Are you an emotional spender?

We all like to think that we are sensible, organised people.

When we go shopping, we go out knowing what we want to buy, how much we plan to pay and we are certainly far too sensible to be swayed by a must have in a window…

Shopkeepers have been providing us wrong about that for generations. They use our emotions to sell to us – but the problem is that they may be too good at it – and we may be addicted.

Be it books, tools, shoes, bags, jewellery, makeup, or just toys for the kids, there will probably be something you can’t resist spending money on.

It’s because you - like almost everybody else - are an emotional spender. But some of us are much worse than others, and it can be a problem.

How to spot an emotional spending moment

Do you find yourself spending money you don’t have because you don’t want to look cheap? Buying something you already have, just because it looks good in the shop? Always looking in a particular shop and can’t resist making a cheeky purchase because it makes you feel good?

These are all emotional spending moments. Wedon’t really need the things we buy during them, but we have learned to love the buzz we get when we spend. It’s a recognised physiological effect, and it is addictive.

You will know that something is not right if you have bags at the back of the wardrobe you have never opened.

But why would you spend money on things you don’t really want?

Self-Soothing with Spending

If you are feeling down, stressed, anxious or tired, spending can give you a temporary lift. Your emotions benefit for a while if you self-soothe with retail therapy. You can numb the problem with the short lived thrill of buying something new.

You really can get addicted to shopping, just like gambling, or alcohol. Addictions flood our brains with fun hormones like dopamine which gives us a pleasurable feeling. Eating, drinking, exercise, sex and drugs can produce a similar effect. Spending money is one of a number of tactics that we use to try and make ourselves feel better.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with spending money we have on things we want. What does cause problems is if it is done without thought or planning. In other words, when let our emotions guide our spending.

The problems are of course that you will soon need another hit and the cost which comes to haunt us long after the initial buzz is forgotten.

If emotional spending really takes hold, it could lead you into serious debt.

Beating the emotional spending trap

The good news is that you are capable of doing something about emotional spending. Once you are aware of what you are doing, you can change your unconscious habits and take conscious control.

Window shop instead of going in, leave your credit card at home – and look through your bank statements to see which shops keep popping up again. Then try to avoid them.

If things are really out of hand you can get professional help here. But for most of us, you may be able to provide the solution yourself. If you go round the shops to buy things you really do need, the temptation to buy things you don’t need can be too much to bear.

You might not get the same buzz doing your shopping on Amazon and groceries delivered by Ocado, but you might start to enjoy something else. See if you can start getting a buzz from the feeling of having some spare cash in your account at the end of the month!

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