When you’re asked to name your favorite hobby, do you place shopping at the
top of your list? Do you spend hours at the mall, browsing the aisles and buying countless things that you don’t need? Shopping is one of America’s favorite pastimes, so much so that the average American has a whopping $4,200 in credit card debt, according to Experian. Unfortunately, financial hardship isn’t always the cause of people’s debt problems. If you frequently use shopping as a form of entertainment or as a distraction, you may be an emotional spender.
Advertisers work their magic to convince us that we need their products – to make us thinner, wiser, sexier, more successful, less bored or whatever human need they can tap into to manipulate our emotions. Emotional spenders may not realize the triggers that send them on a whirlwind shopping spree. Stress, joy, boredom, sadness, feeling unappreciated or any of a myriad of feelings – both positive and negative, may influence an emotional spender to take a trip to the mall to make unecessary purchases.
Signs of trouble
You know you’re an emotional spender when non-essentials account for more than the necessities and you’re struggling to find the money to pay your bills while your credit card balance continues to grow. You may feel a rush of endorphins when making a purchase, but that’s followed by feelings of anxiety and guilt over not being able to control the urge to shop or not knowing how the bills will get paid.
Tips to control spending
The key to being less impulsive or emotional when shopping is to acknowledge the issue and put some rules in place. Here are five tips to begin reining in spending:
- Write a shopping list and stick to it.
- Stick to a designated plan – limit stores to stand-a-lone retailers. Shop online or visa-versa depending on where you’re more vulnerable to overspending.
- Make a wish list of items you see that you think you want. Wait 24-48 hours before making the purchase. When you’ve removed the temptation to buy, you may find that you don’t really want it.
- Make a realistic budget with a discretionary spending limit.
- Leave your credit card home. Only carry one when you will be making a preplanned purchase.
- Eliminate your exposure to advertising; especially for products you’re most vulnerable. The less you are aware of what’s available, the less likely you are to develop a sudden need for that item. For instance, unsubscribe to beauty magazines, if you habitually buy make-up or jewelry. Unsubscribe to internet marketing and sales advertisements from your favorite online retailers.
Social ingredient to emotional spending
The clique that ‘misery loves company’ is a component of emotional spending that is often overlooked. And recognizing the social connection to impulsive buying may be the hardest one to break. We often call upon a friend or family member when we are dealing with an emotional high or low. If you find that you spend more when you’re with a particular person, change up the activities you do and avoid shopping with them. Go for a walk, share a dessert and a cup of java, visit a museum, etc.
Dangers to your finances
Spending frivolously to squelch negative emotions or enhance positive ones can do extensive damage to anyone’s finances. Many compulsive shoppers buy on credit without the means to pay off the debt. The damage to your credit score should never be underestimated and might be the most important reason to begin getting a handle on your spending. It could take years to repair if the problem gets out-of-control.
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