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How to Avoid Emotional Spending

Having fun with your money once in a while is healthy, but constantly finding yourself in financial trouble because of emotional spending is a bad sign (the pandemic has been an especially tempting period for shopping). It’s easy to succumb to retail therapy when you’re stressed or sad – the immediate gratification is like a dopamine hit. Some people think overspending only happens to airheads in movies, but truthfully, no one is immune to it. Everyone likes shopping and browsing to some degree, but without thinking about it, we might find ourselves overspending. Consistently overspending can lead to massive amounts of credit card debt. We’ll give you some recommendations on how to avoid emotional spending.

Our debt counselors warn people of emotional spending and credit card debt.

Our debt counselors warn people of emotional spending and credit card debt.

Avoiding Emotional Spending

If you’re on a budget and had a bad day, it’s best to avoid the mall to de-stress. Instead of buying a video game or candle, you could buy a much cheaper chocolate bar at the store to boost your mood. If you’re buying chocolate everyday though, it adds up (both financially and health-wise). In that case, try another stress reliever/endorphin builder, such as watching a funny YouTube video or your favorite Hulu show. Taking a short walk or nap helps too. You’ll blow off steam without blowing your budget (or ruining your credit). You also don’t have to let guilt, jealousy, or fear throw you off your books.

Avoid Emotional Spending At The Mall

Even when you’re in a good mood, shopping sprees can get costly if you’re not careful. Let’s take clothes shopping, for example. The lure is understandable – fashion is fun and expressive! But you can look good without going broke or into debt. For example, you could just buy one or two statement pieces and cheaper basics to pair with them (plus, it’s easier to create outfits in your closet with basics). You can also try to find the outfit on Poshmark or Ebay for a lower price (just look out for scams). Write your shopping list before heading out to help you stay on track – and on that note, leave the credit cards at home and just bring the exact cash amount. That finite amount of money will make you avoid emotional spending on that extra trinket at the store that caught your eye.

You can also find secondhand, quality clothing for lower prices at consignment stores. This way, you don’t always have to shop fast fashion (which tends to wear out faster).

Avoid Emotional Spending Online

Don’t leave your auto-filled credit card information on websites. Unsubscribe from your promotional email lists. Another indirect but helpful tip – don’t follow your favorite fashion or beauty social media accounts! This will help you not spend more money on a store you just shopped from. If you’re feeling really upset, turn off your phone or computer for another way to de-stress. Listening to the radio, doing some cooking, or taking some deep breaths will help you avoid emotional spending.

Finally, remember your long-term goals. Remind yourself that once you’re out of debt, or once you’ve made your big purchase (i.e., a house, a car), you’ll be more free to buy the fun things you want (it stinks not to buy the cool shirt now, but there’ll still be cool shirts to get in the future!). It’s hard not to always get the new stuff we want, but it’s completely possible to learn how to avoid emotional spending.

If your emotional spending has spiraled out of control though, recovery is within reach.

You’re not alone if you’re struggling with debt. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 




Rae Yen is a marketing coordinator at ACCC. She wants to help others optimize their financial resources and plan accordingly.

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