Let’s talk about emotional spending

The other day I came across a really good article on iGrad on emotional spending, and it got me thinking.

I’ve already talked about consumerism and the endless desire for us to get things to satisfy a need we didn’t know we had. But this article hit to another issue that is equally important: our internal thought process that justifies giving into excess.

The term ‘retail therapy’ has been around for a long time, and while it is usually associated with females and femininity, men are as indulgent, so this is a phenomenon that is applicable to a lot of folks. Let’s think about it, you’re bummed about something–your grades, love life, or financial situation even–and one of the first things you look for in order to cope is a distraction. We live in what I like to call 24/7 infomercial, and escaping temptation and (brilliant, quite frankly) marketing is hard. Ads are everywhere; I get them on my Instagram feed, my Facebook news feed, and even in the middle of YouTube videos (why?!). Companies are endlessly overwhelming us with shiny, new things. This is what I mean when I talk about ‘hyping the hype.’ These ads are smart in the way of how they make you excited about buying their product.

Emotional spending can come in many forms. Some people do the usual, going to the Domain and basking in the temporary paradise that is forgetting about your problems. Some people are getting multiple packages in the mail each week. Other folks spend on a specific item/activity over and over–for me, it’s beauty products. You know how hard it is to live down the street from a Sephora?!

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It’s not fun to sit down and lay the cards on the table about a spending problem. But it’s also not fun to get chased by collections because of a maxed out credit card (this is a blatant reference to Confessions of a Shopaholic, by the way). Setting accountability for one self is not an easy task, because sometimes we are our biggest enablers.

Here are some things I practice in order to curb my own emotional spending:

  • Know your weakness. Is it clothes? The latest version of the iPhone? Recognizing the problem is not what makes emotional and impulsive spending stop, but it is a good start. Identify what or where you go to whenever your emotions take over you. Where do you look for material happiness?
  • Play the waiting game. Whenever you feel the urge of buying something specific, or you are walking around the mall and see some shiny thing that suddenly you need to have, give yourself a waiting period (I give myself a week) and when it’s up see if you still want it. Let the hype die down a bit, those Beats will still be there tomorrow.
  • Question yourself. Not every purchase needs to go through a complicated thought process, but when you have a spending problem, it is important to think about those purchases more carefully. Do I need it, or just want it? Is it a good investment? Is it useful to me? What do the reviews say?

If you have a spending problem that goes beyond you being able to manage it, think about getting professional help. Oniomania (an obsessive or uncontrollable urge to buy things) is a real thing, and there are trained professionals and support groups that specialize in treating it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Do you or someone you know engage in emotional spending?