear: You’re Nervous, So You Use Shopping as a Distraction
Fear may be associated with your everyday life — facing a new work project, running late, or general anxiety. It’s normal to want to avoid our fears as we’re hardwired to protect ourselves. Fearful emotional shoppers may browse online shops for work supplies while over tackling an intimidating work project.
Healthy swap: Walk it out. Take a deep breath and walk around the block. Walking anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes may improve your mood and anxiety.
4. Sadness: You Buy New Things to Boost Your Mood
You most likely have felt sad, as many of us do. Sadness may have been sparked by a detrimental event, or simply waking up in a gloomy mood. For emotional shoppers, buying new items may temporarily lift their spirit, but cut into budgets. Buying a new kitchen appliance may dent your savings, but may have made you happy for a week. It’s scientifically proven that when you buy something new, your brain releases endorphins (A.K.A., happy hormones) but this isn’t a sustainable tactic for your budget.
Healthy swap: Get in a sweat session. Replace a shopping endorphin rush with a healthier endorphin rush — working out. Head to your local gym or try a new workout at home.
5. Achievement: You Reached a Goal, So You Reward Yourself (Too Big)
You checked off one of your goals, and congrats! You’re a rockstar. You may feel like you’ve hit the lottery, but your budget may not. You may want to avoid celebrating over dinner and paying the bill for everyone at the table. Instead, create a list of rewards that don’t hurt your budget. Celebrating over a home-cooked meal may be just as special.
6 Ways to Control Emotional Spending
You may have identified with one (or more) of the emotional triggers above. To avoid mindless shopping trips, be on the lookout for ways to control your lifestyle and budget. Keep reading to see how you can flag your triggers and take control of your budget.
1. Figure Out Your Emotional Triggers
First, pinpoint your emotional triggers. Next time you’re out shopping, ask yourself, “why am I out shopping?” You may need to pick up some socks since your old ones have holes in them. Or, you may be browsing stores for an endorphin rush. Purchasing a new pair of shoes may put a smile on your face now, but impair your financial goals later.
2. Take a Step Back and Breathe
If you catch yourself emotionally shopping, take a deep breath. Pour yourself a glass of tea, talk to someone, or write in your journal. Noticing your spending triggers is a big step in the right direction. Take a minute to reflect and remember that nobody’s perfect. To avoid making impulse decisions, consider waiting a week before buying the item you were eyeing.
3. Delete Shopping Apps and Email Newsletters
The next step is to eliminate temptations. Say you’re unhealthily addicted to caffeine, you may think to stop drinking it — do the same for your budget! Delete your favorite shopping app, unsubscribe from email newsletters, and avoid shopping centers. The extra work it takes to redownload and log in to an app for an impulse purchase may be too much work.
4. Find and Test Other Coping Techniques
Whenever you feel the overwhelming urge to buy something new, replace it with something that brings you joy. That could be starting a creative passive income project or trying a new sport. If you’re not big on hobbies, find unique ways to reward yourself without breaking the bank. Having a self care night at home could be the perfect alternative over buying a new skincare item.
5. Keep Your Credit Card at Home
When attending events or running errands that may test your wallet, leave your card at home. Consider taking the right amount of cash you may need, and nothing more. Every step towards your goals is a step in the right direction. Be sure to celebrate your small wins over a cup of homemade coffee or baked goods.
6. Have Weekly Money Meetings With Your Budget
Set a time each week to go over your finances. Add this “meeting” to your planner or calendar to keep yourself accountable. To make things easy, download our app to track your weekly expenses in one spot. Assess where you may have overspent or underspent. If your goals aren’t where you want them to be, take notes on how you could improve. These notes could help you better your financial decisions tomorrow. Keep reading to see how mindful money practices could boost your lifestyle.
Sources: American Psychological Association