Sunflower Thoughts

Kind, supportive and forward-thinking

Beating the cycle of emotional spending

A cashier scanning a pink garment with a brand tag at a till
I’ll tell you a secret – In 2018, I spent over £2000 on LUSH products. That’s two THOUSAND English pounds. On bath bombs, soaps, skincare and shower gels. I was absolutely horrified when I finally sat down and worked it all out. I knew I spent a lot at LUSH (especially whilst working there for a couple of months) but I had no idea it was anywhere near that amount.

I’m usually very good with my finances. I plan out all my income and outgoings on a spreadsheet, I contribute to a pension fund, and I have never been overdrawn in my life. So how on earth did I spend the accumulation of £2000 without even realising?

The answer is falling prey to the cycle of emotional spending. 

Like Cher Horowitz, Becky Bloomwood and Elle Woods before me, when I'm feeling down I like to buy myself 'treats' to cheer myself up with a shopping spree. Unfortunately, this ends up being a vicious cycle. I feel sad, so I spend a lot of money on things I don't need for a temporary pick-me-up, then I realise how much I spent and I feel guilty, and need another buzz. 

As it turns out, I’m not alone. Multiple studies have found that retail therapy really does make us happier. According to a study by Asda Money, 19 million of us spend for purely emotional reasons, be it after a break-up, retirement or coping with a death. Especially for those of us dealing with depression or anxiety problems, shopping provides a way of literally buying happiness.

It’s even worse if I go shopping when I’m feeling better than usual, as once I get into a buzz, that's it. My bank account is doomed. If I've been to a blog event or store opening I always end up spending way more than I normally would, simply because I'm having so much fun. I can't explain the feeling as well as I can for shopping when I’m sad, but I tend to go into a manic spending 'bubble' where I can't read the price tags, or I just don't care what things cost. The worst case for this is when I'm really getting along with a sales assistant (here’s looking at you, LUSH) and I just want to make them happy too. It’s an absolute mess.

So… what am I doing about it?

I have a few ideas that I’ve started putting into practice already, and they really are helping so far. If after reading this far you've realised that you've also become a victim of emotional spending, take a little time to work out the crucial emotion behind why you're spending (happy? sad? stressed? FOMO?) then check out the following tips.

1. Limit your exposure to problem brands

In 2017, well before my LUSH addiction, I was obsessed with Too Faced makeup. I had to buy every new product on it's release day, meaning I spent about £100 each month. Since unsubscribing from their emails and unfollowing them on Instagram, I haven't spent a penny. Out of sight really is out of mind in this case, especially if you tend to scroll social media whilst feeling down, and therefore susceptible to emotional spending.

2. Ditch the debit card and delete Apple Pay

I've started leaving my purse at home, or only carrying the exact amount I need in cash, so that I literally cannot spend any more that I have with me. This is especially helpful when I head out to buy one specific item, as it prevents me from spending more money on other things I see when I get into a shopping 'buzz'.

3. Keep track of the days since a spree

I've been keeping a small tally chart on my desk, and adding another notch every day I am 'clean' from buying LUSH. You'd be surprised how motivational it, wanting to keep going and building up the days. It makes it like a little game, wanting to hit each checkpoint of 5, 10 then 15 days. It replaces the buzz from spending with a much more rewarding one from NOT spending.

4. Plan your outgoings on a spreadsheet

This has really helped me reduce my spending by more than 60% in the last month (yes, I added it up!) especially as I also try to enforce the rule that I cannot buy anything unless I put it on my spreadsheet at least 24 hours in advance. I get super nerdy over my spreadsheet, adding in bar charts and projected savings goals, which also cheers me up when I see how well I am saving money, instead of spending it.

5. Express your emotions in a healthier way

The most important point of all involves you working out why and how you spend, just like I did, and finding a much healthier way of expressing those emotions. Be it picking up a new hobby or sport, calling a friend for a chat, or starting a blog or YouTube to channel your energy, there's plenty of ways to express yourself that don't require spending any money.

At the end of the day, emotional spending is a habit, and all habits are able to be broken with dedication, support and understanding your motives.

If you are finding beating the cycle of emotional spending a bigger problem than you can deal with on your own, consider speaking to a therapist or counsellor about your struggles, and they can suggest more personalised ways to channel your emotions.

18 comments

  1. I'm not someone that does this - I rarely spend anything on myself and I actually feel guilty for buying myself things most of the time. So it's interesting to hear from someone who's the opposite! My only downfall is takeaways really, I buy myself a LOT of those!

    These are great tips for those who might feel the same! :)

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

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    1. Weirdly, I feel SO guilty for buying clothes, or shoes or even dinner out, but when it comes to beauty products I just can't control myself! xx

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  2. These are great advice to get better at not spending. I am trying to save money and i have cut unnecessary spendings on so many things. I have unfollowed and unsubscribed to emails to help!

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    1. It definitely helps! If you can't see it or don't know about it, you can't be tempted xx

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  3. I like the idea of replacing the emotional spending with a different hobby or habit! Good to find something productive that can also cheer yourself up.

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    1. Definitely, I've started ice skating lessons and I'm now going 3 times a week, it really helps to have something else to channel my energy xx

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  4. Hi Alice, and thanks for a great blog post. Spending can be an addiction for some -- trying to fill a gap with that new toy or splurge that will "make them happy". You have provided some good suggestions here about how to avoid doing the spending - I have a post on my blog you might also find helpful which addresses some of the root causes of overspending.
    Welcome to blogging and I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts!
    Joan
    My Best Friend Adeline
    https://kindness-compassion-and-coaching.com

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  5. oh goddess, I'm so bad at this. I go out to get new socks and come home with socks, a candle holder, a necklace, nailpolish, and some roses.
    These are some great ideas to keep it in line.

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    1. I am the absolute worst at doing this. It's always in Primark or TK Maxx as well where you don't notice how much everything you put in your basket is adding up to!

      - Sunflower

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  6. I never experienced this because I don't have a consistent flow of income. I don't have a traditional job where I'm paid on a weekly basis, so it's easy for me to not overspend my money. Because I'm not paid often, it's taught me to be a bit more responsible with my money so when I get paid constantly I'm not overspending. Now your post is very helpful because I can use these tips when I find a job and start making my own money. Thanks for sharing!

    Natonya | https://justnatonya.wordpress.com

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    1. Be careful! That's how it always starts - you suddenly have an income and it's so exciting to be able to spend! I'm currently trying to teach my younger sister to budget on her first proper wage, but it's not going well! xx

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  7. Really interesting post! I used to have quite an issue with this and I still have a tendency to buy myself treats every month. Cosmetics/beauty products, books and craft stuff is my weakness. I’ve really cut back but still have a bad habit of shopping on my lunch break because I want something to do out of the office!
    Lex | https://offasmallisland.com

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    1. Books!! I cannot help spending on books too. It's different because knowledge is power etc, so I don't feel as guilty, even when I have a pile of to-read just sat there xx

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  8. Although this isn't something I can really relate to as I don't spend a lot of money on myself personally usually, however, I think this blog post will help a lot of people who spend lots of money. 💜

    With love, Alisha Valerie x | www.alishavalerie.com

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  9. OMg girl it feels you wrote directly about me (hehe)
    I spend way too much on stationary and cute art pens and etc - i have not yet done the spreadsheet thing - I actually have a phobia of looking at my account - which i need to work on!

    thanks ever so much for these tips - I am going to write them down in an un-necessary notebook I bought (in the sale at least!) haha

    -Lena
    x
    www.lenasnotebook.co.uk

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    1. Definitely start a spreadsheet! It's been my biggest help. Track all your spending for a month, then go through it all, looking where it was unnecessary or you could cut down. Good luck xx

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