What is Emotional Spending?

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What is Emotional Spending?

Emotional Spending is spending due to being in a state of heightened emotions. This could be when you're experiencing feelings of anger, sadness, grief, happiness or elation. It is often used as an outlet to experience relief or escape from these emotional feelings. This acts as a coping mechanism as, when you add items to your basket, you experience a rush of dopamine. Dopamine is the hormone that triggers feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. Often dubbed as the 'happy hormone', dopamine is responsible for making you feel good and can act as a good distraction from the feelings that you were initially experiencing.

How Can Emotional Spending Become a Problem?

In the short-term, emotional spending won't tend to develop into problem. However, if this is continued over a longer duration of time, that could be a different story. The reason being is that it has the potential to lead to out of control debt. Some people may find themselves becoming more reliant on lines of credit in order to fulfil this spending habit. Basket spend amounts gradually get larger to the point that it exceeds what you can comfortably afford. It can also lead to having a number of unwanted items. Many people who emotionally spend, tend to purchase in order to feel that hit of happiness. The items purchased sometimes aren’t items that they actually wanted and can result in feelings of shame and regret once the items arrive.

What Are The Signs of Emotional Spending?

There are a number of signs that you could be emotional spending or on your way to that point, such as:

  • You're looking to receive instant gratification
  • You're spending at times when you're experiencing heightened levels of emotion (eg. when you're overly happy or sad)
  • You've just been paid and want to go out splashing the cash with friends/workmates
  • You're shopping because you don't want to miss out on a bargain
  • You're overspending when you reach the checkout

Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya

Is Emotional Spending ALWAYS Bad?

Like with all things - everything in moderation! If you’ve received some good news, it doesn’t hurt to purchase an item or two that you’ve had your eye on to celebrate! As long as you’re doing this on occasion, not spending vast amounts and only spending money that you have (and not leaning on lines of credit), it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Practical Ways To Curb The Habit of Emotional Spending

Have a strict budget in mind - Decide how much you’re willing to spend and be disciplined to not go over it. This will ensure that you’re spending on things that you truly want and not on items just for the sake of it.

Unsubscribe from promotional emails - The main goal of retailers is to get you to spend your money. If you’re signed up to too many emails sending you daily promotions, it can be very tempting. Instead, unsubscribe from these email communications to remove that urge.

Implement the 48hr rule - If you find yourself potentially falling into emotional spending, try the 48hr rule. Add items to your basket but don’t check out. Instead, leave the items there and carry on with your day. If you still want the items 48hrs later, then you can carry on and checkout as they’re probably things that you actually wanted. However, chances are, you probably would’ve forgotten about them. This rule allows you to refrain from an unnecessary spending whilst still feeling that dopamine hit from adding items to your basket.

Keep a spending diary - Every time that you spend, keep a log of it. Detail what you purchased, how much it cost, the time of the day and how you felt. This will highlight when you spend and allow you to become more aware of your emotional triggers that you might not have been aware of prior.

Remove saved cards from retailer websites - One thing that makes emotional spending easy is having instant access to your money. Many retailers will offer the option to save your card details to make checking out faster in the future. Though it may seem like a no-brainer, this is often a tactic to encourage spending. Also, many retailers don't have adequate security in place on their websites to keep your payment details safe from hackers. By hitting save, you could also be putting your personal details at risk. Instead, opt to input your card details each purchase and remove any card details that you may already have stored. Though it may seem like a small move, this friction could be enough to help you to curb the emotional spending habit.

Emotional Spending is something that many people experience at one point in their life. Spending like this on occasion is okay but, be sure to implement some of the tips above if you find yourself falling into this habit.

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