How to Stop Emotional Spending
Ahh...the feel of a new purchase, a brand new, shiny object here to improve life. Buying can feel so good. It feels so good until panic, denial, and frustration set in after receiving a credit card bill. This is the trap of emotional spending. To stop emotional spending in its tracks you need to know the warning signs:
Phase #1: Bad Feeling
The first phase of emotional spending isn't the purchase, it's the bad feeling that leads there. Whether it is disappointing news, envy of of what others have, or general unhappiness, the feeling is what first sets in. Once you feel the "bad emotion", your next thought is to remedy it.
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. That amazing feeling when you are in line and waiting to buy these new objects that will make your life SO much better. All it takes is one little swipe of the credit card and these brand new shiny objects are yours and will make you happier, of course!
New Solution: Still need to browse online? Can't yet go 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 actually 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 really 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 simply 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 richer path than you were on before.