For many people, spending money feels good.
Buying new clothes, a new television or new appliances can give you a feeling of moving forward and accomplishing something. You feel fresh, alive and powerful.
Look at the pattern of your shopping. It’s totally OK to enjoy the good feelings that come with spending your hard-earned money. Just be sure to keep your spending in check. When you’re whipping out your credit card, watch for signs of emotional spending that is getting out of control.
Any one of a number of emotions can drive you to emotional spending – even happiness.
When you are feeling good, buying new things can help keep that feeling rolling. Spending money can enhance positive emotions.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling down – whether you’re angry, sad, frustrated, stressed, bored or feeling underappreciated – shopping can temporarily boost your mood. However, a while after shopping, you could face another emotional consequence if you spend too much on yourself – guilt.
The danger is that when you’re riding high on shopping, you are in risky territory. You could make impulsive decisions that you’ll regret later as you fritter away your extra cash.
Or, worse yet, you could dig yourself into debt that could be hard to escape — and carrying too much debt, especially on a credit card, has serious long-term negative impact on your life.
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5 Key Signs of Emotional Spending
Emotional spending is when you are buying something just for that good feeling that comes with it.
It can be tricky to know if you’re emotionally spending because you may reason with yourself that you’re buying for a good reason, when you’re just buying for a quick buzz. It is more about compulsion instead of buying with logic or out of necessity.
Here are some key signs of emotional spending:
1. Credit Card Debt
Having credit card debit is a major red flag sign that you may be emotionally spending. When you carry credit card debt from month to month, it mostly likely means you have spent more than you have. Of course, carrying credit card debt can be toxic to your financial health, mainly by lowering your credit score and costing you more in interest.
If you’re spending steadily beyond your means to the point where your credit card bills are mounting, you might not be thinking through your purchases. You could be buying things on a impulse, to make yourself happy in the moment.
2. Hiding Your Purchases
Do you find yourself hiding your purchases from your significant other? The reason is because you don’t want to “get in trouble.” But the reason you’d get in trouble is that they probably know you are overspending.
When you have to hide what you buy from your significant other, it’s definitely one of the signs of emotional spending. The secretiveness means they wouldn’t approve, and chances are they have a good reason. Think about whether you would agree with them if you saw your behavior from the eyes of someone else.
3. Unused Items
Do you have clothes in your closet with the tags still on? Or unopened packages? If you are buying things that you aren’t using, consider this a serious sign of overspending from emotional spending.
Buying too much is one of the major signs of emotional spending because it shows you might be buying in the moment, and not thinking about whether what you’re buying is really what you need.
4. Calling Shopping “Retail Therapy”
When you go out browsing, do you make a joke that it’s your “retail therapy.” If you think about it, it’s no laughing matter if you’re in debt or if you’re trying to stop spending on clothes.
If you’re emotionally upset, the last thing you want to do is put yourself in a worse situation by spending what you don’t rationally want to. Buying to feel distract yourself from bad situations is a big red flag sign that you are emotionally spending. Instead of buying things to soothe yourself, try tackling the bigger problem.
5. Blowing Off Your Budget
If you’ve created a budget, but you’ve gotten off track a bit, ask yourself why. Having a plan for how to spend your money means you have thought through how what you buy will impact your overall financial health.
When you spend beyond that set plan, it could be one of the signs of emotional spending because it show you are prioritizing your immediate happiness over your long-term happiness.
6. Feeling Remorseful After Your Buy
When you’re buying things for the right reasons, that good feeling you get when you’re shopping should continue. If instead your joy turns to feelings of guilt or remorse, you probably bought your things for the emotional reward.
How to Avoid Emotional Spending
The way to avoid emotional spending starts with being aware of what you are buying and why you are buying it.
One of the best ways to avoid emotional spending is to make a monthly budget that includes specific amounts you allot yourself to spend on different categories. Spending categories in a budget will be different for everyone, but they might include bills, food, clothes, charitable donations and entertainment, to name a few examples.
Here are a few other tips to help you avoid emotional spending:
1. Avoid tempting situations.
If you know you are prone to spend when you visit certain stores or malls, try to stay away from them. Instead of telling yourself you’re just going to browse, steer clear of the stores altogether.
If online shopping is your vice, you can make an effort to stay away from looking around on your favorite retailer’s websites.
2. Learn your spending triggers.
If you are turning to shopping for “retail therapy,” find out what is driving you to the stores. Is it an argument with your significant other? Or do you hit the malls when you’re stressed at work?
If you know what pushes you to emotional spending, you can try to address the root of the problem. For example, you can work on resolving your personal conflicts, or finding ways to better manage your time and workload.
3. Leave your credit cards at home.
When you leave your credit cards behind and only carry cash, you’ll have a physical limit to how much you can buy. Make a list of what you want to buy and estimate how much it will cost.
Carry just enough case so you stick with your plan, and you won’t be able delve into impulsive emotional spending. This way, you can help yourself avoid digging yourself deeper in debt.
4. Replace shopping with other activities that bring joy.
When you rely on spending to relieve you of boredom, frustration, sadness or anger, you can harm your long-time financial health. Finding hobbies or activities that make you happy but don’t cost money is an excellent way to reduce emotional spending.
Exercising, including walking or running, is free and has tremendous benefits for your mental health. You can also try activities like reading a book, listening to music or gardening to replace shopping as your go-to pastime.
5. Fit financial education into your routine.
Reading about financial topics is critical to helping you stay on the right financial path.
Make sure your routine includes some way of keeping up to date on how you can best manage your money. With each stage of your life, you’ll need different advice. Staying educated on finances can help you see how emotional spending plays a role in the larger financial picture.
