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Self Care vs Impulse Spending: What’s the Difference?

Life on a budget isn’t all rainbows and sunshine; a fact our debt counselors know that everyone knows. It’s really hard work, and for those of us with an “all or nothing” mentality, it’s easy to swing from extreme to extreme. But you don’t have to deprive yourself of things you love in order to make financial progress. With that said, there is a fine line between self-care vs impulse spending. The difference? Let’s find out.

Prevent regrets - and debt - by learning the concept of "self care vs impulse spending."

Prevent regrets – and debt – by learning the concept of “self care vs impulse spending.”

Self Care vs Impulse Spending

Self Care

In today’s world, we use the term “self-care” a lot. Self-care is really important to our overall health, and we shouldn’t let caring for ourselves fall to the wayside. But sometimes, we can use self-care to justify unnecessary spending or behaviors. And that’s why we need to draw a line in the sand between self-care vs impulse spending! Here are some examples of self-care that we should all try to do for ourselves to maintain good mental, physical, and emotional health.

  1. Making yourself a nice dinner
  2. Getting a bath bomb and relaxing
  3. Committing to a healthy lifestyle, including diet, workout routine, or gym membership
  4. Planning to purchase an item you really want
  5. Using paid time off at work, personal days, etc.
  6. Taking a “mental health day”

Where it’s critical to draw the line is when your “self-care” borders into reckless spending or irresponsible behavior, such as racking up credit card debt from shopping to much. Don’t forget that your financial health matters, too. So, where exactly does self-care end and impulse spending begin?

Impulse Spending

Impulse spending is unplanned, in-the-moment spending on a whim. You see something and just have to have it. Or, you walk into Target for two things and absentmindedly leave with an entire cart. Most of us, myself included, are guilty of going on an accidental spending spree. Whether you’re in the mall and see something on sale or a “good deal” that you can’t pass up (usually for stuff you wouldn’t normally need or buy for full-price), it seems harmless. And a lot of the time it is! But, when you’re working to get out of debt, every penny counts. And after the initial spending high wears off, though, panic starts to seep in. Try to stick to a list and really work on holding back.

Impulse spending can also be a form of retail therapy. Maybe you’re having a bad day and want a pick me up, so you buy something you know you don’t need. Emotional spending is a real thing, and there are emotional triggers that can lead you to overspend. Identify yours and work to avoid situations where you’re prone to overspend. The key to avoiding impulse buys is to wait a few weeks. If you still really want something, work it into your budget and then buy it guilt-free!

Takeaways from Self Care vs Impulse Spending

In the debt management process, an “all or nothing” mentality can wear a person out. For example, working diligently to reduce debt is amazing. But going years without doing something nice or fun for yourself? That’s crazy talk! Life is meant to be enjoyed, so don’t deprive yourself. Plan for fun events or “treat yo’ self” time. If possible, leave a bit of room in your budget for miscellaneous or “at the moment” purchases so you have the flexibility to get something on a whim without throwing your budget out of whack.

The real difference between self-care vs impulse spending is just planning and moderation! You’re not a failure if you treat yourself every once in a while, or if you occasionally pick up an unexpected purchase. Just roll with the punches, keep budgeting, and most importantly, stay on that path towards debt relief.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC is here to help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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