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3 Simple Ways To Curb Emotional Spending


As a young adult, I had a bad emotional spending habit. Whenever I was sad, bored, or even happy and trying to celebrate an accomplishment, I went clothes shopping as a way to deal with my emotions. 

Studies have shown that the pandemic caused emotional spending to increase sharply. When we were all stuck at home with nothing to do, many people turned to online shopping as a way to relieve their boredom, stress, and anxiety. 

If you developed an emotional spending habit during the pandemic and are struggling to kick it, here are some tips on how to curb impulse shopping. Although I’m not perfect and still emotionally spend sometimes, these three strategies helped me greatly reduce my impulse buying habit, enabling me to meet my financial goals. 

Figure Out What Need You’re Trying to Fill

When I overspend impulsively, I’m usually trying to fill an emotional need. I’m typically sad, bored, or tired and looking for a distraction to make me feel better. Before I make an unplanned purchase, I ask myself, what’s the reason for this spending? Is this item or experience something I really want, or am I trying to fill an unmet emotional need by shopping? 

If I’m trying to cheer myself up or turn a bad day around by shopping, I try to come up with an alternative. Spending isn’t the best way to deal with negative emotions like boredom or exhaustion. Self-care activities like watching a movie, reading a book, taking a nap, or talking to a friend on the phone are usually much more effective at resolving a bad mood than buying something. Not to mention that it’s much cheaper to go for a walk when I’m bored than to give into the temptation to shop online! 

Make It Harder To Impulse Buy

Emotional spending is almost always impulsive. So I’ve put safeguards in place to make it harder for me to buy something on a whim. I don’t save my debit card information to any websites or apps. Having to search for my debit card and manually enter my payment details forces me to slow down and reconsider my purchases. A lot of the time I end up realizing I don’t need whatever it is I’m trying to buy while I’m looking for my wallet. 

I also try to stick to a rule that I can’t buy something nonessential until I’ve mulled it over for at least a week. I usually fill up my online shopping cart and let it sit for a while. This cool-down period helps me avoid emotional spending and separate needs from wants. If a purchase is motivated by a passing desire or emotion, I won’t want it as strongly in a week or two. But if I genuinely want or need an item and it fits within my budget, I allow myself to buy it after I’ve thought it over. 

Practice Good Self-Care

It’s hard to exercise willpower and say no to impulse purchases if you’re stressed out and exhausted. When you’re running on empty, you may feel like you need to splurge on new clothes or shoes to reenergize yourself.

That’s why one of the keys to beating emotional spending is to practice good self-care. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally will help ensure that your cup never gets so empty that you seek out a dopamine boost from shopping.

Making time for self-care can be difficult if you have a demanding job, a family, or caretaking responsibilities. But even if you only have twenty or thirty minutes to spare, you can still find ways to destress. When I’m pressed for time, I like to do a quick guided meditation or read a few pages of a book to unwind. You could also try to take a short walk outside, play with a pet, or do a brief yoga routine. 

Since I started squeezing in some “me time” every day, I haven’t been as tempted to treat myself to takeout or shopping trips. I’m less stressed, so it’s easier to make smart, rational financial decisions instead of emotionally spending on impulse. 

What strategies do you use to avoid emotional spending? Share your tips in the comments section below! 

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