Signs of a Shopping Addiction
A shopping addiction is a genuine medical problem, so if you think you may suffer from one, it’s best to consult a professional. A therapist or counselor can walk you through the process of determining if you have a shopping addiction, and how best to fix it.
People who are addicted to shopping often share similar behaviors, which include many of the key signs of emotional spending. Shopping addiction is difficult for people to control on their own – they cannot just be conscious of their habits. They likely need professional guidance to help them get to the root of their behaviors.
How to Stop Spending Money on Clothes
Yes, clothes are a necessity. As humans in a society, we need to cover our bodies both for social reasons and to help protect us.
For most people in developed countries, buying new clothes isn’t really a “necessity.” Most people want to freshen up their wardrobe or stay on the latest fashion trends, not survive. Cutting back on spending money on clothes is one of the easiest “necessities” to reduce to lower spending.
That’s because there are many affordable ways to stay protected and covered – and in your own style. Here are 9 ways to stop spending money on clothes:
1. Don’t buy clothing you just “want” but don’t need.
If you’re like most people, it doesn’t take much to trigger your urge to buy clothes. You might see a new trend in a magazine, ad or on television. Of course, you can see fresh clothing ideas all over social media, too.
If you’re trying to save money on buying clothes, take a minute to think about if you really “need” something or if you just “want” it. If your shoes have holes, it’s time to replace them. But if you don’t need it – get in the habit of not buying it.
2. Buy only items that build on your current wardrobe.
If you have a style or color scheme going in your closet, straying from that could cost you. Cut back on spending money on clothes by buying only things that add to what you already have.
That way, you won’t need to buy new shoes, new accessories or other new clothes to make your outfits work. Those costs can add up.
3. Turn to second-hand clothes.
Buying clothes second-hand is a great way to save a significant amount on clothes. You can find great gems at the Goodwill, including lightly used name brands.
For a bigger selection of name brand, gently used clothes, turn to a local consignment boutique. Or, shop online at auction sites like eBay. You can also find some great second-hand clothes at estate sales. It may take a little extra work to find a great buy in second-hand items, but it’s a great way to help you stop spending money on clothes.
4. Know your sale days.
These days, it makes no sense to buy clothes at full price, especially when you’re trying to stop spending money on clothes. Most retailers have days that they offer steep discounts on their merchandise, including when the seasons change and the merchandise turns over.
The best day for bargains is usually Black Friday, which is the Friday after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is also a great way to get great deals at those same retailers but online. Labor Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and other holidays are also popular for sales.
5. Look at your closet with fresh eyes.
One way to get your clothing fix is, surprisingly, sometimes in your own closet. If you give your closet a good reorganizing, you may find clothes your forgot about.
Or, with a good review, you might realize you can combine the clothes you have into outfits you’ve never worn. There’s no need to turn to the stores when a new outfit could be right in your own closet – for free.
6. Think high quality.
High quality clothes can actually save your money. It might sound counterintuitive because high quality clothes cost more. But they also last longer, so you won’t have to buy as many clothes.
As a side note, high quality clothes that last longer are also better for the environment. When you don’t get rid of your old clothes, you might save a little landfill space.
7. Establish a budget for spending on clothes.
Creating a monthly budget that includes a specified amount for how much you will spend on clothes can help you reduce spending.
Most of our shopping decisions are subconscious. If we’re more conscious of what we’re buying and how it can affect our finances, we can take control.
With a budget, you have more clarity on what your spending limits are. You can be more aware of what you spend on clothing, so you can more easily adjust your buying habits and put a stop to frivolous impulse buying.
8. Find outlets and discount retailers.
To stop spending so much money on brand name clothes, turn to the outlets. Retailers like Calvin Klein, Nike, Adidas, Columbia and many more have separate stores where they offer their clothing at a discount.
Items from outlets are cheaper for a number of reasons. First, the retailer may be offering clothing or products made with less expensive materials, or with fewer intricate details. Or, the items may be from the previous season, leftover from the retailers full-price locations.
Discount retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls offer similar bargains, however you’ll find a variety of brands under their roof.
These chain discount retailers are known to have some luxury brands at steeply discounted prices – but you might have to dig to find the gems. Sometimes, these stores also accept damaged items, so look over these clothes carefully before you buy.
9. Check online for better bargains.
If you’ve found something you need in a store, why not run a quick search online to see if you can get the same clothes for less money.
In fact, you can even use a price-comparison app that scans the barcode and searches for better deals of the same product nearby. These small extra steps can help you stop spending so much money on clothes in the long-run.
How to Stop Spending Money on Food
Everyone needs food, there’s no getting around it. You can’t stop spending on buying food the way you can stop spending on clothes. But you can find many ways to lower your overall food bill.
The number one way to stop spending money on food is to stop eating out. Buying food at a restaurant is many times more expensive than buying food at the grocery store. Buying food regularly seems like a small expense, but it quickly builds up into a large one.
Even at the grocery store, you can use several tricks to stop spending so much money on food. For example, stick to the outside aisles, where you usually find cheaper and healthier foods. Inside aisles carry more expensive processed foods.
For more secret tips for how to stop spending money on food, see How to Save Money on Groceries.
The Bottom Line
You should spend your money however you see fit. You worked hard for it, and you’ve earned the right to make your own choices. Hopefully, those choices will keep you on the right financial path, and not start you down the road to snowballing debt.
To fully enjoy the good feelings that come with spending money, you can give yourself a regular financial checkup, and watch for signs of emotional spending that might be taking you off course to your best future.