Sick of Overspending? Learn to Avoid Your Spending Triggers


After a rough day, have you ever treated yourself to a nice meal or done some damage with the credit card for a much-needed dose of retail therapy? Do you tend to spend more money when you’re around friends for feeling just plain bored?

It might seem harmless, but these behaviors are often indicative of something more. Patterns in overspending can often be attributed to spending triggers certain situations that encourage us to spend money needlessly.

Most people have at least one trigger that causes overspending. Do you know what yours is and how much it’s costing you? Read on to find out.

How to Stop Spending Money: Identify Your Spending Triggers

I’ve learned my spending triggers include exhaustion, hunger, or feeling upset — I stop caring about price and just want to feel better. I end up spending too much money on coffee, food, and happy hours with little regard to how they affect my financial bottom line.

I started to notice my spending triggers a few years ago, when I wanted to really evaluate my spending. I noticed that in certain situations, I spent more and didn’t care about budgeting.

I realized your emotional state can play a huge role in your spending patterns and financial success. In fact, a study by university researchers found that sadness makes you spend more, proving just how influential emotions are on spending.

Overspending every now and then is usually not a big deal. But a series of bad days or months could be a detriment to your savings account and potentially lead you down a path towards debt.

Common spending triggers include:

  • Feeling lazy, which results in spending money on conveniences like a cab rides or expensive dinners out.
  • Feeling insecure, sad, or anxious and going shopping to feel better.
  • Big events or celebrations that lead to an “I deserve this” attitude.
  • Temptation, such as being in a mall or bookstore.
  • A breakup.
  • Losing your job.
  • Surfing the web. The internet can be a beautiful thing, but with ads following you everywhere you go, one click of a button can make you feel better all too easily.

How to Identify Your Spending Triggers

If you’re serious about saving money or paying down your student loans quickly, you need to know your spending triggers so you can avoid them. In order to identify your spending triggers, track your spending for at least one month. Don’t just track where you went and how much you spent; add a third column and track your emotional state as well.

You can do this in an excel spreadsheet or in a notebook. The key is to track how you felt when making each purchase. Doing this can help you be more mindful of your purchases and help you recognize patterns of overspending.

The point of this isn’t to make yourself feel bad. We all have spending triggers. The goal is to identify what they are and recognize patterns in order to make positive changes.

According to LearnVest, “The biggest problem with triggers isn’t that they lead us to one fiscal faux pas, but that they get us into the habit of spending poorly.”

It’s not healthy for your mind or your budget to spend in order to make yourself feel better. Money can make you happier in the moment, but it’s not the key to everlasting happiness.

How to Stop Overspending and Manage Your Triggers

Your spending triggers are like landmines — you can’t really make them go away, but you can learn to avoid them.

When I realized I was spending more money when I was tired, hungry, or upset, I made a few lifestyle changes to anticipate and avoid my typical behavior:

  • I focus on getting a good night’s rest as often as possible.
  • I buy groceries ahead of time.
  • I’ve turned to meditation, reading, exercise, and walking with friends when I’m upset.

The solution to managing your spending triggers is to create a new corresponding habit with them — one that costs less (or ideally, involves no money at all) such as exercise or journaling. Consider inviting friends over for a potluck, calling a family member, doing yoga, or having a living room dance party when you are feeling the pull of temptation.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging here and there, but in order to master your money and live debt-free, it’s crucial to understand your spending triggers. Knowing why you overspend and learning to manage your triggers not only helps you save money, but gain more control over your life.

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