Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: How do I curb emotional spending?

Mitch Marsden
by Mitch Marsden , NAPFA

There are a number of ways to help curb emotional shopping and the overspending it often leads to. Ultimately, you’ll have to experiment to find the method(s) that work best for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Shop only with a list or direct goal. When actually doing the needed shopping, stay focused on the list! It is so easy to get distracted by well-placed ads or products that may jump out at your emotions. But having a plan in the form of a list or a specific goal can help you maintain focus.

READ: 5 reasons people overspend

Cut up the credit cards. You can keep the credit line open if you would like, but do something to remove yourself from the possibility of using credit. If you don’t feel like the extra money is there and available at your disposal, your desire to give into those emotional shopping temptations will decrease.

Try working on a cash system. Take things a step further and buy with only cash. It may not work for all of your shopping needs, especially if you do a lot of online shopping. The point is that parting with physical cash for emotional expenses is much harder to do than swiping a card.

Have friends and loved ones hold you accountable. Even just having someone that you have to report to about your spending patterns and budget can help curb the emotional extras.

Create a budget and reward system. For example, if you have a successful month with no emotional splurge spending, reward yourself with a gift or night out  just make sure that the reward is part of the budget as well and that you stick with it. 

On the flip side, you might set up some sort of consequence for months in which you give in to the emotional expenses. You might set a consequence that you do some extra chore or duty that you otherwise would not, or that you donate to an organization you despise.

INFOGRAPHIC: The cost of a date across the U.S.

Having an accountability partner with both the positive and negative consequences will help make sure you really enforce them. Here are some ways to hold yourself accountable.

  • Take a course in personal finance. Oftentimes, just learning about personal finance and investments will create an inner desire in you to spend less and save and invest more.
  • If you have the extra cash, you can hire an adviser or coach that can help support you as a non-biased third party.
  • Identify the triggers for your emotional spending and come up with a plan of action to a.) avoid the triggers if possible, and b.) know what to do if the trigger event occurs. Find other outlets to meet your emotional needs to replace the spending with.
  • If you do make the purchases and later realize it was a part of the emotional spending, take stuff back and/or sell it online to at least get some of your cash back.
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Mitch Marsden is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a fee-only professional association and a Dimespring knowledge partner.