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How To Stop Emotional Spending

As the Founder of the Financial Dignity® Movement, Christine has coached hundreds of high-earning professionals, business owners, and divorcing women.

 
Executive Contributor Christine Luken

Have you ever wondered how to stop emotional spending? Maybe your spouse or financial planner has told you to stop spending so much money. It’s hard when shopping makes our emotions feel so good! That is until the credit card bill comes in. The truth is that you can’t stop spending emotionally. You’re human, and humans have emotion baked into their biology. But here’s what you can do: you can learn how to manage your emotions so you can avoid buyer’s remorse.

 

Happy woman travel and shopping in city

How to stop emotional spending

 

What does “emotional spending” really mean?

“Emotional spending” is when you use shopping to make yourself feel better emotionally, but usually to your financial detriment. You were late to work and your boss called you out on it in front of your coworkers. You might spend your lunch break surfing Amazon, which allows you to forget about your problems for a few minutes. When you arrive home, there’s a “present” from your friendly Amazon delivery driver that makes your crappy day feel a little bit better.


Healthy emotional spending comes from a place of peacefulness and positivity. Unhealthy emotional spending comes from our negative emotions: sadness, loneliness, shame, insecurity, boredom, and even anger. You can’t turn off your emotions, but you can wait for their “volume” to subside. Avoid spending when your emotions are loud, especially the negative ones. This might simply be taking a few deep breaths and checking in with your feelings. If your emotional volume is sky-high, step away from the checkout register and give yourself an hour or two to cool off before purchasing.

 

Emotional spending is a habit, not a character trait

Maybe you’ve been known to say, “I’m just an emotional spender!” Emotional spending isn’t a personality trait; it’s a learned behavior. It’s a habit! Unfortunately, we aren’t taught how to properly process our feelings as adults. We’re taught to avoid, suppress, or medicate them. Instead, we need to feel the emotions and process them in a healthy way. If you’re feeling angry, get in a heart-pumping kickboxing workout. If you’re sad, watch Bambi or The Notebook and let yourself cry a river about other people’s sad stories. If you’re lonely, call your elderly relative or visit them in person. If you’re bored, sign up for a low-cost painting class or volunteer at the local animal shelter. Identify the feelings and healthy ways to fulfill the emotional needs that require little to no money. We need to take responsibility for our actions. Being at the mercy of our emotions – or in control of them – is a choice that we make daily.

 

Identify the root emotion that causes you to spend unwisely

We all have our triggers that make it hard to stop spending emotionally. Is it sadness, boredom, loneliness, insecurity, anxiety, or anger? Personally, my trigger is usually boredom. I can buy a book, a concert ticket, or a new outfit, and that’s an “easy” way to jolt myself out of boredom. But if I’m going into debt for those things, something fun or exciting can turn into financial anxiety later. Once you identify the root emotion, ask yourself this question. “How can I fulfill this emotional need with something that costs little to no money?” If I’m feeling bored, I could browse the library for books, hike a nature trail close to my house, or go swimming at my brother’s house. (All free!) Make a “Warm Fuzzy” list of things that make you feel good as an alternative to shopping and spending money.

 

Learn how to stop emotional spending in the moment

If you feel yourself approaching the emotional spending cliff, stop and take a deep breath (or three)! Ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now? Is there a better way to meet this emotional need? Do I truly want or need this item I’m about to buy?” Close your eyes, get quiet, and listen to your body. If you’re feeling anything other than positive and peaceful, put down the credit card and take a step back. Here are two tips that I recommend to my financial coaching clients. First, use cash when shopping at stores that are a temptation for you (or a separate debit or credit card with a low limit). Second, institute a 24-hour waiting period for purchases over a certain dollar amount. You’d be surprised by how many things you don’t buy just by doing this. Let your emotions subside, then decide if you really want to buy it!

 

Spending is not inherently bad

There’s this notion that spending is bad and saving is good. The truth is that you need both! Spending and saving are two sides of the same coin. If you want to buy something, and you have the money in your account, that’s not “emotional spending.” If you’re spending money in line with your values, there’s no need for guilt.

 

Here's the bottom line: Because we’re humans with emotions, all spending is emotional at some level. The goal is that we’re making the majority of our spending decisions from a place of peace and positivity! If you want more practical tips, enroll in my free Master Your Spending mini-course!


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

 

Christine Luken, Financial Dignity® Coach

Ready for money to support your happiness, rather than stress you out? Then you need Christine Luken, Financial Dignity® Coach in your corner! As the Founder of the Financial Dignity® Movement, Christine has coached hundreds of high-earning professionals, business owners, and divorcing women to pay off staggering amounts of debt and massively increase their net worth. The author of several books, including Money is Emotional and Financial Dignity® After Divorce, Christine blends wise money management with emotional intelligence.

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