Spending money is transactional, but the reasons behind our spending run deep. If you ever find yourself wondering where all your money went, chances are you’re mindlessly spending somewhere. By understanding your spending triggers and certain emotions that make you spend a certain way, you can check yourself and recognise when you’re making a mindless spending decision. Here are 8 things that affect the way you spend:
Stress causes us to impulse shop to feel better. Whether it’s a badly thought through clothes purchase to relieve a tough day, or takeaways that take longer to arrive than cooking what we’ve already got, stress is a bitch for our finances. Try to recognise when you’re spending because of stress, and ask yourself whether the purchase will really change anything, or just cause more stress down the line.
When we’re tired and burnt out, the parts of our brain that weigh up negative decisions are less active – right, so #science. So it’s no wonder we spend on crap we totally don’t need, because we’re unable to think ahead to the negative outcome of that purchase. Companies know this, too, so you’ll find certain ads targeted at new parents that might be awake at night, or special deals in airports when you’re sleep deprived and jetlagged. If you’re feeling physically and/or mentally exhausted, try to avoid making purchase decisions. If you need to, recognise it and set boundaries to try to control your impulse decision-making.
Ahh, an old classic. When we get envious of others, we spend to try and make up for that icky feeling. We might be spending to try and make the feeling go away, or to try and level up and match the person we’re jealous of. When you recognise this feeling, ask yourself whether that purchase is really what you want, or whether you’re keeping up appearances. If it’s the latter – which it usually is – try focusing on your personal goals, and think about how that spend will move you further away from what you want.
A busy schedule is a textbook money stealer. When we’re busy, we’ll pay up for convenience, and buy the first thing we see to reduce decision making time and avoid adding something else to our to-do list. Unfortunately, this type of spending is hard to stop, because your brain doesn’t have the time to help you make conscious decisions. What you can do, though, is with each purchase, think about whether it’s truly helping you get more done. If paying for an Uber is going to let you make 2 phone calls and do your makeup on the way, then great – that’s actually saving you time. If it’s actually going to be slower because of peak hour traffic, don’t assume that spending more will make things easier.
5. Having extra money
This might sound obvious, because obviously having more money tends to mean spending more. But I’m talking about the times we spend simply because we have money left. Remember when you were a kid and you’d get money for your birthday, and your brain would be consumed with finding something to buy, simply because you could? Our brains still do the same thing as adults. That’s why I stopped allocating my ‘fun money’ into specific categories and started my dynamic budget. I was finding that having $30 left in my ‘eating out’ fund meant I’d spend that $30 because it was there, not because I wanted the thing.
6. Not having extra money
In the same vein as having extra money, not having spare money can trigger mindless spending, too. Ever set a new budget, blow it a few days in and decide that you may as well give up and start again after the weekend? Been there, my friend. When we overspend, we find that we want to keep on spending because we’ve already overdone it. Textbook self-sabotage. To combat this type of spending, it’s a case of sticking to your guns and thinking big picture. Realistically, when you overspend and decide to keep on going, you know that really makes no sense. Money can’t be reset. If you’ve spent $100 too much, spending another $100 ‘because you might as well’ means you’ve now overspent by $200. Keep this in mind when you next go to spend on a ‘what’s the point’ spree!
7. Body image
This is one of my biggest lifetime expenses. Hating my body cost me thousands in unused workout guides, diet pills and clothes that I’d ‘challenged’ myself to slim into. If you suffer from negative body image, check how it could be triggering you to spend on things that not only lose you money, but actually exacerbate the problem.
8. Imposter syndrome
This icky feeling can also make you overspend. I’m guilty of spending to overcompensate on things I’m feeling inadequate about. I’ve dropped $$$ on everything from courses I don’t end up finishing, to flashy outfits or blow drys for events to try and look important and like I’m ‘enough’. Try riding out imposter syndrome internally first, before you spend on trying to feel better.