Are your emotions sabotaging your finances? Here’s what you can do to rein them back in.

3 minute read

Nearly half of Americans say their emotions can cause them to buy more stuff than they can reasonably afford, according to a survey by personal finance site NerdWallet.

That makes life tough when you’re trying to pay down debt and save for the future. Still, it sure does feel good – at least for a few minutes – to buy yourself something new and shiny when you’ve got a lot on your mind.

Below are six emotional triggers that can cause you to spend more than you can afford – and what you can do instead.

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1. Feeling blue

When you wake up feeling sad, it’s tempting to get on Amazon and buy new electronics, shoes, kitchen gadgets or whatever else catches your teary eye so you can cheer yourself up. But how will you feel when your credit card debt is way more than you can afford?

Next time you’re tempted to buy something because you’re sad, wait a day or so to make the purchase. Meanwhile, take care of yourself with a long walk, a warm bath or a favorite activity while you work out the feelings that make you want to buy to feel better.

2. Looking for stress relief

If worry and several months of a steady stream of bad news has you stressed, reaching for your credit card isn’t the answer. You’ll regret it later when you pay interest each month on a credit card balance you can’t afford.

Exercise is a natural stress reliever that creates feel-good endorphins, so hop on your bike or treadmill or get outside for a walk or run. Even cleaning your house can be a good workout. So get moving to ease stress instead of going deeper in debt.

Find out: How to Deal With Financial Stress in a Healthy Way

3. Reacting to anger

When you’re mad, shopping online or at your favorite retail store may seem to calm you, but it’s only a temporary fix.

If you can, talk reasonably with the person you’re angry with and try to resolve the situation. If that’s not a possibility, write down the reasons you’re angry, along with possible solutions that don’t involve charging something on a credit card.

4. Getting your heart broken

A broken heart is hard enough to heal without receiving a gargantuan credit card bill two months after getting dumped. Don’t let new shoes, expensive clothing, and expensive impulse buys like a new car create one more problem in your life.

Instead, dust yourself off and set some short-term and long-term goals that achieving will make you feel better about yourself than another person ever could.

Find out: 7 Hacks to Help You Stop Impulse Spending

5. Trying to impress others

If you’re buying expensive clothes, dining at pricey restaurants, driving a car you can barely afford (if no unexpected expenses come along) and living well beyond your means because you want your friends to think highly of you, that’s a recipe for a ton of credit card debt.

You can still have nice stuff without overspending. Shop the sale and clearance sections online and in stores. Buy a car you can pay off in a few years or a house with a price well under your loan qualification limit.

Most important of all, find – and keep – friends in your life who care more about who you are than what you have. Those are the people who will be there for you when you need them.

Find out: 8 Warning Signs of a Shopping Addiction

6. Shopping Out of Boredom

When you’re bored, it’s easy to hop online and shop around for whatever item pops into your head. By the time you’re finally no longer bored, however, you could have racked up a whopping balance on your credit card.

Here’s a better idea: Make a list of activities you can do instead of indulging in careless online spending the next time you are bored.

Read a book. Watch a movie. Prepare a new recipe. Go for a scenic drive or take your dog to the park. Any of these things will make you feel better than overspending out of boredom.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC