Are You Happy With Your Spending Habits?

Or are your just trying to fill a void?

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Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

I love dining out in restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook. It’s within my nature to feed people, and I’m responsible for putting food in mouths at my house, whether they are walking upright, furry, or feathered.

However, as I get older, I crave eating a yummy meal that I haven’t made. It’s not about the food so much as it is about someone else taking care of me so I can relax, eat, and enjoy my mealtime.

What does home-made cooking have to do with my spending habits?

Actually, a lot.

Yesterday, my husband and I were working on separate projects, and time escaped us. By the time we thought about dinner, we still needed to run an errand across town. We decided to get some to-go food from the local hamburger stand (because you can’t dine-in right now). Three hamburgers with fries and a drink: $56.30.


This is what we were willing to pay for the convenience of not cooking last night (actually, I was quite taken aback at the price, the place isn’t anything special and neither was the food). However, it comes with sticker shock and buyer’s remorse. I could have made five dinners with that money. Dammit!

This is the perfect example of using money to fulfill a void (the need to be pampered and ‘loved’, to decrease boredom and loneliness, or in this case, convenience and saving time), rather than using money more discreetly to fulfill a more long term happiness.

Spending money above and beyond regular necessities is a very emotional experience. There’s nothing wrong with it — all of us spend money on something, sometimes, to feel a little bit better in the moment.

However, when you are overshopping and spending to fill a void, there’s a deeper problem that needs looking at.

How do you know if you’re spending money to fill a void? Here’s a few ways you can tell:

You are buying on impulse

I have to admit, I do this a lot. The other day, a friend of mine was telling me about a great book to help improve my Spanish. I looked it up online, it was only $9. ‘What the hell,’ I thought, ‘I’m going to get it.’

Now, I didn’t need that book. In fact, I have enough books to keep me busy for the next year. But getting that book sounded like such a good idea. I justified it by talking myself into how much I’ll improve myself if I got this book.

Most impulse buys are done because we want to feel better about ourselves or the world around us.

You get a spending ‘high’

You know the feeling. You see something you really, really want. It can be anything that triggers your feelings of euphoria. When you decide you’re going to buy it, and pull out that credit (or debit) card, you’re so giddy you can’t contain yourself. You feel like you’re on top of the world! And you are, as the endorphins surge through you for a little while. But, it all comes crashing down when you look at the credit card bill.

Bargain shopping

We have a major store in my area that’s known for having 50% off sock sale on Black Friday. The store opens at 5am on the morning after Thanksgiving, with long lines of people who have gotten there before 4am to get as close to the front of the line upon opening time. When the doors open, they rush in, and run straight to the socks, loading as many pairs as possible into their shopping carts. I’ve been to one of those sales in the past; it’s like going to battle.

That is overshopping at it’s essence. How many people need to get fifty pairs of socks? Even if you have a family of four, that’s not necessary. Socks go on sale all the time. But with this competition, the thrill of getting the bargain and getting out of the store alive is another reason to spend a ton of money on socks.

When you buy something you don’t need, even if it’s at a huge savings, you are still overspending money. The only reason this would not apply is when you have determined you’ll buy something and have done some comparative shopping and found that item for less money.

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Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Ways To Avoid the Trap of Overspending

It’s always good to have a system in place to with a process to catch yourself if you’re getting above your head.

Budget your money

I can’t urge this enough! You will only be able to get a handle on your money when you know what you’re doing with it and where it’s going.

Although budgeting may seem scary and overwhelming, you can master it. Budgeting is the best way to become intimate with your money and understand how it works for you.

There are plenty of easy ways to start a budget. The easiest is to choose a method that works best for you. You can start by looking at several apps available, which show your transactions in real time, and educate you about money along the way.

Wait 24–72 hours before making a splurge spend

If you’re able, hold off on spending your money for at least 24 hours. Make a pact to look at the item tomorrow and see if you really need or want it.

In other words, sleep on it.

Once you come home and go over your budget, your need for that item, and see if you cannot get the item elsewhere for cheaper, then you have a peace of mind going back within the next 1–3 days to buy the item. This will decrease your buyers remorse once you’ve purchased it.

Make a list when going to the store

A way to be purposeful when you go out shopping, is to make a list of what you really need beforehand. Only stick to your list. Don’t waver, and if you see something that is you want for a splurge, you can exercise the previous action of waiting for at least 24 hours to buy it.

Put yourself on a ‘spending diet’

If you like to challenge yourself, you can create a ‘diet plan’ for your spending. Give yourself a period of time for not spending money. This can be done a couple of ways:

  1. Choose at least one day every week where you spend no money. Keep your wallet closed, eat whatever is at home, and use your 24–72 hours for splurge spending. Make this a consistent weekly thing. This can work, but make sure you don’t spend out of control on the other days.
  2. Choose to abstain from overspending on the things where you’re weak. This can be dining out, shoe shopping, hobbies, collecting, or gift buying, to name a few. Make this spending diet more long term. For instance, if you love dining out, then avoid spending money on this for a period of time, like a few days, a week, or even a month. The best way to start is try a few days and then work up to longer periods of time.

Budget for free spending

You don’t have to deny your desire to spend money, but you should allott cash for this and keep track of it.

Give yourself an amount of money every month that you can use for those times where you want to impulse buy. I suggest taking this money out in cash and keeping it with you, and ONLY using it for a splurge.

This will not work if you have a serious shopping addiction. For that, you’ll need to find some extra support to help with your overshopping needs.

Deal with your emotions

It is our human condition to want to cover our painful emotions with something to comfort us instead.

However, we all know that it’s better (and more work) to work with those painful emotions rather than covering them up. The emotions don’t go away, but bury themselves deeper into your psyche.

Emotional spending can be considered an addiction if it’s frequent and hurting you more than it’s helping. If your ‘drug’ is spending money to get a ‘high’, it’s time to look at your triggers and what is behind the need to spend your money.

How do you want to work with where you feel like you’re missing in life? I can’t answer that for you, but I encourage you to self-reflect on your spending patterns and work on becoming emotionally healthier.

These tactics can help get your spending back on track. Find at least one of them that works. If you find you have more of a spending problem that goes beyond this article, then start looking for resources and support to help you curb your emotional spending. You can conquer this, and move on towards a healthier financial life.

Written by

Advocate for Women / Editor of The Virago

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