man and woman holding shopping bags

Are you an emotional spender? This is what you can do about it

author: Fiona Peake

By Fiona Peake

Self-care can take many forms, but if you’re reaching for your bank card as a way to ease your emotions – you could be doing more harm than good.

Research has shown that financial instability can have a direct impact on our mental health, yet it’s not uncommon for us to use spending as an emotional crutch. Whatever your vice is, be it clothes, tech, food or books – there's no denying that the simple act of buying something new can deliver an almost instant feeling of euphoria. 

However, once that initial excitement has worn off, if you’re left with only feelings of regret, it could mean that you’re an emotional spender.  

What is emotional spending? 

It’s nice to treat yourself once in a while, whether it’s to cheer yourself up or as a way of celebrating an achievement. But, if you find that you're spending more money than you might have on things you don’t necessarily need, and particularly if you later regret your purchases, then it might be a sign that your emotions are the driving force behind your spending. 

Emotional spending is often linked to negative feelings such as sadness or stress, but the truth is that you can react to any emotion through unnecessary spending.  

If your budget is being stretched to accommodate in-the-moment purchases, there are things you can do to help curb your impulses.  

Recognising your triggers 

Understanding the types of emotions that make you want to reach for your bank card is the first step towards combatting emotional spending. Some of the most common emotions that drive this sort of impulsive buying include: 

  • Stress 
  • Sadness 
  • Guilt 
  • Jealousy 
  • Achievement 

Whether it’s in a bid to lift your mood, keep up with peers or reward yourself for doing well, the emotional drivers that lead you to spending unnecessarily are the first place to start when addressing the issue.  

Tactics to control emotional spending 

Once you know what triggers you to spend, you can start looking at other ways to ease that same emotion, without spending money. We’ve put together some useful tips to help. 

1. Sleep on it 

More often than not, if you allow yourself a little bit of breathing space, you'll find that your initial feelings - and the impulse to spend that came with them - will have died down. 

If there’s something you have your eye on, giving yourself at least the night to sleep on it before you decide to buy it can be all that’s needed to make better choices. 

2. Avoid temptation 

If you’re an avid shopper who can’t resist a bargain, it can be worth deleting your go-to shopping apps and unsubscribing from mailing lists.  

This needn’t be forever, but removing that initial temptation to act on impulse can be helpful. You're much less likely to spend if you first have to make the effort of redownloading the necessary apps.  

3. Spend more time with your budget 

If your emotional spending has gotten out of hand, you may find yourself avoiding your bank balance – and your budget. This isn’t uncommon, but it can lead to more financial difficulties down the line. 

Focusing on your budget, and spending time on your finances to get them into good shape offers a range of unexpected benefits, not least the accountability and motivation it can bring to spend more sensibly.  

4. Discover new coping mechanisms 

It can be difficult to navigate your emotions, especially if you’ve grown accustomed to spending as and when you feel the urge. However, there are a range of ways you can deal with your emotions, without having to spend a penny. 

Some of our favourite self-care ideas that won’t break the bank include: 

  • Taking yourself for a long walk 
  • Cooking and baking 
  • Pamper time 
  • Reading 
  • Exercise 
  • Spending time with loved ones 
  • Discovering new hobbies 

As you start to move away from emotional spending in favour of other things that make you feel good, you should find those urges to impulse buy die down.  

Looking for more ways to make the most of your budget? Find out how you could spend less and save more in 2022. 

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

man and woman holding shopping bags man and woman holding shopping bags