Are You an Emotional Spender?

emotional spender

If you often find yourself shopping online or spending mindlessly at the mall, it may be that the spending is really based more on feelings that are driving you rather than on any rational decision-making.

Many times, when someone is dealing with stress, sadness, overwhelm or boredom they’ll turn to the classic “retail therapy” as a distraction and approach to feel better. Whether purchasing items that evoke a temporary sense of happiness, sometimes even revenge or splurging on luxuries to fill an emotional void, emotional spending can lead to financial strain and dissatisfaction in the long run.

It’s a coping mechanism that provides temporary relief but fails to address the real underlying emotional issues, often resulting in regret and guilt once the initial high fades. Understanding the triggers behind emotional spending and finding healthier ways to manage emotions can help you regain control of your finances and overall well-being.

Identifying emotional spending involves recognizing patterns and triggers in your purchasing behavior. One indicator is making impulsive purchases without careful consideration of need, current debt, or existing budget. If you find yourself frequently shopping to alleviate stress, sadness, or boredom, or if your purchases tend to coincide with specific emotional events or triggers, such as a breakup or a bad day at work, or a challenging spouse or teenager you may be engaging in emotional spending.

Additionally, feelings of guilt or regret after making purchases can signal that emotions rather than practicality are driving your spending habits. Keeping track of your spending habits, reflecting on your emotional state before and after purchases, and setting boundaries for discretionary spending can help you identify and address emotional spending tendencies.

One helpful tool is The Money Tracker book which offers a “Splurge Diary” as a place to record those big splurge events. Through a series of journal questions about each specific spending event, you can review the triggering events, your feelings and subsequent actions, as well as your regrets or thoughts after the splurge.

In today’s consumer-driven society, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of emotional spending. Whether it’s stress, boredom, or a desire for instant gratification, our emotions often dictate our purchasing decisions, leading to financial instability and regret. However, with the right strategies in place, you can take control of your spending habits and achieve financial freedom. Here are five effective ways to curb emotional spending and make wiser financial choices:

1. Create a Budget and Stick to It

Establishing a realistic budget is the foundation of financial management. Two steps to use when preparing a budget, include a review of your bank and credit card statements and starting to track your income and expenses. Armed with this specific information you can then create a budget plan that includes all fixed costs like rent and utilities and discretionary spending like dining out and shopping.

Allocate a specific amount of money for each category, and hold yourself accountable for staying within those limits. By having a clear understanding of where your money is going, you can identify interesting patterns and areas where you tend to overspend, and then make adjustments accordingly.

2. Practice Mindful Spending

Before making a purchase, pause and ask yourself whether you truly need the item or if you’re simply buying it to satisfy an emotional craving. Consider implementing the “24 Hour Technique” from the Money Tracker book. This is where you give yourself a 24-hour waiting period.

Tell yourself you can still make the purchase, just not at that very moment. This pause can interrupt the intense emotions going on in your brain and be a reminder that you still have the option of choosing and therefore not thinking you are depriving yourself.

This pause also allows you to evaluate whether the purchase aligns with your true values, priorities and long-term financial goals. Mindful spending helps reduce impulsive buying and gain the ability to differentiate between wants and needs.

3. Identify Emotional Triggers

Pay attention to the emotions and situations that trigger your emotional spending. Whether it’s stress from work, boredom during downtime, or feelings of inadequacy triggered by social media, understanding your emotional triggers is key to overcoming them.

Once you identify these triggers, seek healthier alternatives for coping with your emotions. In the Money Tracker book there is an “Alternative Activities List” page for considering other activities to replace the spending urge. Practice mindfulness techniques, engage in hobbies, read a good book, take a walk, get outside, and walk your dog, or spend quality time with loved ones as alternative ways to manage stress and boost your mood without resorting to “retail therapy”.

4. Set Financial Goals

Establishing clear financial goals that align with your personal values provides motivation and direction for your spending habits. Whether you’re saving for a vacation, building an emergency fund, or paying off debt, having tangible objectives helps prioritize your spending and resist unnecessary purchases. Break down your goals into smaller, achievable milestones, and celebrate your progress along the way. By focusing on your long-term financial aspirations, you’ll be less tempted to splurge on fleeting indulgences.

5. Seek Support and Accountability

Don’t underestimate the power of support and accountability in overcoming emotional spending habits. Share your financial goals with trusted friends or family members who can offer encouragement and hold you accountable for your actions. Consider joining online communities or forums dedicated to personal finance, where you can exchange tips, share experiences, and gain inspiration from others on a similar journey.

Surrounding yourself with positive influences can reinforce your commitment to responsible spending and keep you on track towards financial stability.

The Money Tracker book offers a tool called “The “Victory Diary”. As you get better at stopping yourself from splurging, you can acknowledge your victories of how you successfully handled an emotionally upsetting situation and replaced your urge to spend with a different satisfying action and self-talk.


Controlling emotional spending requires a combination of self-awareness, discipline, and strategic planning. By implementing these five strategies, you can regain control of your finances, reduce stress, and work towards a more secure financial future.

Remember that change takes time and effort, so be patient with yourself as you navigate this journey towards financial empowerment. With determination and perseverance, you can break free from the cycle of emotional spending and achieve lasting and satisfying financial well-being.

Are You Struggling with Emotional and Financial Issues?

If you are struggling with emotional and financial issues and not sure where to turn, consider my gentle Budget Coaching Services. I have provided patient, non-judgmental and understanding support to guide clients through their financial issues tied to childhood trauma, ADHD, lack of parental guidance as a child or lack of spousal emotional support as an adult for decades. I realize this can be especially challenging when you know you are a smart, and successful person, yet struggling with the basics of money. As I tell most of my clients “Money is usually not about money.” You can find my coaching plans here, or click on the link below to get a FREE 30 consultation.

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