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Money Monday: Emotional Spending

The response to the Making Peace with Target post has been tremendous.

I’ve had emails coming in from all over the world. (If you missed it, you can read it by clicking HERE).

Turns out I’m not the only one who has a dysfunctional relationship with Target.

As one reader put it, “Target is crack cocaine for middle class women!”

So what can we do about it?

To answer that question, I’m pulling out a video from the archives.

It’s all about how to identify emotional spending.

In reality the process of breaking up with Target and emotional spending isn’t easy.

It’s taken me a long time.  It was really uncomfortable.  I had to exam who I was, my beliefs about money, and start paying attention to how I was feeling (by far the hardest part).

I still fall off the wagon from time to time.

But one of the most important things I did was to start paying attention.

How was I feeling when I was shopping?

How did I feel when I was done?

Slowing down and asking myself some hard questions in the middle of the aisle with a cart full of stuff.

So I challenge you to do the same.

There’s 4 key questions I ask myself before I hit the check out line:

  • Question 1: What do you think it will mean if you don’t buy the item?
  • Question 2: Why do you want the item & how do you think you will feel if you buy the item?
  • Question 3: Are you in a hurry?
  • Question 4: Will this item take my closer to or further from my financial goals?

You can read the full original post on emotional spending by clicking here. There’s some more juicy details on these four questions.

Emotional spending was the biggest challenge I faced with money.  It’s not an easy dragon to slay.  But it’s well worth the fight.

Leave your comments and insights below.

Email me your questions on money to christy.lambert@areyouthriving.com

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16 Responses to “Money Monday: Emotional Spending”

  1. Laurie Erdman | Chronic Wellness Coach December 12, 2011 11:38 pm #

    Great post. I know I am emotional spender. But does it count when you plan it out? For instance, I’m launching a new program tomorrow and know I’m going to be nervous. I don’t want to be sitting there waiting. So I was going shopping for picture frames for some prints I bought. I know I’m doing it for purely emotional reasons – calm my nerves. But somehow it doesn’t seem as bad since I’m planning it.

  2. Christy December 12, 2011 11:54 pm #

    I LOVE your question. Is it better if you plan it? I don’t think it’s better or worse, just interesting to notice. The bigger thing is what do you want and what’s going to get you there? Now and in the future?

    The bigger thing is this idea that negative feelings are bad. It’s like we’re so scared of our feelings (being nervous, worried, scared, lonely just to name a few) that we develop all kinds of contingency plans just so we don’t feel them.

    The worst thing a feeling can do is make you feel something. So what if you feel nervous and then buy the picture frames anyways, just because you want them?

  3. Tanya December 13, 2011 1:40 am #

    Christy this is such a timely article, not because I’ve been in Target this week but because I have really taken on my financial wellbeing this month.

    I too have that little problem with buying things I don’t need in Target so I absolutely love your 4 questions that I will ask myself next time I find myself in that situation.

    Thank you!

    • Christy December 13, 2011 11:54 pm #

      Tanya – congrats on taking on your financial well-being. It’s a super fun journey. If there’s anything I can do to support you on your journey, just shoot me an email.

  4. Cris December 13, 2011 5:35 pm #

    You know… this is helpful b/c I always think of emotional spending as trying to get a high of some kind .. buying something to feel attractive or look affluent or whatever, but for me I panic spend a bit when money gets tight b/c it gives me a false sense of security that I’m not THAT broke yet, b/c look: I just afforded this thing. But if that ain’t emotional spending I don’t know what is!!!! 🙂 lol

    • Christy December 13, 2011 11:56 pm #

      Its great that you’ve noticed this tendency. That really is the first step. The only reason we ever buy something we don’t need is because we think it will create a feeling or help us avoid a feeling. Mine was the opposite. I’d get paid, go shopping and then I would live off $20 for two weeks. Crazy. Made me realize though that I really didn’t need to buy much if it was possible for me to live off $20 for two weeks. 🙂

  5. Alara Castell December 14, 2011 12:22 am #

    Oh fun! Emotional spending! LOL! I love what you share here because I remember the days when I would emotional spend. When I was working in corporate and totally unhappy because of all the yelling and unfriendliness at the office my escape was the stores. I loved going into places like Target or any place that could distract me from the horrific day. At least it felt that way! I look back and I know I spent a lot on random things that I probably have donated by now.

    I have to say now that I do what I love, feel so enriched by life that I no longer feel the need to shop. It’s been a long time since I’ve really gone shopping. I don’t emotional spend anymore. I always by if I need something. It’s amazing the shifts when you are truly aware.

    So spreading this message and love Money Monday’s. How fun is that!!

    Alara Castell
    Queen of Play + Fun-Loving Business Activator. Let’s Get You Turned ON!

  6. Yvette December 14, 2011 1:50 am #

    Hi Christy, great article! I’m not an emotional spender, but I love your questions and especially the last one its very useful when you go shopping even when you are a cautious spender. I will admit though Target is quite the tempting little shop 😉 Thanks for sharing.

  7. Kathleen December 14, 2011 6:53 am #

    LOVE your 4 point emotional gage system, Christy. And just in time for the holidays! I hope you can get this message out to the zillllllllions of people who are about to overspend this season. I may do a wee bit, but nothing like I did in the past. I am going to put myself through these 4 questions… yup, even over these holidays! I will let you know how it goes!

    • Christy December 14, 2011 10:59 pm #

      Thanks Kathleen. Can’t wait to hear how it goes for you.

  8. Scott December 14, 2011 7:02 am #

    Christy I really really like your style. I love how you don’t paint any decision as right or wrong, but what is best for the individual. I have always taken that same approach, especially when clients would look at investment options since there is so much garbage out there telling people what they should do with their money and how they should feel.
    Love the questions. I’m constantly asking myself #1 and #4. I really had to change my spending habits (especially my business expenses) when the market first tanked. I’m actually amazed how much those questions are ingrained in my head now.
    This is a wonderful blog you have here Christy!

    • Christy December 14, 2011 11:00 pm #

      Thanks Scott! Yes, we already have enough people telling us what to do and there’s not one solution that works for everyone. #3 is the biggest one for me. Whenever I have to have something NOW I have to slow down and check in.

  9. Heather Lentz | We Be Healthy December 14, 2011 2:00 pm #


    This is great advise. I personally don’t have an issue with overspending or emotional buying, but I know a lot of people who do, especially this time of year. I have downsized my spending since the economy has been down and I realized the difference between a “need” and a “want”. A very timely post. 😉

    • Christy December 14, 2011 11:01 pm #

      Heather, yes – a difference b/w a want and a need. Truth is here in America most of us have very few needs. Although I was very good at convincing myself otherwise.

  10. Tina Pruitt | The Green Juice Coach December 15, 2011 4:48 am #

    Thanks for the great post Christy! Wow, money is at the top of my list of things to work on (mentally) in 2012! I used to be a real shopping junkie and would go and spend hundreds every week or so….and I am not really sure what I spent it on! I had a big ol’ house and I just kept on buying stuff for it, for me, for the family…..WHEW! Well, I did get off that big rollercoaster, but still find myself getting numbed out when in stores sometimes and go to a place of….”I don’t really care….I like it, and I will just overspend this one time.” Thanks for the questions….I will definitely use this the next time my cart if filling up and I am getting the numbness!!
    xo, Tina

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