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How to Stop Spending Based on Your Financial Triggers

By Quinisha Jackson
July 9, 2019

Financial triggers: We all have them, and just like any issue having to do with money and emotions, they typically won’t go away forever. 

If not addressed proactively, financial triggers can become serious obstacles to making progress on your money goals. For starters, these triggers often result in bad habits like credit card binge spending or overspending in general, which can rack up hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in debt.

Studies show that almost half of Americans (49%) cite emotions as the reasons they spend more than they can afford. Stress, excitement, and sadness are the most common emotions arising out of overspending. When you’re in need of retail therapy, nothing feels better than splurging on new scented candles or a pair of shoes. However, the emotional high fades once you realize you’ve accrued more debt or depleted your savings

Here’s the good news: You can identify your personal financial triggers and manage them so that they don’t derail your future goals. Take a look at how you can more effectively handle your financial triggers and thus stop overspending.  

Be Aware of Your Triggers

The first step to manage financial triggers is to admit they even exist. It’s easy to write off

overspending as something that everybody does. Still, if you notice a pattern in how you spend money when you feel a certain way, you should be mindful of this.

Most financial missteps happen when we unknowingly slip into everyday habits. You might be

bored over the weekend and decide to go “browse” at your favorite store. And while this may seem innocent enough, you may soon realize that you just walked out with bags full of merchandise you never planned on buying.

Or, perhaps your trigger is the result of peer pressure. How many times have you gone out for drinks with friends to celebrate a birthday or promotion, or maybe simply to blow off some steam after work? Maybe you promised yourself you’d only get one or two cocktails, but you ended up with a $100 bar tab. 

Unplanned spending happens to the best of us. If it happens regularly, however, it’s a problem that can quickly spin out of control.

So, don’t feel ashamed about your financial triggers. Once you’re aware of them, you can take steps to manage them. This way they won’t throw your bank account off track.

Find Ways to “Trick” Yourself

The thought of tricking yourself to avoid overspending sounds silly at first, but it actually makes sense due to the emotional nature of financial triggers. It takes time to unlearn old behaviors, and a few personalized techniques can help as you build self-discipline.

For example, maybe you’re prone to splurge on going out to eat after a long day. To help resist the urge, you can instead create a meal plan or stock up on prepared dinners. If weekend boredom is your Achilles heel, make room in your budget for “fun money.” (It’s best to use cash so you’re not tempted to swipe a credit card.) Once you run out of cash, keep a notebook or whiteboard handy, with a list of free things to do when you’re bored.

You might even have to resort to extreme measures to curb your financial triggers. This could

include literally freezing your credit cards or moving money to a bank account that you don’t allow yourself to use. It won’t be fun when the impulse to spend arises, but the bright side is that you’re making a smart financial choice for your future self.

Find an Accountability Partner

Working to change old habits is a daunting task, but you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to a

family member, friend, or partner about your financial triggers. You might not be comfortable

sharing all the details about your finances, and that’s okay. It can be as simple as asking someone to join you in free activities or check in weekly about your spending.

There are other options if you don’t have anyone close to talk to or feel ashamed of sharing

such personal information with loved ones. If this sounds like you, you might want to consider joining an online group with like-minded individuals. There are tons of online personal finance communities available to answer any questions you might have and include you in challenges to help you meet your money goals.

Final Takeaway

Financial triggers can be tricky and frustrating to navigate, but they don’t have to take over your life. Once you’re aware of them and have tools in place to better manage your money, you’ll know what you need to do to spend less on stuff and keep your hard-earned money in your bank account.

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