• 5 Ways to Combat Emotional Spending

    5 Ways to Combat Emotional Spending

    Got the itch to shop till you drop? Here are a few ways to stop yourself from emotional spending this holiday season and always.

    I think we can all agree – 2020 was rough! Not only did we go through a global pandemic and national lockdown (and still are), but this resulted in many people losing much, if not all, of their income, and many others losing their jobs altogether. And you might be thinking that after enduring all of this, you deserve to spoil yourself with something fancy. It is the festive season, after all. But before you swipe your card, you might want to pause and consider the reason behind your big spend.

    ‘It is not uncommon for people to occasionally over shop or overspend during certain holiday seasons or as a way to deal with life stressors,’ explains Michelle Laving, a counsellor who specialises in shopping addiction. ‘However, a chronic pattern of spending in an attempt to manage uncomfortable feelings or other factors can lead to a problematic or compulsive pattern that continues despite negative consequences.’ These negative consequences can range from relationship problems or financial difficulties to guilt and, in extreme cases, even legal issues. All because you can’t resist the urge to splurge.

    Want to make sure that you’re making smart shopping choices rather than falling victim to emotional spending? Here are five tactics to help prevent it, this holiday season and beyond.


    1. Understand your finances

    Before you go and blow your bonus, it is important to know what’s cooking with your personal finances. ‘Be aware of what you owe on your credit card, and make a budget and savings plan,’ advises Michelle. ‘Being aware of your input and output can  be a necessary reality check, and can help you be more mindful and less reactive in your spending behaviour in future.’


    2. Identify what your triggers are

    As the name of this phenomenon might suggest, emotional spending is triggered by how we are feeling, so it’s important to try and identify what puts you in the mood to shop. ‘Whether your trigger is your mood, relationship stress or a way of boosting self-esteem, try to establish alternative coping strategies in response to these triggers, such as exercising or taking a bath instead of goingto the mall,’ suggests Michelle.


    3. Plan ahead

    Emotional spending is something that often happens on the fly when a shiny, new object catches your eye. But if you create a list of what you need before you hit the shops – and stick to it – you will be less inclined to make spontaneous and ill-advised choices. ‘Think about what you need to buy, set yourself a time limit and budget, and avoid browsing for long periods of time,’ says Michelle. Preparation is key.


    4. Stop and think

    ‘When you are feeling a strong pull to spend money, try to take a mindful pause by asking yourself the following questions (taken from psychologist Dr April Benson’s Stopping Overshopping programme): 1. Why am I here? (in this store or shopping online); 2. How do I feel?; 3. Do I need this?; 4. What if I wait?; 5. How will I pay for it?; 6. Where will I put it?,’ advises Michelle. This will help you make smarter spending choices.


    5. Ask for help

    Emotional spending can become an addictive behaviour and lead to all sorts of consequences, with the main one being financial trouble. ‘Problematic shopping and spending habits can be a highly destructive way of coping with underlying issues,’ explains Michelle. ‘If necessary,seek help from a therapist who is trained in addictive behaviour to help you understand what is driving your splurging.’



    Text: Helen Wallace | Photography: Gallo/GettyImages, Courtesy Images

    Article written by