Woman with bags

Though many of us use the term "retail therapy" in a tongue-in-cheek manner, spending money as a response to emotional triggers is a real problem for a growing number of people. While an occasional shopping "splurge" is absolutely okay and even a good idea to keep one's financial priorities in perspective, luxury spending needs to be treated the same way as a slice of cake or an ice cream sundae—as a once-in-a-while treat. Failure to properly control emotional spending is an essential life skill that we all must learn or else we risk our long-term (financial) health dangerously.

There are many ways for those with emotional spending problems to help curb their habits. Here are five to get you started:

1. Recognize Your Financial Triggers

For some people, even having a credit card on them is an invitation to spend money they don't have—buy now, pay later, right? Yet, for others, the appeal of cash and its lack of accountability down the road—there's no looming credit card statement to remind you of a poor decision—is too much to resist. Whichever group you fall into, recognize it and arrange your wallet accordingly. 

2. Sweat the Small Stuff

It's important to acknowledge that it is not only the expensive purses that hurt you but also your small everyday purchases. 

3. Beware of Impulse Purchases

When it comes to those larger purchases, the most important step you can take is to avoid impulse buys by using the "24-hour rule." Any time you want to make a large purchase, hold off for at least 24 hours. If you still really want the item, buy it then. But, if there's still a voice in your head saying that it's a bad idea take another 24 hours before committing.

4. Look for Alternative Outlets

Emotional spending, by definition, is an activity-based around a need to either celebrate or forget the highs and lows of life, so find an equally fulfilling way to do the same thing. For example, celebrate your accomplishments by having a drink with friends or going to a movie. Alternately, deal with the downs through exercise, talking on the phone, or long coffee dates.

5. Be Accountable: Set a Budget

The more severe a problem, the more important it is to be accountable. Set a budget that allows for some luxury spending. Make thoughtful lists of the things you do need and refer to it when you want a temporary indulgence. Put both lists where you are sure to see them, for example: on the refrigerator, in the bathroom or your wallet.

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Clari, Melo. (2018, August 31). Stop Emotional Spending. Enrichhttps://firstcomcu.enrich.org/articles/stop-emotional-spending