Despite being a "personal finance expert," I sometimes find that I'm prone to overspending. I'm usually great at staying the course, but like most people, I have moments or times in my life where I spend more than I normally do. I try not to get too upset about it, but I've also wondered, what's the cause of this excess spending?
Often the reason is just laziness. It's so much easier to buy dinner as opposed to cooking and is it really a big deal if I treat myself to a slice of cake every now and then? Probably not, but it seems like I tend to overspend at certain times and I've recognized a bit of a pattern.
My money trigger
I have this weird obsession with sweets. I seriously can't get enough of them. It could be cake, cupcakes, doughnuts or chocolate chip cookies; I want them all. I'm always looking for an excuse to devour those delicious treats, but usually, I just convince myself that I deserve a treat. I should also note that one my co-workers also loves cake, so we end up enabling each other, but that's why we get along.
I clearly have a sweet tooth, but I honestly think my money trigger might be psychological. It's not like I NEED a piece of cake, but for some reason, I get a rush out of spending money even if it's just a dollar or two. Perhaps it's boredom, but I think many people can relate to that feeling you get when you make a purchase for yourself.
Oddly enough, even though I know my money trigger, I'm OK with it, since it's not costing me too much. That being said, these small purchases can add up, which is why you need to figure out your triggers and how they may be affecting your financial well-being.
What your money trigger might be
Now, you might not binge on one specific thing like I do, but an emotional money trigger applies to many of us. Do any of the following scenarios apply to you?
Fear of missing out: Referred to as FOMO by all the cool kids, this can apply to a variety of situations. Maybe you've seen your friend taking a cool vacation or posting pictures of the newest food trends on Instagram and now you want to do the same. It's easy to get in on the action, but if you don't have the money saved, you might put it on your credit cards which will cost you big in the long run.
You don't want to miss out on a deal: This problem used to affect me a lot. I would see something on sale, and I would buy it. It's kind of funny when you think about it. You have to spend money to save money. How does that make any sense? I would usually justify the purchase by saying I got a deal, but what's the point if I never needed it in the first place?
Retail therapy: Let's be honest, spending money feels good, especially when it's cake. When it comes to retail therapy, that emotional money trigger may be getting the best of you. If you're making small purchases, it's probably OK, but if you're overspending just to get your fix, things could out of hand fast.
Being alone: I used to think it was odd when people would spend money when they're alone, but there might be a variety of reasons why you're feeling this way. Perhaps you've moved to a new place and are struggling to make friends or perhaps you simply get restless while being at home. Spending money to get you back in the right mindset makes sense at times, but how much are you willing to spend?
Dealing with your money triggers
If our money triggers are tied to our emotional well-being, how do we deal with our spending? It's not like we can just tell our brain to stop feeling a certain way and seeing a psychiatrist might be a bit much.
The solution is simple. Continue to spend!
Now hear me out, I'm not suggesting that you buy whatever you want to feel better, but if you budget for your purchases, is it really a big deal if you want to buy a new top?
Spending money to get you back in the right mindset makes sense at times, but how much are you willing to spend?
The same thing applies to major purchases. FOMO won't be an issue if you're budgeting for vacations and eating out. Soon enough it'll be your friends who have FOMO.
Keep in mind that you still need to be realistic about your budget. It doesn't make much sense to allocate the majority of your income to fun stuff while ignoring saving for the long term.
I know, saving is never fun, but a balanced budget is something to be proud of. More importantly, there's no need to feel guilty when you make those inevitable purchases.
Figuring out your own money triggers shouldn't be too hard. Getting over them can be the tricky part. Try to avoid any situations where you'll be tempted to spend or think big picture and prioritize where your money goes.
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