Shopping has become a major pastime for a lot of people. Both men and women now report feeling a sense of contentment and happiness every time they make a purchase. For women, they lean towards buying clothes, accessories, cosmetics, and other fashion-related items. Their male counterparts have an inclination for gadgets, appliances, cars, and technology-related accessories. With the convenience in shopping and the competitive prices, it seems that buying has become closely related with emotions.
Emotional spending is when you purchase an item that you don’t need or you might not even want at all. The act of buying something relieves your stress, cures boredom, and alleviates a number of negative emotions. On the flip side, you also buy something totally unnecessary just because you’re happy. When you’re on the phone with a customer service representative who resolved your issue and they offer to upgrade your plan, it’s very easy to succumb and say yes. When you also got that raise, you immediately went out and “treated” yourself to something that immediately caught your eye.
There’s nothing wrong with emotional spending, the problem lies when you spend more than what you earn. If you’re struggling to make the payment for your credit cards or bills and you still make these unnecessary purchases, that’s already a problem. Totally removing your urges to emotionally spend money isn’t realistic and might take a long time. However, there are still some things that you can do to curb your emotional spending.
Tackle Impulse Buying
One of the common ways you express your emotional need to buy something is through impulse buying. Adding last-minute items to the shopping cart or buying items at the checkout counter are the usual ways we buy things on impulse. In these cases, you might even forget about the item as soon as you leave the store.
If you see something that you want to buy but you just decided right then and there, give yourself 24 hours to think about it. Since it was an impulsive decision, you won’t give it much thought afterwards. Even if you still think about it, you’ll have time to check your finances if you can fit it in or not. After 24 hours you’ll already have a definite decision if you can buy it or if it’s too much for your budget. If you’re still on the fence after 24 hours of mulling it over, you can give yourself an extension of a week or a month to make sure.
Reduce Advertisement Exposure
Constant bombardment from advertisements will affect your spending habits unconsciously. The more you are exposed to a certain item, the more you develop a “need” for that product. Even if there are cheaper alternatives, you might think that it’s the best choice though the price tag is too much.
There are a lot of ways you can minimize your exposure to these commercials. Unsubscribe to promotional emails or product catalogs you receive in your mail and email. If you’re online most of the time, you can even install an ad block program that blocks out intrusive ads.
Limit Opportunities to Spend
Now that you’ve limited your exposure to advertisements, the next step is to reduce the opportunities where you can spend money. In shopping malls or business establishments, it’s very easy to be swayed by eye-catching displays and low prices plastered all over the place. To avoid this, visit the mall a few times in a year or only when you really have to. You can even do your shopping online to avoid being tempted in malls or physical shops.
On the other hand, if online shopping is your problem, tune out this activity with something else like hanging out with your friends or learning a hobby. By this time, you should have already cut your credit card or switched over to a debit card. You can also spend time with a close relative or friend doing inexpensive activities together like going for a walk, having coffee, or just cooking dinner together.
Seek Alternative Activities
As we mentioned, shopping might already be your form of distraction. Every time you feel bored or anxious about something, you take it out on a helpless discount item. The feeling of guilt after spending money on a useless item creates more stress and you purchase another thing to relieve you. This cycle is what creates negative balances in your checkbook and relationships.
Instead of shopping, seek other forms of distraction. In many cases, a friend or your significant other is willing to listen to your rants when you’ve had a bad day at work. Some people can even turn to exercise to get their mind focused on something else. Jogging or taking a walk is free and it still gives you that rush of endorphins. It’s the same sensation when you buy something just to relieve your stress. Exercise is free and you can easily get in shape.
Some compulsive shoppers might think that getting a second job to pay off debts and increase cash flow is a good idea. This does seem like a sensible move however, it only creates more stress and tension. As long as you don’t address the problem with your spending habits, that additional income will simply be used for senseless shopping. Think of the stresses that affect you first, and then think of ways to alleviate your anxiety in those situations.
Reach Out for Support
Emotional or impulse shopping is a very difficult think to manage alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, loved ones, and family members for support. A lot of times, impulse buyers have difficulty managing impulse buying because they think that it’s just a one-time event. This thinking is very wrong and can easily lead to more stress. Oftentimes, impulse buyers feel an overwhelming sense of guilt after a purchase that they hide their bought items.
If someone you know is suffering from this addiction and they reach out to you, don’t shrug it off easily. Remember that they feel helpless in their shopping and guilt cycle. Spend a few minutes or hours of your time with them to waylay their fears and anxieties. Just those few minutes is enough to calm them down and take their mind off shopping.
Restrict Your Finances
Carry cash with you wherever you go. Leave behind your credit cards and other forms of credit. You won’t give in to temptation easily if you have a limited amount with you. If you frequently go somewhere with a friend or someone else, let them bring your money. This way, you’ll have to convince someone why you need to buy that novelty item on sale even if you can’t practically use it.
Don’t underestimate impulse buying and treat it lightly. It’s even classified as an addiction and has been known to ruin relationships and lives. You can slowly manage your emotional spending through your support network and by consciously monitoring your stressors. If you do falter, don’t give up immediately. Learn from that mistake and move on.