Emotional Spending

The topic of personal finances makes us think of numbers first. We tend to believe that we need to be math savvy to be in control of our finances. This belief is misguided: spending is mainly behavioral, and rarely does it relate to the numbers. Finances only require basic math, such as addition, subtraction, and the occasional division.


The cure to improving finances is learning to control how we channel emotions. When we feel strong emotions, we are triggered to act in a default manner. Consider the example of sadness. A long hard day at work could lead to extreme sadness. This could then make someone look for comfort in overspending on that Louis Vuitton purse or latest iPhone that they have had their eye on for a while. Once this comfort is superficially satiated, they pass by their favorite sushi restaurant and order four entrees, which is two more than usual. After dinner, that sadness is still there; therefore, they go online and buy some new sweatpants and matching tops. Thinking this last purchase would do the trick, they sit there satisfied for a few minutes. However, soon they are sad again.


It is essential to embrace all spectrums of human emotions to stop this toxic spending cycle. We can replace emotional spending with better habits. For sadness, we can cry, journal, listen to music, sleep, watch our favorite movie, and exercise. For anger, we can sing karaoke, exercise, journal, meditate, and dance. For depression, we can seek therapy, cry, read or listen to books and podcasts, and journal. In times of stress, we can cook. Do not try to run away from emotions. Studies show that if you sit and fully feel an emotion, it only takes 2-3 minutes to pass. It is also cheaper!


Editor: Melinda Kovacs

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