Handling Emotions and Money

Note: I'm writing this short post to solicit advice from fellow bloggers and readers, rather than to offer much fruitful advice. That, and I want to eliminate proof of the Econ Test From Hell that Will so helpfully posted, so the more posts we get up, the better. Thanks, Will. Really.

Like many people out there, I'm a moody spender. I use emotional up-and-downs to justify on-a-whim purchases and lousy tracking of finances. It's dumb, I know. It's extremely immature. I think I get this from my paternal grandfather, because it runs in some other family members as well, and certainly isn't a learnt behavior. My parents set a great example, yet I haven't followed it — I'm just going to hope it's an overcome-able genetic flaw.

Another unfortunate trait (possibly learned) is a problem with anger management and holding grudges. I'm TERRIBLE at forgiving people for small slights, and even worse about forgiving and forgetting when someone does something really obnoxious. I can be counted on to fire off a nasty e-mail to some flaky Craigslist schmuck who backs out of a sale after stringing me along for a week. I CANNOT be trusted to take a deep breath or count to 10. And then I'll go get myself something nice to placate my feelings.

It's called retail therapy, and thousands of us are guilty of it. A study in the Journal of Psychology and Marketing discovered that 62% of shoppers buy something to cheer themselves up. While it's not necessarily always bad (you're allowed to treat yourself now and again!), it can also easily spiral out of control. Much like indulging in fatty foods or alcohol, consolation shopping has to be done in moderation.

In my most recent incident, I managed NOT to go buy myself something nice (and there were some perfumes that were CALLING to me). But I still reacted emotionally to aforementioned Craigslist flake-head with a whiny e-mail about how unfair she was being. It's not important that this person clearly had issues and made weird accusations, what's important is that I couldn't take the high road and just let it go. So she's an idiot — why do I have to point this out?

How do you all cope with letting things go? Do you turn to retail therapy to cheer yourself up? Can you just go for a walk and do a little meditation?

It's one of my New Year's resolutions (and it relates to all the others — money management, general laziness) to be more forgiving and less easily angered. I'm looking for some tips, mantras, and/or thoughts on the issue. If you have some good ideas, I'd love to hear them! Right now, I'm going to start with a 20 minute walk while listening to Andrea's Most Embarrassing Playlist Ever, which includes (I kid you not) a single by the one-hit-wonder Hanson.

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Guest's picture

Sure, counting to 10 and going for a walk are great, but they arent for everyone. One thing that you are probably familiar with is the idea of writing a nasty-gram.

I often get peeved when I am in the car. And if I am alone, I have my own permission to scream a string of nastiness at the other person. I'm the only one who hears it, and I feel better at the end. The idea of counting to 10 just sort of encourages bottling up feelings.

If the slight is momentary, then I would consider just writing/typing that nasty email and then posting it to a blog somewhere. It will help you get the frustration out.

Another great option is to do the exact opposite, i.e. kill them with kindness. Whenever I get frustrated in a professional setting, I typically find myself becoming increasingly polite and formal. By doing this, especially when you are in a fight with someone, you will just aggravate them more. I've sent more people into tailspins that way.

One final idea is to remove yourself from situations that stress you out and make you angry. For example, if you hate what you are doing (an activity, job, etc.) you might find a way to stop doing it. Removing the stress this way might make you less angry.

Its just what I do; and grats on the goal. Its a tough one but it will really make a difference all around.

Guest's picture

There are many techniques. Yet, if you keep on getting angry at little things, the anger may be from an earlier experience that you have not forgiven. Thus, the anger is lurking underneath you just waiting for someone to trigger it. So think back at what may be unhealed in your life. You has hurt you the most?

As for healing the anger in the moment, know that it is how you interpret the event that made it upsetting to you. Many people would have just laughed at a craiglist person backing out. What triggered inside of you that made it mean something? Is it something about self-worth where someone does not treat you with the respect you think you deserve (by walking away from a deal)? That may be the reason you want to go buy something nice to make you temporarily feel better. Note, the word temporary, because after a few days you may be beating yourself up for making such a whimsical purchase.




Andrea Karim's picture

I'm sure my anger over the craigslist exchange has to do with the seller's a lack of respect towards me, as well as just general irritation over her inanity. It's a long story, but basically the seller made unreasonable demands (asked me to come over to buy the item at odd hours, was unavailable to meet me for days at a time, provided really small windows of opportunity - such as telling me to meet her in ten minutes when I was located well over 30 minutes away) and then accused me of being "unable to meet at specified times".

The idea of making a purchase to assuage feelings is hardly new - that's why people call it "retail therapy".

My biggest worry is learning to control anger over dumb, small things. I can't think of a single person who "hurt" me over my childhood - everyone was realy good to me. More likely is that I am having frustrations over my current situation, and haven't figured out how to deal with "bigger" issues, so the anger surfaces over the smaller ones instead.