There are countless reasons we all spend money. Oftentimes, it’s a necessity. We pay our rent or mortgage and for our groceries but survival isn’t the only reason we spend. Likely, if that were the case, there would be plenty more millionaires in the world. There would also be plenty more of us with uneventful lives. Spending money on things other than the bare necessities isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can be enriching to reward our hard work and treat ourselves to something nice after a long week.

That being said, there certainly are times when unnecessary spending can become a problem and unfortunately, it can be difficult to decipher between a cute little shopping habit and a compulsive spending addiction. The truth is that money and our habits around it are inherently emotional. When you find out that you struggle with compulsive or emotional spending and you’re seeking to change your behavior, much of the work you do will involve decoding the way you feel about your life. So how do you know that your spending has become a problem?

Emotional spending will happen from time to time. There’s a reason that retail therapy is a saying. But when you find yourself consistently using shopping as an emotional crutch, it may be worthwhile to investigate your spending habits and how they’re connected to your emotional state. Ask yourself whether you notice your most impulsive purchases happening when you feel lonely, guilty, depressed, or some other unsettling emotion. What usually triggers these emotions for you? When you have the answers to those two questions, you’ll be much better equipped to handle an impulse to spend recklessly. Perhaps you’ll even notice a pattern in your behavior. If this is the case, try to figure out what it is you feel you’re lacking in the moment of our impulsive purchase and redirect your attention. Instead of making the purchase right away, try a healthy activity like calling a friend or taking a walk. This may take some practice but once you master the art of mindfulness and become aware of your behaviour, it will become easy to adjust it.

It can be a little more difficult to conquer emotional spending when we don’t spend the money on ourselves. The desire to make others happy is a common trigger for impulse buying. It’s important to remember that there are so many non-monetary ways to show our loved ones how much we love them. For example, spending time with them or completing a very helpful task for them. We make impulsive purchases in order to avoid unpleasant feelings. Letting our emotions take their course and allowing ourselves to feel them profoundly is one of the hardest things to do but when we master this, we regain control of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. This is so powerful!

The next time you feel lonely, don’t buy something. Simply sit in your loneliness for a second before redirecting your energy into a healthier activity – perhaps one that actually soothes your loneliness – like texting your friend. Everything we do is emotional and it’s time to pay attention to how your emotions are playing in your life.

AHCS is a travel nursing agency with a strong focus on improving the quality of life of nurses and their patients with enriching experiences and compassionate care.

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