3 Tips for Controlling Emotional Spending

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Recently I’ve realized that a few of my clients struggle with emotional spending or shopping. Many people have heard the term “emotional eating”, meaning eating when a person is stressed, sad, or experiencing any other uncomfortable emotion. The idea is that the food is providing short term relief from the uncomfortable emotion.

“Emotional shopping” or “emotional spending” is the same thing, only instead of eating food, the person is making unnecessary purchases. Emotional shopping can lead to serious consequences, including credit card debt and failure to deal with one’s uncomfortable emotions. Here are some ways of addressing emotional spending that have been helpful for my clients.

Delay Gratification

Emotional spending can be a very impulsive coping skill that people gravitate to because it provides short term relief or from their uncomfortable emotions. People can find themselves in the vicious cycle of feeling bad, buying something, and feeling better until the good feeling wears off, only to find themselves feeling bad again.

One way of breaking this cycle is by addressing the impulsive shopping. In order to do this, delay gratification. Instead of purchasing something online right away, put it in your shopping cart or save it to your wishlist. If you still want to purchase it a week later, it’s a more thought out decision as opposed to an impulsive decision.

Find a Substitution

Another way of breaking the cycle mentioned above is by finding a better coping skill you can substitute for shopping. This may be another short term coping skill, but one that has less consequences. Something like exercise would fall into this category. Exercise makes you feel better, but doesn’t have the negative financial consequences of shopping. Unfortunately, with exercise being a short term coping skill, it also doesn’t address the underlying issues that are causing you to shop.

Process Your Uncomfortable Emotions

What will help you address underlying issues is processing your uncomfortable emotions. This is a long term coping skill, as it can take a great deal of time and effort to do the work needed to process your uncomfortable emotions. Journaling and talking with people in your support system are both great ways of gaining insight into how you are feeling, why, and what will help you feel better.

Working with a therapist can also help you process your uncomfortable emotions. Therapists are trained to help clients identify their emotions and where they came from. They also provide suggestions for how to cope with uncomfortable emotions.

Emotional spending is a fairly common issue within our consumer society. Fortunately, there are many different ways you can begin to address this issue, if it is something you struggle with. Addressing emotional shopping can lead to being able to save more money, reduce stress and increase happiness, and enable you to truly cope with your issues. If you struggle with emotional shopping and would like to begin to address it through therapy, contact Pyramid Healthcare to learn more about our outpatient mental health services.

Written by Shaylyn Forte, M.Ed., CAADC

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