Video: Curb emotional spending in 4 steps


We all need a way to relieve stress or take our minds off our financial woes. Unfortunately, for many that pressure valve comes in the form of spending..

"I think shopping is my go-to stress reliever for sure," says Kristy Wright, an emotional shopper.

Usually, spending more than we can afford for a quick pick-me-up that doesn't last very long, according to psychology professor and author of “Smart Change” Art Markman.

“As soon as you make the purchase you’ve satisfied this goal to buy this thing, at which point that goal disappears from your motivational system. The next thing that generally pops up is all those concerns about money," says Markman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "Suddenly you’re feeling lousy because you spent more money than you really could have afforded to spend.”

So, how do we curb the impulse to spend when we’re stressed? Markman says training yourself out of bad habits requires tangible actions.

1.  Phone a friend.
A major factor in kicking any addiction is social support. Ask one of your friends who doesn’t have a shopping habit to be on call if you need to be talked out of an emotional shopping spree. Sometimes just a text saying, “Don’t do it,” can be enough to snap you out of the moment.

 2. Make buying difficult.
Disconnect all easy buying methods, such as online one-click purchases. Remove your credit card information from all shopping sites.

3. Use cash only.
One way to making spending more difficult is to use only cash when making purchases. That way you’ll feel the impact of your spending by the weight of your wallet.

4. Collect memories instead of things.
Finally, realize that spending money will only make your worries worse, and the best way to relieve stress doesn’t have to cost anything at all. “Spending your time creating memories, and particularly positive memories, has a greater influence on your well-being than purchasing things,” says Markman.

If you find yourself still indulging in emotional spending once in a while, then at least use Wright’s method of avoiding debt once you’ve had your fix. “I appreciate a great return policy for sure, and sometimes I use that,” says Wright.

See related: 'Buy buttons' everywhere can make debt too easy, 7 ways you are your own worst enemy, financially, Survey: 5 in 6 Americans admit to impulse buys

Published: June 21, 2016

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Updated: 10-27-2016

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