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How Your Emotions Impact Spending

emotions impact spending

We know that our money is an extension of us. It doesn’t float around independently, saving itself, is spending itself or giving itself away. Our attitudes and priorities can be found in our money. Our emotions impact spending. One financial expert says that he can tell the kind of person he’s dealing with by looking at their bank statement and how they spend their money.  I believe he’s right.

I can look at my past bank statements and tell exactly what was going on in my life. If I visited a bakery a few times a week, I was stress eating. If I spent money on exercise equipment, a gym membership and Weight Watchers payments then I had probably stepped on a scale and was horrified. When I buy tons of books and magazines, I plan to retreat and want the world to leave me alone. My money tells my story and your money tells yours. Your emotions impact spending.

Quite a few years ago, I was making a purchase at an upscale department store and my check was refused as payment. I wanted to sink into the floor and I just knew the cashier and the customers behind me thought I had written bad checks all over town. When I called TeleCheck, they said they employed an algorithm that allowed for only four checks (or a total of seven hundred dollars) to be spent within a seven day period. I wanted to go back to the cashier and round up all the customers and explain the situation—then whip out a credit card to let them know I was a good person. Spending more money was not the answer to combat my embarrassment but clearly I equated financial worth with self-worth. It wasn’t enough that I knew the truth but wanted others to think highly of me.  Can anyone relate?

We’ve all heard that one should never go grocery shopping when hungry but there are other kinds of emotional spending that can get us into financial peril.

Types of Emotional Spending

Spending From Loneliness

This global pandemic has presented a host of issues that we hadn’t considered until it was upon us. There are people who haven’t been physically touched since sheltering in place and have dealt with it in healthy ways—pet shelters have been emptied and animals are being adopted in record numbers. Unfortunately, others have turned to online shopping and other indulgences of a temporary nature to fill the hole. If you’re a person who tends toward buying, the one hour rule is a great tip; wait an hour (or two) before confirming your shopping cart. Give emotions time to subside and rational thinking to kick in before trying to fix loneliness with things.

Spending From Anger/Frustration

These twin emotions can make us run quickly to what ever helps us feel better; eating, drinking, binge-watching and/or spending money. Independently, none of these behaviors are problems unless they are covering up and helping us avoid real issues. While in quarentine, I’ve rediscovered two things—my love of sweets and of walking—one good thing and one not-so-good thing.  When I feel especially frustrated by things that are out of my control, I want to indulge myself with something I love. I’m at the point now where I can choose physical activity instead of pie or a quick look-see on Amazon,  but it took quite a while to get here. Replacing a bad habit with a good one is simple but not easy. If you stumble, get back up and keep at it. Give yourself time and grace to change.

Spending From Happiness/Celebration

If something good happens, what better way to celebrate than to throw a party?  If we can’t have a huge group of people to our home right now, then the reasonable option is to throw ourselves a party. Food, cake, decorations, and gifts…or just gifts. Something nice, something you’ve been eyeing for a while and can now rationalize, even if you can’t afford it.  Here’s a trick I use. Write down the current balance of your bank account and subtract the amount you plan to spend and sit with it for a moment.

Current balance:     $300

Item I want to buy:   $299

Money for meals:     $1 (Even a Happy meal is taxed)

Can you live with a dollar until payday? The reality will settle the truth. If a credit card is your go-to when your bank account won’t withstand a purchase, then it’s time to honestly ask yourself if that debt is worth the financial goals you may be sacrificing for a momentary rush of pleasure.

Your emotions impact your spending. Not all emotional spending is bad, but the goal is to examine your emotions and triggers and hopefully, come out of this time with a better handle on your money.

The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt.  For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.


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