Are you guilty of adding items into your cart mindlessly out of boredom, or perhaps often use online shopping as a coping mechanism on a bad day? If you nodded your head to either of those questions, chances are you suffer from emotional spending. While there’s no harm in engaging in the occasional splurge, it’s easy to fall into this bad habit if you’re not careful enough.
More often than not, emotional spending occurs when you buy something based on how you feel instead of necessity or logic. The problem with this is how it can be triggered by both negative and positive life events. These can include anything from celebrating a job promotion to going through a breakup.
The first warning signs of being an emotional spender include behaviours like maxing out your credit card, buying things out of impulse, hiding your purchases from your family, and shopping whenever you’re in a bad mood.
Making small and mindless purchases may seem harmless at first, but when it adds up, these minor spending issues can start to impact your financial future. However, here is a way to prevent this from happening.
With these five simple tips, you can get started on your journey to overcoming emotional spending.
1. Identify your emotional triggers
To curb such habits, you need to become aware of the emotions that are causing your spending in the first place. The urge to shop can be triggered by a plethora of emotions. The most common emotional triggers associated with consumer buying behaviours include fear, instant gratification, belonging, and competition.
Do you find yourself spending more on the latest products out of the fear of missing out? Perhaps you’re joining that new fitness club everyone’s raving about to achieve a sense of belonging and exclusivity? Brands no longer market their products or services heedlessly, hoping that someone will make a purchase. In today’s data-driven culture, they know exactly how to target these specific emotional triggers, whatever they may be. Identifying your emotional triggers can help you avoid impulsively spending on targeted advertisements.
2. Avoid impulse buys
Now that you’ve identified your triggers, avoid making purchases out of impulse or urges. Apart from in-store factors such as packaging, signage, and category placement, another aspect that heavily influences impulse buying include promotions and sales. Seeing an item that’s half its original price or only sold in limited qualities often leads to a strong desire to buy it on the spot.
Ignore the urge and don’t feed that emotional trigger. Instead, wait it out for a while and let the moment pass. Give yourself a 24 or 48-hour period to evaluate if you need the item. You may realise that you didn’t need it after all. To remain objective with your buying decisions, shop with a plan in mind and try your best to stick to it.
3. Delete unnecessary shopping apps and newsletters
Mailing lists, newsletters and shopping apps are a company’s way to entice customers with the latest releases, sale items, and even exclusive discount codes. This seemingly harmless outlet could lead to an emotionally driven purchase that you didn’t need in the first place.
Unless it is an essential part of your daily routine, try to limit the temptation from these platforms by unsubscribing or deleting unnecessary apps. Intentionally limit your exposure to these advertising mediums. Just as Marie Kondo said, “the best way to find out what we need is to get rid of what we don’t”.
4. Find other coping techniques
There’s nothing wrong with splurging from time to time to treat yourself when credit is due. However, if you’re using shopping as a distraction, coping mechanism, or form of entertainment too frequently, it could be useful to engage in other outlets besides impulse buying. Feeding your triggers and emotions with healthier and more constructive habits can create a diversion in your consumer behaviour.
Another alternative could be to invest your time and money in experiences instead of material things. This could be watching a musical, going for a weekend hike, or even saving up for a trip when it’s safe to travel again. While material things and impulse buys can give us a sense of instant gratification, they may not be so gratifying once you take a look at your wallet afterwards.
5. Monitor your spending
Whether it’s creating a balance sheet or downloading a personal finance tracking app, monitoring your budget can help curb emotional spending. This simple yet effective technique can give a much clearer overview of how your spending is affecting your finances. From there, you can begin to create a reasonable budget plan that you’re willing to stick to.
This way, you can treat yourself in a more controlled and mindful manner and still safeguard your finances all at the same time.
Pro-tip: If your impulses are calling you, try creating a shopping budget on the Planner Bee app. This can be the first step to curbing emotional spending as you keep tabs on your finances.
Always remember that there’s no harm in treating yourself every once in a while as long as it’s in moderation. After all, retail therapy is still therapeutic one way or another. But remember: never spend more than you can afford.