What Are Your Spending Triggers? | How To Stop Emotional Spending

I think we’ve all done it – overspent to make ourselves feel better. And it works, yep for a nanosecond we feel the thrill of our purchase. And then we feel anxious, and the anxiety turns into guilt, and the guilt turns into anger, and the anger turns into depression – so we buy something to make ourselves feel better. And on, and on the circle of emotional spending spins.

Time to stop!

Before you dive in to my tips on how to stop emotional spending, take time to seek out your spending triggers. Do you:

  • Spend up to your income? – If the expression ‘she spends money like water’ applies to you, and you spend money as soon as it hits your bank account then this could be a sign of emotional spending. This spending pattern is more likely to occur after an unexpected raise in income.
  • Spend x amount because you’ve always done so? – It’s human nature to try to protect out standard of living, and it’s easy to believe that you need to spend what you’ve always spent in order to do so. But stop and think; changes in family circumstances, a change of income and even age may demand a cutback on spending.
  • Spend to bolster you self-esteem? – Are you forever having manicures, buying expensive jewellery, splashing out on makeup or grabbing yourself a designer handbag? There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, but if most of your purchases are made just ‘because your worth it’  and you’re stretching your budget to the max, it may be that you need to work on your self-esteem.
  • Spend to create an image – Do you care too much about what others think of you? Are you only buying designer products so that you can prove to them that you are as good as, or better than they are?
  • Spend for instant gratification? – The world is moving at an ever-increasing speed, we want what we want NOW! If you’re purchasing decisions are made in the flash of a gnats wing, you may have fallen into the instant gratification trap.
  • Spend to make up for a thrifty childhood? – If you had a materialistically deprived childhood, you could be spending to make up for what you feel you missed out on as a child.
  • Spend to maintain your childhood lifestyle? – On the other hand, if you grew up in a household where money wasn’t an issue, you may feel the need to spend money you don’t have in order to maintain that lifestyle.
  • Spend to flex your muscles? – If you feel the need to prove your emotional strength, you may spend to demonstrate your ‘power’.
  • Spend to improve your mood? – This is probably the most common reason for emotional spending, it’s also the one that’s the easiest to diagnose. If you’re feeling low and you head out for some retail therapy in order to cheer yourself up, then this is definitely emotional spending, and a pattern you need to break.

So now you’ve got your head around some of the triggers that can cause emotional spending, it’s time to close your purse and put into action these five ways to stop emotional spending.

Are you spending for instant emotional gratification? Use these 5 tips which show you how to stop emotional spending.

How To Stop Emotional Spending

1) Count it up – You may find it relatively easy to fork out £100 on a pair of shoes without giving it much thought, but let’s put that £100 into context. Ask yourself how long would it take to earn £100? Let’s say you earn £20 an hour after tax, then that’s a whopping five hours work!

So, are those shoes really worth over half a day’s pay? Pause before purchasing and ask yourself if you’re really willing to spend over half a day working to pay for something.

2) Cost it out – Take into consideration the full cost of the purchases you make. Almost every purchase we make will have an additional cost – be it in time, energy, fixing, maintaining, cleaning, etc.

Try to factor in these time and extra expenses into your purchases. This will allow you to make more structured decisions when parting with your pounds.

3) Show your credit cards the red card – Credit cards make it just too darn easy to make bad purchasing decisions. You don’t see the pounds and pence leaving your hand, it’s like paying by magic – until the bill hits your doormat.

Ask yourself this question, “Would I part with actual cash to buy this?”

Many a time the answer will be no because cash is generally more difficult to part with. We have an emotional attachment to money, it’s tangible, it’s in your hand and you can see the pounds you’re handing over.

4) Wait it out – If you are an impulsive shopper, the excitement of a purchase can overcome even the firmest of good intentions. Try waiting it out: walk out of the shop, go grab a coffee and think it over. Leave at least twenty four hours before making big purchases!

5) Is it need or want – Do you really need the pot of purple nail varnish that oh so closely resembles about five others you have? I would say probably not, but it can be a little too easy to slip it into your basket. Before making every non-essential purchase, ask yourself why you are buying it. If you have a real, specific need for your purchase then pop it in your basket. If you’re just buying ‘because’ – put it back on the shelf and walk away.

