Financial Therapy Discussion – What Is Emotional Spending?

Emotional spending requires a no-brainer explanation. It means spending money that is linked more to individuals’ emotional states. It does not reflect people’s actual needs or genuine wants in life. It is more like stress and anxiety spending or reward spending. Generally speaking, anytime a heightened emotional circumstance is present, it leads people to spend or use their money in a way they otherwise should not have. The psychology of emotional spending has a lot to do with convenience as well. With all the hyped with technology and a “one-click” procedure, people can easily grab an opportunity to purchase things they like or so they thought.

But before getting the wrong impression, it is vital to understand that emotional spending is not compulsive spending. Regarding mental health issues, compulsive spending may refer to OCD or obsession with buying unnecessary things. It is a condition where people feel that they are pushed to do. Compulsive spending can be dangerous as it gets in the way of people’s ability to function daily. Also, compulsive spending is more associated with shopping addiction which is a behavioral condition.


What Are The Reasons People Would Emotionally Spend?

People should understand that emotional spending is entirely situational. Usually, it connects to that energy that leaves people wanting to jolt in positive feelings. They want to spend because they believe that they deserve it. But emotional spending is not limited to the happy hormones but can also get associated with negative feelings. Thus, some people’s reasons might be due to hearing a piece of bad news, feeling entirely stressed out, or even getting into an argument with a loved one. The cause may come from a range of emotions and situations in general.

One of the biggest drivers of emotional spending is anxiety. It could range from self-insecurities that make people feel inadequate about themselves. It can affect how they see other people’s better quality of life. It could come from the thought of not being able to fit in with the crowd. It holds social pressure and can make people go with the flow of unnecessary spending despite knowing it would feel upsetting and regretful.

For most people, spending money on a brief period is acceptable. It holds validation of the idea of getting something they want even if they can’t entirely afford it. That particular scenario can give an immediate spike in the brain and release an amount of dopamine to trigger the brain’s reward system. Understandably, emotional spending allows people to feel like a different person, even for a short time window. These individuals imagine that the purchase they are going to make will somehow change or improve their person.


Common Situations That Lead To Emotional Spending

One of the biggest triggers for emotional spending is a day of exhaustion. Usually, people want to do something different to compensate for the gloomy feeling they have entirely. That explains why others would like to take a glass of wine after a tiring day, lie on the bed for the rest of the night, spend time playing video games, etc.

Another reason for emotional spending is FOMO or the fear of missing out. Admittedly, all people have that FOMO attitude because they get convinced about purchasing due to marketing strategies such as limited editions. This type of marketing strategy weighs more on emotional spending because of the thought that there’s scarcity. When people realize the number of items is insufficient to support a crowd, the anxiety gets triggered. Thus, it makes them want to buy those items regardless of whether they like, prefer, or need them.


Aside from that, if people haven’t noticed, there is always a sale in every store. Companies and their marketing strategies baked in on their prices to continuously entice consumers with the idea of getting a good deal. Interestingly, all people love 50% off. But again, most buyers won’t buy products because they like or need them, but because it’s on sale. So when people think about it, emotional spending happens instantly just by thinking about that supposed better purchase which is often a rip-off.

For some instances, people’s reasons for emotional spending come from a rooted childhood problem. It could come from an experience of scarcity at home, denied of what they want, or their family didn’t have enough. These childhood situations can be brought to adulthood, making individuals want to dive into that shopping spree, often resulting in overspending. There is this intense emotional desire where people do not want to say “no” to themselves and buy things they want because they were deprived of that when they were kids.

Also, one factor for emotional spending is the purpose of that purchase. Some people often buy things to distinguish themselves from the rest and not because they want those items to improve their lives. Meaning, people suffer from emotional spending because they want to be noticed, which is mentally damaging for all the wrong reasons.


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