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Emotions Behind Impulsive Spending

January is often a month that we find ourselves scrimping for every cent to see us through the month. Now that January is coming to an end it means pay-day is here and we can all sigh a breath of relief! However, it’s important to be mindful of our spending habits now that we have more money. Often, we feel that now we have the money we can spend what we want, when we want. If this impulsive pattern is ringing a bell to you, it may be time to sit down and really think about your reasons and emotions behind this spending behaviour.

Impulsive Spending:

Impulsive spending is an unplanned decision to buy a product or service, made just before the purchase. This is a typical behaviour for a lot of people as a result of today’s society which has created a culture where succumbing to temptation and spending is normalised and accepted.

Reasons for Impulsive Spending:

There may be many reasons why people impulse spend. Research has shown that emotions play a pertinent role in the decision of purchasing. Some people derive a great amount of pleasure of acquiring something new. It provides them with the sense of empowerment that they may not have in other areas of their lives.

According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, individuals typically shop when they are feeling sad. This feeling is often linked to lack of control. Researchers found that making purchases may reduce feelings of sadness and increase feelings of control.  Other research published in Psychology and Marketing outlines a negative mood can convince us we are deserving of going shopping to cheer us up and is associated with greater impulsivity.

Sometimes people can experience a “high” when they spend impulsively and buy what they desire. This “high” is attributed to a release of dopamine, a “good mood” chemical in the brain. So when people shop they relate the act of shopping to this good mood. Research has shown that 31% of people say that they’ve shopped specifically to elevate their mood, and 53% of people have shopped as a way to celebrate something. It’s clear that shopping is associated with good feelings, but it comes at a cost.

Often clever marketing can be an influential factor of impulse spending. For example, the use of discounts or bulk buying items gives an individual a sense that they are saving money and gaining a bargain. The majority of the time they are actually buying more products than they really need or want. Instead of feeling bad for buying something you may not need, you will worry you will feel worse if you miss out on a great bargain!

How to manage impulsive spending:

Check in with yourself – It’s important to check in with yourself and register the feelings and emotions behind your desire to spend. Are you searching for something to boost your mood? Are there alternative ways? Journaling down how you are feeling can help you identify these triggers to spend.

Be prepared – Going shopping and spending money is a way of life. But to combat impulsive spending you can be prepared by always bringing a shopping list and sticking to it. Bring just the amount of money that you need with you.

Hold yourself accountable – When you figure out your emotions behind your spending habits, be accountable about changing your behaviours. Maintain a healthy mindset towards spending by meditating, exercising, and performing other activities you enjoy.

Practice gratitude – Often impulse spending is in an effort to “Keep up with the Joneses”. It’s important to appreciate what you have. You can do this by writing down three things you are grateful for everyday and remind yourself of them throughout the day.