How To Stop Emotional Spending

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Catherine Alford. Cat is a freelance personal finance writer who blogs at

Emotional spending is when someone, fueled by a particular impulse, feels like they have to shop. It can be something as complicated as getting into an argument with a spouse and spending a fortune at the mall or something as small as going to get a manicure just because you’re bored.

While spending money is not necessarily a bad thing in moderation, it’s important to be mindful of emotional spending since it’s one of the easiest ways to get your finances off track.

Below are some of the most common thoughts that emotional spenders have and tips on how to combat them.


 1.     I’m bored.

You know the drill: It’s the weekend. You don’t have to work. You don’t have any plans. So, you head to the mall and start browsing. Pretty soon, you’ve spent $200.00 on shoes and have to face the reality of a credit card bill a few weeks later.

Solution: Identify the cause of your boredom. Are you bored because you don’t have any plans for that day? Call up your friends and make some! Are you bored because you finished all of your work? Then, by all means, take a nap, watch a movie, or enjoy a glass of wine to reward yourself. Essentially, this emotion is all on you. You can’t rely on others to keep you entertained. Do the things that you enjoy when you’re bored, whether it’s reading a book or watching your favorite TV show, and stay away from the malls.


2.     I’m feeling down.

I can definitely understand why many people shop when they are down or depressed. That small moment when you get to put a new skirt in a shiny new shopping bag can definitely lift your spirits. However, this is a dangerous habit to get used to, since your automatic response to every crisis will become shopping.

Solution: Whenever you are feeling down and want to shop, ask yourself if shopping will make you feel better long-term. Sure, you might get exhilarated by finding something great on sale, but will your happiness last after you go back home? If the answer is no, take some time to tackle the real issue and try not to mask it by swiping your credit card.


 3.     I want to celebrate!

I definitely think it’s important to treat yourself when something great happens like a promotion or your birthday, but many people who are prone to emotional spending turn everything into a celebration.

Solution: It’s great to acknowledge when things are going well and even more fun to reward yourself. However, if you are on a budget and are trying to stop emotional spending, try treating yourself to a cozy night at home or a nice bubble bath instead. Even better, have a picnic outside with your significant other or take your kids to the park. Essentially, special treats don’t have to cost anything!


 4.     I’m really angry.

This emotion applies mostly to relationships. Often times, couples will get into arguments, and one will go shopping just to spite the other one. Or, a college student might get mad at their parents and swipe their parents’ card just to prove a point. All of these behaviors aren’t going to make anyone feel better in the long run, and it’s best to avoid them.

Solution: If you feel angry enough to shop till you drop, first take a deep breath and try to calm down. Usually time alone to think through the problem will be enough to quell your shopping craving. You can also remind yourself that shopping won’t fix the issue at hand. Only talking through problems and working on major issues will help you in the long run.


 5.     I want that right now!

Impulsive emotions are definitely the riskiest form of emotional spending. Seeing something that’s awesome or interesting and buying it on the spot is okay from time to time. However, if it becomes a habit or you never deny yourself anything, it can definitely hurt you financially.

Solution: Tell yourself no as often as possible. Whenever someone asks me for my number one piece of financial advice, that’s what I tell them. Every time you say no, you are saying yes to a bigger savings account. Ask yourself if you really need the item in front of you or if you are just buying it because you like the way it looks.

Essentially, emotional spending is something everyone struggles with, and it’s important to know which type of emotional spending you most likely experience. Once you know which one sparks a need to shop, you can better tackle that issue head on. Remember, shopping is great for a little bit of temporary happiness, but once that fades, the problem you were running away from is unfortunately still there.

How about you all? Are you an emotional spender? How do you try to combat those tendencies?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of


  1. Meh, I have been guilty of all five of them in the past! Nowadays I am trying to spend more time browsing the blogs than the malls – seems to be working alright.
    Kostas recently posted…How Technology Is Increasing Our Financial KnowledgeMy Profile

  2. Humans alas are creatures of emotion and more often than not we let emotions get the better parts of our judgements. I tend to overspend when am down…trying to fill that “void”, but as you aptly point out, it doesn’t last long-term…so nowadays when am done I try to get to the bottom of it, or go for a run…it helps clear my mind and get to the root cause…also raises my spirits 🙂
    Simon @ Modest Money recently posted…Betterment Review – A Must Read Before You InvestMy Profile

  3. I can definitely empathize with the “I want it now” feeling, and with shopping sites like Amazon, it takes some real will power to say no. I actually did just recently buy a VOIP box from Amazon because I wanted it now. The box is called Ooma, and it will pay for itself in 7 months since we are no longer paying for our land line connection. I plan to post a review shortly.
    Bryce @ Save and Conquer recently posted…When Should You Replace the Old Car?My Profile

  4. I’m guilty of impulse spending!!! Sometimes I feel like I go so long without spending money on material items that if I come across something I like I can’t resist!
    Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen recently posted…Happy five years to us!My Profile

  5. Being bored is a huge money waster for some people who head out to shop but don’t know how to window shop. it’s inevitable that when you go shopping you are more than likely going to be tempted by something. Sometimes leaving the money at home when you are doing the emotional shopping is the best medicine while getting your fix.
    canadianbudgetbinder recently posted…You’re cheap if you decorate rooms frugallyMy Profile

  6. I like to take some time to think about any purchase over $100. If it’s really worth it, I’ll return the next day and buy it. Most of the time I don’t.
    Chuck @ Tortoise Banker recently posted…Veruca Salt’s Guide to Getting a Windfall into Retirement AccountsMy Profile

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