How I Averted an Emotional Spending Binge: My Six-Step Program

It was a blue Monday and I was headed for a blue-light special driven by emotional spending. Fortunately, I detoured from the frivolous spending path with this six-point strategy.

Face check

As I was toting a pair of brown Nine West shoes -- reduced to $10 -- I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was not a happy shopper. My eyes were glazed with dollar signs and my energy was as sluggish as the economy. The sight of my tired face was a wake-up call. That reality check had me bouncing out of the shoe aisle.

Thrift-store counter-attack

As I pushed through rows and rows of marked-down items, I realized that none of the shirts or skirts impressed me. In fact, if those same items were on sale at a thrift store, I would have turned up my nose. My new anti-shopping query: Would I buy this same item at a thrift store?

Need-based questions

Of course, I evaluated each item with the classic question: Do I need this item or do I just want it? But I also started to think of what I really needed in my life, and that wish list does not include new clothes.

Billable hours

Utility, medical, food and education bills flashed through my eyes as I eyed the flashy merchandise. How many hours would I have to work to pay for a shopping spree? The numbers did not work for me.

The Children's Network

After all my talk about tough economic times and sacrifice, how would I have justified bringing a shopping bag of impulse purchases into my home? What would my children have learned from that example?

Re-directed energy

From the emotional-spending department, I pushed the cart into the emotional debt aisle. I owed baby gifts to two friends and I found cute outfits for $4.88 each. And I located a discounted copy of a Twilight book (number #3 in the series) to replace the copy that my kids had borrowed from a friend, but lost. I'll collect the replacement tab from the kids, and I'll wrap the baby gifts.

Editor's note: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg (The Frugal Duchess) will be joining Wise Bread as a full time blogger in August. In the mean time, she'll be dropping by with a few guest posts a week.  You can find more great tips from Sharon in her book Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money or in Wise Bread's new book 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

Can't wait until August? Here are other great posts by Sharon on her blog The Frugal Duchess. Enjoy!

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Guest's picture

Your tip about billable hours is one I use quite often to evaluate what I can get away with buying.

How many hours of enjoyment will an item provide for you, and for how many hours of work?

There are so many things that are free or next to nothing and yet are much more useful and enriching.

Guest's picture
sharon -Frugal Duchess

@ noetic:

You are right when you say: "There are so many things that are free or next to nothing and yet are much more useful and enriching." Well put!

I appreciate your feedback about billable hours.
take care!

Guest's picture

That's so funny, I do the same thing - would I buy this in a thrift store? Sometimes the low price tags influence us a little too much.

Guest's picture

I have the reverse method -- I evaluate the item honestly before I even look at the pricetag. If I would love it for any price (almost any price. . .), then I will consider it. Like the thrift store thing, though.

Guest's picture

This is good advice. Thanks, Sharon. It's too easy when your feeling down to spend more than you should, trying to "buy your mind off your problems". I used to have the same weakness for Fry's Electronics. One time shopping at Fry's, I saw 2 Buddhist monks in orange robes, one old and one young. They didn't have any items in their hands and they just walked around looking at things on the shelves like they were unreal or ghosts. They left without buying anything and without saying a word. I think (if I remember correctly) I put down whatever I thought I was going to buy and just went home instead.

Guest's picture

@ Ian,

Great story about the Monks!! You are observant, and it's impressive that you were able to pull out a lesson from that encounter.

--Thanks for your comments.
Sharon (Frugal Duchess)

Guest's picture

It's important to just walk away. Don't buy junk at the thrift store either as things just accumulate.



Rich By 30 Retire By 40

Guest's picture

Hey Rich:

Great tip:

"Don't buy junk at the thrift store either as things just accumulate."

Thanks for stopping by!

Guest's picture

It's interesting that you think about the fact that if you saw the same item in a thrift store, would you buy it. I do the opposite. I am usually lured in by the sale- "But it's only $10!" so I ask myself, "Would I still buy this if it were $50, or 60, or ...."
I find that if I'm not really in love with the item I wouldn't pay more than it's on sale for. This logic has kept a lot of money in the bank!

Guest's picture

When I want to do emotional shopping, I get on Amazon and look at all the stuff I want. Then I put it all on my wish list. I spend no money, but the act of clicking the things I want as though I were buying them satisfies that need.

Sometimes I make cookies afterward. Mainly because you can't be unhappy while you're eating a cookie.