I Used to Be an Emotional Shopper

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.


  1. I’m also a reformed emotional shopper. It took a long time to dig myself out of debt and get my spending under control, but with my husband’s help, I’m in good shape now. Keep fighting the good fight!

  2. I hear ya! I am an emotional shopper too. When I am having a bad day, I just want to spend money. I just think you have to learn that about yourself and control it.

    Good job on playing outside with the kids instead!

  3. Along with commenters, I tend to buy stuff when bored or sad to make myself feel better. The big screen TV when I my business was not doing well jumps out at me. But being able to recognize the weakness in myself now allows me to see blips on the radar that I need to be aware of and can now avoid. Playing with my kids always works for me to get my mindset back where it needs to be. You see in them that all they really want is your time and “stuff” does not matter.

  4. Ouch! Great article. When my wife and I were going through our financial meltdown (We were 120 days behind on the house, 90 days behind on the car, and all the credit cards were charged-off) we were still pretending as if we had money to blow. It was an amazing experience.

    Even though I am a Financial Coach – I still struggle with this stuff. I amaze myself how childish I can be.

    Great article! Keep up the good fight!

    Matt Sullivan, CEO of FreeCreditDusters.com

  5. great change in attitude! You helped to create new responses to old triggers, and taught the kids that they are more important. Good deal!

  6. I used to be an emotional shopper too! In fact, I still am on occasion. Luckily I’ve been able to keep the spending to a minimum, and on smaller ticket items lately. But, it can be hard!

  7. I go out alot and look in shops and stuff with the intent of maybe buying something if I don;t want to be stuck in the house yet I never seem to buy anything even though I have the money so I don’t know if i am classed as an emtional shopper lol