How to Stop Emotional Spending

Ahh...the feeling of a new purchase. A brand new, shiny object here to improve life. Buying can feel so good until panic, denial, and frustration set in after receiving your credit card bill. You then feel so bad about your bill that you want to spend to cover your feelings. You have now entered the trap of emotional spending. To stop emotional spending, you need to know the warning signs:

Phase #1: Bad Feeling

To get rid of this "bad feeling" you may distract yourself with the thrill of the hunt, so you set out to go shopping. It can be logging onto Amazon, heading out to the mall, or taking a friend to browse around a few stores. Instead of acknowledging what you are feeling, you distract yourself.

New Solution: First, recognize that you aren't feeling great. Before you go into remedy mode, identify what and why you aren't feeling 100%. Next, determine if it is the same feeling that comes up over and over or if you have multiple emotions or triggers that may lead to bad spending.

Phase #2: Distraction

To get rid of this "bad feeling" you may distract yourself with the thrill of the hunt so you set out to go shopping. This can be logging onto amazon, heading out to the mall, or taking a friend to go browse around a few stores. Instead of acknowledging what you are feeling, you distract yourself.

New Solution: Replace the urge to get in the car and go shopping with another, better distraction. Can you make yourself a cup of tea, go to yoga, or call up a friend? Is there a solution that may give you a better distraction rather than spending? 

Phase #3: The Purchase!

You have been on the hunt and have finally settled in on your purchase or (if you're like me), purchases. You revel in that accomplished feeling of finding something you think you need that will improve your life. It all feels so fantastic, and you are already planning on where you are going to put the item or wear the piece. Total happiness for the next few minutes.

New Solution: Still need to browse online? Don't have the willpower to make yourself a cup of tea, go to yoga, or call a friend? Put these items in a shopping bag and visualize purchasing them, but don't do it! How will these items make you feel? What emotions are you craving right now that these items will bring? The key to this step is NOT purchasing the items but to visualize having them. What you may not realize is that the feeling of the buy is all you were after, no the items themselves.

Phase #4: Guilt/Bad Feeling

You have made your purchase! However, when you slid that credit card through, you knew you didn't have enough money to make an unexpected purchase. Oh well, you will worry about it next month. You will likely go home, put those items in a closet or drawer, and forget about them. Then you will feel even worse when the credit card bill comes. You're already in debt... why not just purchase something again? 

New Solution: Instead of viewing your purchases, view your very minimal credit card bill this month and rejoice. Put the money away you would have spent on an emotional binge into an investment account instead. You will start increasing your self-worth by seeing you are investing in yourself and not useless items. 

Instead of one solution as your fix, try these small changes at every phase of the cycle. Emotional spending isn't really about spending; it's about managing the bad feelings and emotions that life throws at us. Most of us are emotional spenders because it's too easy and can make us feel too good! However, just like any addiction or cycle, by indulging, it usually leads to feeling worse than when you started. Try the solutions behind each phase. See if these tricks work for you. Recognizing your habits and trying to make a difference will ultimately lead to a better, healthier, and more fruitful path than you were on before.