I’ve done my fair share of emotional spending in the past. But I broke free from my purchasing shackles and realised that I don’t need material things to make me feel good about myself. Clicking on that ‘Add To Cart’ button can give you a feel good rush for a nanosecond, but overspending will only bring unhappiness in the longterm.

It’s lovely to treat yourself and spend some of your cash – just be smart about how and why your spending it.

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  1. Lorna
    March 10, 2016 / 2:25 pm

    I needed to see this! Wish I went and read it earlier though, I have £1 left and I’m not getting paid again until mid-April, that’s a whole month/four weeks away (I get paid on student income, not via a job).
    It was mostly spent on friends and food though, things that I “needed” so it’s not tooooo bad but usually I will go out and spend £100 or so on make-up or clothes or headphones that I never use or something like that, because I feel like poop and shopping makes me feel better until I get home and realize that my bank account is £100 down!
    I guess a thing I would add to this post is that you can do other things to make yourself feel better that require little to no spending or comfort eating, like taking a nice hot bath with candles or spend a night in with your favourite movies or TV shows, or bake something. Feeling better doesn’t always require money spending.

    • March 13, 2016 / 2:53 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing Lorna.

      The first step you have to take in order to stop emotional spending it to actually admit that you are doing it. And it looks like you have well and truly taken it.

      I really like the idea of treating yourself without spending a lot of money. We all need a treat now and again – it doesn’t have to be a shopping spree. It can be hard to break the spending habit, especially if your mood and your desire to shop are intrinsically entwined. I’m so glad that you found this post helpful and are ready to break free.

      Let me know how it goes.

  2. March 11, 2016 / 1:28 pm

    Brilliant post Michelle. I’m guilty of adding the little things to my basket- just like your example of the purple nail polish! All of your advice is excellent and easy to implement. Thank you xxx

    • March 13, 2016 / 2:56 pm

      Ah the purple nail polish. If I had a pound for every time I’ve bought a nail polish that was almost identical to one I already owned, I would still be out of pocket and have way too many nail varnishes!!

  3. April 16, 2016 / 8:28 pm

    And if *I* had a pound for every time I’ve purchased ANOTHER grey sweater (the neckline is different on this one, it is on sale, it is a different colour of grey than ALLLLL the other grey ones)… My biggest rule is to make myself sleep on it… if I REALLY still love it and to the exclusion of everything else, then I’ll allow myself.

    I’m an eater not a shopper when I’m feeling blue, and luckily dark chocolate costs a lot less than a blouse… not that chocolate is the healthiest thing, but it is easier on the bank balance!

    Wise words from you, Michelle. xx

    • April 18, 2016 / 5:35 pm

      Great idea Lisa! Sleeping on a decision is a great way to ensure that we only purchase the things we truly love or really need.
      I love dark chocolate too, I have a couple of pieces every day 🙂
      Michelle xx

  4. October 10, 2017 / 2:45 pm

    Oh this is gooood….
    You’ve really hit the nail on the head here Michelle albeit in a kind & painless way. What is going on with society where we feel so compelled to spend money like a drunken sailor? I believe you’re right when you suggest waiting it out. Thinking about what that amount of cash is equal to in real terms puts a completely different perspective on it’s value. Like when a mother says she has to work extra hours to pay the bills then you see her kids with a brand new scooter with all the bells & whistles – literally. For me upcycling & second hand is usually a first choice because let’s be honest the kids will trash it any way. & you know what? Mine have never had a problem with any of the gifts from us. Whether they don’t notice or don’t care is unclear, it’s just how we roll. It was also how I could afford to be a stay at home Mum for so long. Although I do admit they’re becoming more expensive as they grow up so I do need to earn some deniros soon 😉
    Another awesome thought provoking post lady! xxx

  5. October 11, 2017 / 2:55 pm

    When I was working in the fashion industry, I got big discounts on clothing. And I saw everything before it hung in the shops.So I bought tremendes mounts of clothing, oh yes I like that one, oh yeah and that one, oh I need that one. Well, you get the picture. Now I think for a week about it……and usually is sold out then….and I am pissed of then…. Lol!

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