Curbing emotional spending in 5 simple steps

We all love a spot of retail therapy and, in moderation, treating yourself every now and then can be therapeutic.

However it’s when the buzz comes from the act of spending itself rather than what you’ve bought— especially if you’re spending more money than you can afford or are spending to keep up with others —that there could be a problem.

If this sounds familiar, you may be an emotional spender.

What is emotional spending?

Emotional spending is when you turn to spending because of how you’re feeling. For example:

  • You’re happy about something and spend to celebrate
  • You’re feeling stressed and find spending a good distraction from this
  • You’re feeling down and use spending to make you feel better
  • You’re feeling jealous of somebody else and spend to keep up with them

How can you tell if you’re an emotional spender?

In 2017 emotional spending resulted in £26.5 billion in credit card debt and a study showed that 19 million Brits spend for emotional reasons.1

Think this could be you? Consider whether you’re guilty of any of these:

  • You’re constantly trying to justify your purchases to yourself or others
  • You often feel anxious after spending
  • You hide evidence of your spending (receipts, tags, bags, etc.)
  • You have lots of things you’ve never worn or used that you’d forgotten you bought

If you can relate to one or more of these, it may be time to take a step back and think about why you’re spending and what impact it could be having on your finances. After all, any money wasted on frivolous spending is less money that can go toward bills, savings, or other things of higher priority.

Tried and tested techniques to avoid emotional spending

  • If clothes are your weakness, unsubscribe from your favourite brand’s print and email mailing lists. By reducing how often you’ll be tempted, you may be less likely to splurge
  • Identify the triggers that are making you spend and try to come up with alternative methods to deal with those emotions. If you’re feeling a bit down, for example, see what other things make you feel better – like going for a walk in the fresh air or spending time with friends
  • Have a budget and give yourself a regular spending allowance that will allow you to treat yourself without going overboard (Read more on this here)
  • Leave your credit and debit cards at home when you go shopping. You’ll be less likely to spend if you have to withdraw cash
  • Don’t save your credit or debit card info on shopping sites. You’re much more likely to spend if it only takes one click

And, when you next find yourself online shopping or browsing the shops, try and ask yourself the following questions before making a purchase (you might even want to take a screen shot of them to keep on your phone as a reminder):

  • Would you still get this if you had to pay cash (and not use your credit or debit card) to buy it?
  • Do you actually need to buy this particular item and was it something you’d intended to buy when you went into the shop or clicked on the website?
  • Would you have a hard time justifying this purchase to somebody else?
  • Is it worth missing out on having extra cash to put towards something you’re saving for – a new car or holiday for example?

And if all else fails, use the 24 hour rule: Ask yourself, after waiting a full day, do you still really want this item?

Practice makes perfect and it would be great to hear how you get on with using these tactics, so please comment below.

And, remember, it’s a good idea to keep a regular eye on your credit report, as this will help you be in control when it comes to your finances and spending


1 Statistics taken from: