How to curb emotional spending and start saving

Emotional spending can impact on more than just your financial health.

Woman using a calculator to track her sepnding habits

How many of you are familiar with buying something only to take it home and realise it’s something that you don’t really need, and in some cases, don’t even really want? With figures from the Australian Consumers’ Association showing that almost half of all Australian households are in debt, frivolous spending is a significant problem.

While the ‘shop til you drop’ adage promotes a frivolous and fun attitude to spending, the Australian Psychological Society claims that emotional spending has a lot to say about a person’s emotional wellbeing.

Surrendering to the occasional purchase on an impulse is one thing, but the spending becomes an issue when your purchases shift from impulsive to compulsive. Psychologists have linked compulsive shopping, or oniomania, with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, loneliness and anger.

Typically, there are three main types of over spenders:

  1. those who regularly overspend, have poor money-management skills and get into significant financial trouble by overspending
  2. those who seek affirmation in material possessions and who feel their status is elevated by new items
  3. those who have a compulsion or urge to repeatedly purchase items they don’t need in order to deal with  psychological feelings of depression, low self-esteem or inadequacy. This group is mostly likely to meet the definition of oniomania.


How to beat emotional spending

Here are some helpful tips for emotional spenders from psychologist Daniela Intili:

  • cut up and dispose all your credit cards (except one, in case of emergency)
  • avoid any shopping when feeling sad, angry or anxious
  • resist the urge to spend when it creeps up and do some exercise instead – exercise is a good distraction and will boost serotonin levels
  • before heading to the shops, write a list of just the essentials – and stick to it
  • if possible, choose a close friend or family member in whom to confide, and who can accompany you when shopping
  • learn some positive self-talk to bolster yourself during difficult times. Phrases such as ‘I don’t need to buy this’ and ‘I can’t afford to go shopping’ can be helpful.
  • if you need to go shopping, avoid extraneous temptation by shopping in small or local shops that are not attached to shopping centres
  • try to identify why you feel the urge to shop. Do you feel dissatisfied with your job? Are you lonely? Identifying negative thoughts and then fixing them will help to put a stop to emotional spending.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    12th Feb 2016
    Get out of the shops ; get busy; clean out a cupboard; visit a friend; visit a neighbour; do some volunteer work; walk walk walk;
    Don't say I don't have enough money think about it and how fortunate you really are ; you live in a land of milk and honey . Just speak strongly to yourself and get on with it get a life only you can do that for you.
    Happy cyclist
    12th Feb 2016
    Excellent advice Virginia.
    12th Feb 2016
    And vote independent.
    Young Simmo
    13th Feb 2016
    Yes, if I'm going to be honest I am one of those suckers that rushes in.
    Example:: I had one of those Philippines El-Cheapo 39 litres Engel fridges which I bought from BCF for $550 on super special instead of the usual $1300. Hadn't used it for about 12 months, and sold it on the Woollies notice board for $600. I was quite happy with that, and then about 3 months latter got a Kogan newsletter offering a 42 litre Komodo 12 volt / 240 volt 42 litre car fridge for $369.00 on special, and jumped in and bought one. I wont say at this stage what my Darling said to me. These days I talk to myself and say, “Do you really need it Simmo”? My excuse is that at 76 years, the occasional little Boo-Boo is not that bad.
    13th Feb 2016
    Christians are to OWE NOTHING, no borrowing or debts for them, no mortgage. never a slave to the lenders, because the rich rule over the poor and the borrower becomes a slave to the lender. However many are disobedient, they owe and to them it means woe. The faithful servant of the Lord receives interest according to the parable and never pays interest.
    13th Feb 2016
    I buy nothing unless I NEED it AND can afford it
    13th Feb 2016
    PlanB ..That's the 'wise' path...never use credit
    13th Feb 2016
    PIXAPD, yes I do use credit but I always pay the full amount every month and keep my money in the bank to get interest, I NEVER part pay.
    Young Simmo
    13th Feb 2016
    We have had a Comm-Bank Visor Card, $500 max since 2000. We got it because we were new to the Internet and wanted a limit on what we could get diddled. We pay it off every Pension Day, and in 15 years not paid a single cent in interest. We get our Watches and Electric Kettles and Toasters etc for free from the rewards, and put an extra grand or so in if we want to but a new fridge and get the points. We also use it at Woollies and IGA etc for anything, $3 and above. It sure does make life easier.
    14th Feb 2016
    I ask for cash rewards -- ans shop around for other stuff I need as the ones they give you are dear as -- can get better deals else wear
    Young Simmo
    17th Dec 2016
    PIXAPD, You are missing out badly by not using your credit card, We have had a $500 limit Visa card since 2000, and pay it off every pension day and never paid a cent in interest. With the rewards we get free Kettles, Toasters and Elec Fry Pans etc, etc. It is currently pestering us to take a $150 cash Card. Yep it's Win, Win, Win.
    Also if we need a new fridge we just chuck 2 or 3 grand in it and get the rewards points.
    OOooop's, just noticed I have already mouthed off about this, Oh well ?
    14th Feb 2016
    I never had a credit card but because I buy everything 'online' I have a DEBIT the
    same as a credit card but it's my own money that I spend
    14th Feb 2016
    Well I choose to use the banks money for free for the days they allow and save mine.
    17th Dec 2016
    Yes, I only have a debit card, works for me.
    11th Oct 2017
    I cannot afford to spend. If I need something then I will put it on layby. Do not believe in credit cards Lay by is interest free. I believe in the simple things of life. I choose to fix things rather than just go out and buy a new product. . unless it is cheaper to buy a new item to replace. When I have the need for clothes I give away my old clothes to charity, We do collect in our lifetime of ojects that while nice at the time do create clutter.
    12th Oct 2017
    Credit cards are also interest free if paid on time

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