Emotional Spending

What Is Emotional Spending?

Emotional spending is a form of impulse buying where people buy things they don't need in order to make themselves feel better. Some people joke about emotional spending by branding it as "retail therapy," but that term can make people overlook how troublesome it can be for their finances. Even worse, emotional spending tends to create a vicious cycle – especially if you’re already in debt. You spend to feel better, and then immediately feel bad again when you realize the impact it’s had on your bank account. So you feel down for a little while and try to do better….only to splurge again the next time you get to the mall.

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Thanks to the pandemic, impulse buying has gotten worse, but there is a way to break the cycle. Read on to learn why we love to impulse buy and how you can stop.

The Why Behind the Buy 

Most people assume they impulse spend because it feels good, but have you ever thought about how it makes you happy? The answer to this can be a variety of things.

Emotion plays a huge role in impulse buying. Finances are a very personal thing, so it's only natural that emotions can get tied up in the process. Buying something small may make you feel good momentarily, but making all your decisions based on nothing but emotion is sure to lead you astray. 

Some people impulse buy out of habit. Maybe you grew up watching your parents buy things to deal with their problems and didn't learn financial discipline. As a result, you've fallen into the same habits your parents had. 

Others impulse buy because they're convinced they found a great deal. This is why it's important to think critically about advertisements you see. BOGO deals, free shipping, and other little discounts can convince you that you're saving money on something you don't even need; but think about how much you could save if you didn’t buy it at all.

Tips for Curbing Emotional Spending 

Do you want to cut down on your impulse buys? Breaking the cycle of emotional spending is possible when you have the right tools. If you're serious about saving money and sticking to your budget, try following these tips. 

Wait It Out

Did you just see something you feel like you just have to have? Instead of buying it now, give it a day and see if you still feel the same way.

When shopping on Amazon, instead of hitting “Add to Cart”, add the item to a list. Check back through that list once per week, and if you still simply must have one or two of the items on it, buy them. If not, remove them and give yourself a high five for being so disciplined
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Not buying things in the moment gives you a chance to slow down and think. If you give yourself time to enter a different emotional state, you may find that you don't actually want what you thought you needed.

Cut Down on Email Clutter

Stopping impulse buying can be difficult if you're constantly flooded with emails about sales and discounts. If it's too hard to resist, consider removing yourself from some mailing lists.   When you can't see all of the "deals," you may find yourself less tempted to buy. 

Set a "Just Because" Budget 

Are impulse buys eating into your budget? If you love to shop but just want to cut down, consider setting aside a budget for your retail fun. 

Setting a budget for impulse buys still gives you the opportunity to buy something, but it lets you do it in a way that won't harm you financially or come as a very unpleasant surprise at the end of the month.

Learn More Money Management Tips 

Curbing your emotional spending is one of many ways you can improve your money management skills. We have plenty of advice on our site for people that want to secure their financial futures. Browse our posts so you can learn about topics that matter to you the most.