Trigger warning – Controlling your emotional spending

Our emotions have a huge power to control our everyday behaviours, from what we wear to what we buy. We’ve all been there. It’s a little late in the evening and there’s nothing good on the TV so you reach for your phone, bring up a new tab and add a few things to your shopping basket to pass the time. Before you know it, you’ve spent a small fortune on trinkets you might never use.

Did it make you feel better? For a moment, it probably did. But in the immediate aftermath, you have nothing to show for it but a lighter wallet and more ‘stuff’. That’s the first cost of emotional spending.

Emotional spending is about buying something in the moment either as a reward or simply out of boredom. It’s generally kicked off by an emotional trigger and while it doesn’t matter what that trigger is, it’s important to understand which one activates your spending reflex so you can stop it in its tracks next time.

Trigger warning

The key to owning and overcoming your emotional triggers is being aware of them and teaching yourself to overcome them. 

Examining your habits – Open up your bank statements and go through them with strong black pen. If you can pinpoint any purchases that you can’t remember then they probably didn’t add much value to your life. Add up all of these forgotten purchases and you’ll probably be shocked at the final total. Wouldn’t that money have been better saved up for something you’ll actually remember?

Giving yourself time – Think about your big purchases before putting down any cash. If you still feel like you need it later on once that initial urge has passed then go ahead, but you might find your enthusiasm for the item has faded.

Budget – Figure out how much you can afford to spend and stick to it. A great way of achieving this is by taking out a prepaid card and only adding your budget to it every week or month. As an added incentive, you could also put anything you didn’t spend from the budget into an exclusive account at the end of the month. 

Questioning yourself – Ask yourself if you’ll still want this item a year from now. Would you still want it if it wasn’t on sale? Do you have space for it? These are the rational questions that have the power to trick your irrational brain into making the right choice.

Don’t make it so easy – If you have your card details saved or on ‘auto fill’ then delete them if you can bring yourself to do so, at least on the sites where you regularly overspend.

Breaking the cycle

No matter how good it might feel in the moment, emotional spending is a hollow feeling that doesn’t last. And the aftermath is never worth it. It’s an itch you’ll never truly scratch and it’s one that can affect your mental health mental health too. 


Your emotional spending habit is one you can break if you know what to do. As long as you question and examine yourself, it’s a habit you should be able to break in no time. Or at least hopefully in time for Christmas!

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