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5 Overspending Triggers (and How to Beat Them)

It happens to everyone at one time or another. Despite your best efforts to stay within your budget, you find yourself spending far more than you planned — often on things you don’t need or even really want. If you’re wondering why that happens, and what you can do to avoid it in the future, learn about the factors that can trigger overspending and how to overcome them.

You’re Feeling Down (or bored or lonely) — For many, emotional spending is the most common reason they find themselves busting their budget. And there’s a good reason for it. Making a purchase can temporarily dull those negative feelings and gives a rush of endorphins that feels good in the moment. However, those good feelings are short-lived and will likely be overshadowed by even more negative feelings once the reality of the spending spree kicks in.     Two female friends enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation

How to Overcome — Recognize and honor those feelings of blues, boredom, or loneliness for what they are (we ALL have them!). Instead of spending money to dull those feelings, reach out to a friend for a text (or actual) conversation, get engrossed in a favorite book or movie, start a project you can finish quickly that will give you a feeling of accomplishment (like cleaning out a drawer), or get some light exercise. All those activities release the same feel-good brain chemicals as shopping, and don’t cost you anything.

You’re on Vacation — When you’re on vacation, anything goes and the regular rules don’t apply. That makes it way too easy to spend money on things you normally wouldn’t buy. But remember, vacation is temporary and running up credit cards bills on overpriced souvenirs is going to feel like a bad decision by the time you get home.

How to Overcome — Set a spending limit for shopping or souvenirs and stick to it. Take only one credit card along for emergencies and leave it in the room safe or in the hotel safe; don’t carry it with you (place it in a sealed, padded envelope to avoid tampering). Find a local grocery store and stock your hotel room with your own snacks and drinks to avoid outrageous mini bar or gift shop prices.

You Have to Buy a Gift — Whether shopping for birthdays, baby showers, weddings or other occasions, it’s easy to spend more than you planned on gifts. But remember, like your mom always said, it’s the thought that counts. Anyone who cares about you is going to care more about the gesture than the gift itself.

How to Overcome — Waiting until the last minute is a sure-fire way to spend too much on an ill-advised impulse buy. Plan ahead and buy gifts throughout the year; then put them away for later use. For weddings and other big occasions, see if you can contribute toward a group gift, rather than shouldering the expense all by yourself.

You Get Unexpected Cash — Work bonus. Overtime pay. Tax refund. Birthday cash. You weren’t expecting that money anyway, so it’s free game, right? Wrong! It’s certainly tempting to blow this so-called found money, but once it’s gone, it’s gone. Why not make it work for you instead?

How to Overcome — Allow yourself one small splurge, then put the rest of the money to work. Use it to make a larger payment on a credit card bill, make an extra student loan or mortgage payment, or to start or fatten up your emergency fund.

You Found a Great Deal — It’s so tempting to get sucked in by one-day deals and limited quantities; especially now when those deals are as close as your phone and making a purchase involves just a few taps. But it really can’t be said enough: no matter how great a deal you think you’re getting on something, if you don’t really need it, it’s not a bargain, regardless of how cheap it is.

How to Overcome — Remove yourself from retailers’ email lists and shopping apps so you’re not tempted by deals all day long. Avoid browsing (in-store or online) when you have nothing else to do; find another activity instead.

If overspending has left you with mounting credit card debt, we can help. Credit Counseling is the first step to help you begin taking control of your finances.