You may think that you’re totally in control of your money. You’ve budgeted, right? You know how to shop around for the best deals. You’ve got the best value energy, insurance, whatever else. If there’s money to be saved, you’ve got it covered. You’re all over it, right?
The fact is, most of us will overspend at some point, dependent on our moods. Maybe it’s that little comfort purchase if you’ve had a bad day. Or it could be something bigger, envy at that that holiday in Barbados than the Kanes five doors down took. So, to take control of this situation, it’s best that you recognize it, and then you’re better placed to deal with it. Who wants to blow their budget because they couldn’t keep their emotions in check?
It’s easy just to pick stuff up on impulse. Be it a pack of gum or something a lot more substantial, 75% of Americans admit to making impulse purchases. Of these, a staggering 10% spent over $1000. The reasons for these budget-busting buys are varied, but they have one overriding factor in common. As an impulse purchase they are the moment when your common sense went out of the window, and your emotions took over.
But the good news is there are many ways to beat this enemy of your careful planning. How about imposing a rule where you don’t buy anything non-essential until at least a thirty day cooling off period has elapsed. Give yourself time to evaluate whether or not you need it in your life.
Keeping up with the Joneses
One of the most overriding emotional factors that influence our purchases is an attempt to keep up appearances. We live in a consumerist society where people take notice of what brands you own, what car you drive, and what clothes you wear. Trying to have the best of everything can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and failure. It’s worth pointing out that research shows that an increase in income to the $75,000 level doesn’t result in increases in happiness, and below that level, increases in income aren’t matched by increases in contentment.
The idea that we shop when we’re sad to improve our mood isn’t a new one, but some recent research puts some meat on the bones of the concept. They did a group study and found that individuals who’d just watched a sad video spent on average 300% more on the same item as the control groups. “Retail therapy” is something we all do to give ourselves a quick lift when the blues strike.
Get around this by being aware of your emotions when you’re shopping, maybe go for a walk instead to beat the blues. Keep receipts for your comfort purchases, so that when you’ve cheered up you can return things that you didn’t mean to buy.
Staving of boredom
We are so used to being constantly entertained, that sometimes impulse buying is something we do when boredom strikes. Shopping is something to do, it alleviates the dullness and provides a distraction.
This is an easy one to avoid doing. There are a number of free and inexpensive ways to fill your downtime. Call up a friend, pursue a hobby, go for a run. Maybe even use your free time to make some money. That’s got to be better than spending it on something you’re not going to use, right?
It’s not all doom and gloom
It’s not just negative emotions that can influence our spending habits. Feeling confident can cause us to dip our hands into our wallets a little too often too. If you’re feeling confident and happy, it can be easy to feel right about that big impulse buy that you might not be able to afford. The sense that everything will be okay is a strong one. Try to think about every purchase that’s non-essential; chances are if you step away from the situation for a few moments, your better instincts will kick in.
It’s also dangerous to go shopping on payday. Psychologically, all that money sitting in the bank is a big temptation. Remember to pay yourself first. Keep reminding yourself that that money is, by and large, already spoken for.
Wrapping it up
The ways in which our emotions can influence our spending habits are varied. Be aware when you’re shopping, be it online or in a store, ask yourself not “do I want this?” but “do I need this?.” A little thought and giving yourself a little breathing space can bring those impulse buys under control.