Do either of these scenarios sound familiar?
You get a raise, so you treat yourself to a mini shopping spree and buy a new outfit (head to toe) to wear to work on Monday.
Or, you get a stack of cash as a birthday gift and head straight to the sporting goods store to purchase a new set of golf clubs.
Both instances, believe it or not, qualify as emotional spending. These instances, in particular, revolve around happy emotions.
But, we can also find ourselves buying things (spending) in response to other emotions.
Most of the time, when referring to emotional spending, we’re speaking of times when we are buying things we don’t really need, and may not even want, simply because we’re bored, sad, trying to fill a void, or ease tensions and stress.
And, all of that may be fine if you’ve got the budget to cover it.
But let’s face it, most of us aren’t walking away from a Gates marriage with more cash than we’ll ever be able to spend.
So, that can only mean one thing: if you’ve found yourself being sucked into the online shopping vortex, you’re going to have to find some constructive ways to get off of the emotional spending roller coaster.
So, let’s take a look at some practical ways to help you curb emotional spending coming out of this past year spent in covid lockdown…
The Online Shopping Monster Created By Covid
Before we get to those practical ways to slash emotional spending, let’s take a look at a few stats to get a better picture of the reality of this online shopping situation.
Online shopping has grown in popularity over the course of the last 10-15 years. And, why wouldn’t it? It’s convenient. It allows you to save time, and sometimes you can even find great deals online and save some money as well.
But, it can also get out of hand rather quickly. That ease and convenience can be tricky, and before you know it, you’ve spent half your paycheck while sitting on the couch in your pjs.
Especially amidst this unexpected pandemic “season,” we’re all battling feelings of stress at unprecedented levels, isolation, frustration, fear, and a whole slew of emotions that are basically pent up with nowhere to go (like seriously, nowhere to go, we’ve all been in lockdown).
According to Digital Commerce 360 estimates, “consumers spent $861.12 billion online with US merchants in 2020, up an incredible 44% year over year.” This was the highest annual growth in the US that ecommerce has seen in two decades, nearly tripling the numbers reached in 2019.
Amazon alone reported a 220% profit increase in their first quarter of 2021.
Let me rephrase that: “Holy online spending Batman!!”
And, while we’d like to think, “oh that’s just because we’ve had to make normal in-store purchases online during the pandemic,” there’s actually more to it than that.
The stress and isolation that have been overwhelming themes of the covid lockdowns have led many to seek emotional rewards elsewhere…in this case, through retail therapy.
That’s not just a term coined by women looking for an excuse to hang out with their girlfriends, you know.
Spending money on yourself can trigger a boost in your mood. This is why such spending is often termed therapeutic.
The problem with this lies in the fact that these mood boosting feelings don’t last, leading us to buy again and again, whether we need the items or not. And, this traps us on an emotional spending rollercoaster resulting in more problems, from finances, to relationships, and even greater emotional turmoil.
So, if your online shopping habits are out of control, or if the covid lockdowns (or something else) have made an emotional spender out of you, what can you do to kick the emotional spending habit?
1- Ditch The Apps And Unsubscribe
If your email inbox is overflowing with sale after sale and ad after ad, hit the unsubscribe button (or enter your email and get off their list).
If you’ve downloaded apps onto your phone or device from all of your go-to places to spend your hard earned cash, delete those apps.
And, if television commercials are your trigger to give you a case of the ‘web-surfing must-haves,’ then pre-record your favorite shows and skip those ads. Hint: you’ll also save some time here as well.
If you’re on social media for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve been susceptible to signage there as well. So, help your wallet out by taking the time to select those “hide ad” options on those that frequently haunt your screen.
Limiting your exposure to these temptations can be an effective way at limiting your overall spending.
2- Cut The Cards
If you’re finding that your spending habits have gotten so out of hand that you’re racking up more debt than you have dough to cover that debt, you may need to cut up those cards or cancel those accounts.
But, a less drastic measure involves going into your preferred shopping sites and removing your card info from those sites.
Take an honest look at your financial situation and adjust accordingly.
3- Take Inventory
Have you ever seen these youtube videos of women (maybe men do this too, but I’ve only seen women) who are sharing their cleaning routines, recipes, and even times when they declutter spaces within their homes?
Those are oddly therapeutic, and I mention them for this reason…be like a youtube “cleaning lady” and get your declutter on!
Go through your clothing closet, your extra closet, your hall closet, your drawers, and your shelves. Declutter those areas and truly take inventory of what you have.
This will give your mind a better picture of what you need and don’t need, helping you to just say no when the urge arises to hit the “place order now” button.
4- Budget, Budget, Budget
Your closet isn’t the only place to take inventory.
Pull out your checkbook, bank statement, or online financial spreadsheet and truly evaluate your finances.
Where are you spending? How much are you spending? Can you really afford another purchase? How many hours do you have to put in to cover this purchase?
As you evaluate your finances, set a budget and stick to it. You can even set goals for your spending (or not spending) habits.
Another option is to set a savings goal. Motivate yourself to make better choices when it comes to online spending by setting aside that money, saving it for a vacation, home improvements, or an investment.
Then, check in on these goals and your budget frequently. Doing so with the accountability of a friend or family member is even better.
5- Find Another Way
As this type of online spending is often a mechanism for coping with emotions, avoid overspending by identifying the things that may be causing your urges to spend and finding other constructive ways to deal with these emotions.
- Journal your thoughts
- Practice mindful breathing to relieve stress
- Spend time with or talk to a friend or loved one
- Exercise or take a walk outdoors
- Find means of entertainment to ease boredom (reading, find a new hobby)
- Plant and tend to a garden
- Enjoy a long, relaxing bath
And, if you simply must spend, set a budget or a plan and do so in moderation, incorporating the above principles as you shop mindfully.
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