The emotional reasons for spending
There are many reasons why people spend—or overspend—their money. We spend to celebrate, to fit in, to project an image of success and capability, to show our love. Beyond the responsibility of bills and life’s necessities, we are also subjected to a barrage of advertising that tells us our next purchase will make us fashionable, cool, respected, envied…. happy.
Often, people don’t question their impulse to buy more. We might need only a few things, yet consistently bring home extras we didn’t know we needed. This can be especially true when shopping online. Who hasn’t gone in search of a specific item only to end up down the rabbit hole with a shopping cart full of unexpected wants and “needs”? The question is, once you come up for air, do you pull the trigger on those purchases or do you sleep on it and reconsider the desire to spend more than you had planned?
Spending is an emotional process
It would be interesting to know what makes a person spend extra money on nonessentials, particularly when money is tight. In many cases, people are seeking to fill an emotional need they don’t realize they have. They might think “what’s the harm” in one or two nice things for themselves or their kids? After all, that $40, $60 or $100 isn’t going to do much to help their financial situation, right?
When feeling stressed, bored, underappreciated or unhappy, treating yourself to something new might not seem like the worst thing you could do. But over time, and unchecked, this emotional spending can make a bad situation much worse and add unnecessary stress to life and relationships—possibly triggering more spending and stress in the process.
The immediate personal gratification of buying yourself something new can be a feeling you want to repeat over and over. The thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction you feel at acquiring what you sought can overshadow the reality that you don’t need or can’t afford to be shopping. For many, the euphoria quickly fades, sometimes into feelings of guilt, and the stress lingers until the pursuit of something new begins again. It turns out that the emotional hole is one that cannot be filled with possessions, no matter how much time and money gets spent trying.
Question the need to shop
In a world that is quickly filling up with disposable toys, appliances, electronics and other garbage, there are a multitude of reasons to curb the consumerism our society promotes. Top among them is the possibility that all that spending and all that “stuff” is not actually bringing you want you want: acceptance and happiness. Often, the pressure to find a place for your new things, keep them clean, store them or dispose of them creates a sense of more to do in an already too-busy lifestyle. All-in-all, you might find yourself better off once you identify what is driving your need to shop.
Before allowing yourself to purchase something impulsively, ask yourself some questions. Will I use this? Do I actually need this? Will I still want this in five years? One year? If I leave it for now, would I bother to come back for it tomorrow? Quite often the answer will be no.
If the impulse to shop for unnecessary things persists, you might ask yourself a few more questions. Are you feeling unfulfilled in your career or relationship? Have you ceased to challenge yourself in other areas and are you in a rut that shopping can’t get you out of? Is it more serious than that? Have you suffered a loss and are you struggling to get back on your feet? Do you feel bad about yourself and have you stopped seeing the good in everyday life?
Nurture the spirit
There’s no amount of personal bling that can boost your spirits like having a real, genuine friend to talk to. Learning something new, challenging your body and mind, will invigorate you more than any object you could buy. Investing in your own personal development might not come for free but, in the end, you will have more to show for it (and hopefully be happier) than continuing the costly and self-destructive cycle of overspending on material things.
People have many reasons for spending their money the way that they do. They might be repeating the lifestyle they were raised in or maybe they’ve never thought of changing their ways. If they’re caught up on bills and have emergency funds and retirement money set aside, there is no real harm in indulging a few extravagant whims. But when people find themselves in a lifestyle they can’t sustain, maybe it’s time to stop seeking creature comforts and look within for the need you are trying fill.