The other day my wife and I were just plain bored. We rode to the library to pick up some books, and afterward neither of us were in the mood to return home. Thanks to the household flu epidemic that had us all down the last week and a half we ran through our “medical” budget and had to adjust other categories down to compensate. This left little money for entertainment, gas or food. So movies, eating out, and a short road trip were obviously not in the budget.
It was at this point that I felt an old thought begin to creep into my head. I suddenly had a strong urge to go shopping, and just use our “emergency” credit card to cover the trip. I could think of several things we needed to pick up – some ingredients to try a recipe we read online, a new pair of tennis shoes for my daughter, and Easter basket goodies for the kids. Besides, we had been in the house all weekend, and the walls were beginning to close in a bit. It wasn’t our fault that we all got sick and required several prescriptions. Don’t illnesses technically count as emergencies?
My wife and I looked at each other as if we knew the other was having the exact same thought. We resisted the urge to spend and instead returned home to play outside with the kids. We found some old “bubble stuff” in the garage and spent the afternoon blowing bubbles and jumping on our trampoline. I was proud that we had managed to overcome the temptation to spend, and it made me acutely aware of how far we had come.
Emotional shoppers tend to spend when they are sad to make themselves feel better. Emotional shoppers tend to shop when they are happy to celebrate. Emotional shoppers tend to shop when they are bored (I definitely used to belong to this club) to give them something to do. Notice a pattern? It is no surprise people who let their emotions drive their shopping patterns frequently find themselves in debt. In fact, it contributed to my own accumulation of credit card debt, but it wasn’t the only factor. My wife and I frequently shopped because we were bored, or stressed out at my old job. I realize now that I was simply using shopping as a coping mechanism, much like an alcoholic has a drink every afternoon to “take the edge off.” Or like smokers need a cigarette to “calm their nerves.” It wasn’t until I came to this realization that I was finally able to protect myself from myself, by shredding the credit cards and forcing myself to live on a written budget.