Stress and Overspending: How to Break the Cycle

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Sometimes when life gets a little crazy, so do spending habits. We’re all guilty of it; as life gets hectic, we start taking shortcuts. Takeout rather than cooking, shopping because you need a break, or spending more because you don’t want to stop at the out-of-the-way (but cheaper) grocery store. Those are just a few examples of stress spending. But don’t let a crazy schedule impact your finances. Here’s how you can stop your stress-spending cycle.

The Problems With Stress Spending

  1. It takes away from your financial goals. Whether you’re saving for a house, car, vacation, or retirement, you’re working toward some sort of financial goal. The less you spend, the faster you reach those goals, according to Get Rich Slowly. Sounds easy, right? But, unfortunately, those dreams can often get lost amongst the shortcuts and spending sprees we go on when we’re stressed.
  2. It all adds up. That Chinese food you ordered Tuesday night? That’s $15. Or what about that sub you hurriedly grabbed for lunch the other day? That’s another $10. Maybe you’re drinking more coffee than normal, and you’ve been a frequent Starbucks customer. Even if you go on a stress-spending spree for only a few weeks, it’s definitely enough time to still wreak havoc on your finances. Just remember: small expenses add up.
  3. It starts an unhealthy cycle. Often, when you stress spend, you’re doing it to relieve stress and even bring some happiness. But it’s just a quick fix, per Get Rich Slowly. In fact, it could cause more stress once you see you’re racking up debt. Rather than spend more, take time to actually address the problem. What’s going on? Why is life so hectic? How can you make it a little less stressful? Figure out the root of the problem before you find yourself grimacing at your credit card statement.
Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Signs You May Be a Stress Spender

Not sure if you’re a stress spender? Sterling Finance Company has laid out a few key signs to look for.

  1. Getting your nails done becomes more important than buying groceries.
  2. You don’t want to look at your bank statement for the week because it’s filled with impulse purchases.
  3. Taking on more debt sounds better than not spending money on takeout, clothes, and entertainment.
  4. You’re hitting the mall after work to de-stress.
  5. Gazing at your new purchases temporarily relaxes you.

Do any of these sound familiar? Don’t stress if you’ve just figured out you’re a stress spender — now is the time to take action.

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

How to Stop the Cycle

  1. Figure out the root of the problem. Ask yourself: What’s going on? Why is life so hectic? Is there one thing in particular that is at the root of your stress? By focusing on what’s actually stressing you out and then coming up with a solution, you’ll feel better in the short- and long-term, according to The Simple Dollar.
  2. Lessen your to-do list. Those to-do lists and schedules you’ve got? Make them a little less overwhelming. If you’re in a situation where you’re staring at a list of never-ending tasks, it’s time to figure out something to eliminate — at least for the time being. The Simple Dollar recommends looking at things such as withdrawing from a community group or letting go of some of your household chores (remember, it’s temporary.)
  3. Find an outlet. Rather than turning to spending to make you feel better, find a better way to let loose. Investopedia suggests exercise, reading, or another activity that can be used as a stress reliever. Basically, you want to find an outlet that you won’t view as another chore or scheduled task. The perk of picking up exercise? You’ll feel better, and you’ll get thinner while your wallet gets fatter.
  4. Talk about it. You might feel better once you start to talk about what’s going on and why you’re stressed. Chat with your significant other, a close friend, parent, or anyone else who you feel comfortable talking to. Who knows? The person you’re talking to may have a great idea, or at least be able to offer you a different perspective on it.
  5. Have a back-up plan. Once you know what you tend to buy when you’re stressed, you can then figure out a way to put an end to it. If you buy takeout, start cooking meals in advance and freezing some. That way, there’s no preparation needed — you just have to pop it in the oven. You can even consider keeping a frozen meal or two on hand, Get Rich Slowly suggests. Is it the best wallet-friendly option? No. But if it comes down to that or takeout, it’s certainly better than ordering delivery.

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