5 ways you’re emotionally spending without realising it

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We all emotionally spend from time to time. Whether it’s a coffee to cheer yourself up on your commute, or a new pair of shoes to celebrate finally getting that promotion.

Emotional spending – spending money in response to heightened emotions, such as stress, grief or happiness – is not inherently bad.

But if you’re trying to stick to a budget or work on specific financial goals, it can be unhelpful.

It’s important to recognise and address emotional spending patterns for a healthy long-term financial future, and to develop other ways of coping with your emotions that don’t involve spending money.

By being aware of your triggers and putting alternative strategies in place, you can build healthier spending habits and achieve a more harmonious relationship with your money.

Here are 5 signs of emotional spending and 5 ways to put yourself back in control of your money.

1. You crave instant gratification

A desire for immediate satisfaction often fuels impulsive spending. Wanting something new, right now, can override your rational decision-making, leading to purchases driven by momentary impulses rather than genuine need.

Tip: When you next get a strong urge to shop, channel this energy into activities that boost your mood naturally. Whether that’s going for a walk, chatting to a friend, getting creative with your hands or doing some deep breathing.

Shifting your focus away from material possessions to wholesome experiences could help you establish a healthier relationship with your emotions and spending habits.

2. You can’t resist a bargain

Emotional spending may manifest as buying something purely because it’s on sale – regardless of whether you actually need it. The allure of a bargain can blind us to the item’s actual value or usefulness.

Tip: Before buying something in the sale, pause and reflect. Would you buy it at full price? If not, reconsider the purchase to avoid falling into the discount trap.

3. You’re comparing yourself to others

The tendency to compare ourselves to others can also drive emotional spending. Envious comparisons can make us believe that owning similar possessions will boost our self-worth.

Tip: Work on being grateful for what you already have and focus on your own goals and values. Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel inadequate, and try to embrace being content with your choices.

Remind yourself that the things you own don’t define you, and that you have the power to make choices that align with your true priorities. For example, maybe you don’t value owning designer clothes or an expensive car as much as those around you.

4. You’re splurging to relieve stress

In times of stress, it can be tempting to engage in emotional spending as a coping mechanism. Shopping provides a fleeting sense of relief from whatever’s burdening you. Whether that’s family responsibilities, a nagging boss or an annoying housemate.

Tip: Develop a list of healthy stress management techniques, such as practicing mindfulness, baking, socialising, journaling or physical activities. Lean on these in stressful periods instead of resorting to shopping.

Being proactive about stress management not only promotes emotional wellbeing but also benefits your budget.

5. You’re shopping out of FOMO

TikTok’s de-influencing trend may have encouraged us to be more mindful of our spending, but a fear of missing out (FOMO) may still drive you to impulse spend, depending on your mood.

The desire to keep up with trends – by buying the latest viral cleaning tool or makeup product, for example – can overshadow rational decision-making, leading you to buy things that might not align with your values and long-term goals. 

Tip: Take a moment to pause and reflect before buying the item. Consider whether it’s likely to actually be as good as people say it is. Are the people promoting it being paid to do so?

Reacquaint yourself with your own tastes and priorities. What matters to you? What kinds of clothes/ food/ homeware/ household products do you actually get use and joy from? Understanding yourself helps you align your purchases with your values.

By addressing these 5 emotional spending triggers and putting these tips into practice, it’s possible to overcome emotional spending. 

You can also use Monzo to create friction to prevent you from impulse spending – whether that’s by locking your Pots or by giving yourself a tight weekly or monthly spending Target.

You could even factor emotional spending into your budget, if you can afford to, and create a Pot for this purpose. Then once the money’s gone, it’s gone. 

By developing self awareness over your own emotional and financial habits, and using alternative healthy coping strategies, you can escape the impulse-driven cycle of emotional spending.

To apply for a Monzo bank account and access Pots you must be a UK resident. Ts&Cs apply.