The psychology of over-spending – Part 2

low self esteem

Low self esteem is one psychological factor that may be associated with over-spending. Image: sahlgoode/Flickr/CC BY-SA

As we have seen, over-spending can, for some, be a coping mechanism used to avoid the stress of debt. In our economic downturn, however, the habit can be more destructive than it is in times of affluence. A continued examination of the psychological factor behind over-spending follows, as well as some helpful tips for avoiding the habit.

Low self-esteem

People with low self-esteem my use the buying impulse to nurture themselves. According to Industrial psychologist James Dion, these people secretly believe “that a purchase is buying them love, acceptance and feelings of belonging.” They tend to make a ritual of showing off their trophies to others in an attempt at boosting their own inadequate feelings of self-worth.

Dion explained one warning signs of this type of shopper:

“If there are items in your closet that you’ve never worn, tools in your tool kit that you’ve never used — that’s a big red flag. … When you feel comfortable in your own skin you tend buy more ‘needs’ as opposed to ‘wants.'”


Others use spending as a temporary fix to distract them from their own melancholy.

Dion explained:

“Scratching that depressive itch and self-medicating against depression, they turn to over-shopping to feel good for a minute, like that first drink for an alcoholic to get that rush.”

Find healthy substitute behaviors to scratch the itch, Dion suggests. Physical exercise is good because it nurtures the body as it releases pleasure-giving endorphins.

Things you can do

There are many simple tricks to help avoid over-spending. But keeping track of spending is the first step. A spending diary makes denial more difficult. It is harder to overspend when we can see what we owe and and have spent at a glance.

[Paying bills on time is essential to your good credit rating.]

‘Don’t make it easier’

Dion says the access of handheld computer devices have made it so much easier to overspend:

“There are a lot of people buying on toilets today. … Don’t make it easier to buy.”

In other words, don’t set up website accounts for one-click shopping and remove Ebay and other shopping sites for your computer bookmarks.

Leave plastic at home

Savings expert Andrea Woroch offered some simple advice. She suggested a cash-only policy:

“Leave your credit cards at home and shop with cash instead. You are less likely to overspend when you’re dealing with actual cash.”

The 10-minute rule

But perhaps the best piece of advice is to simply wait. Woroch said the “10-minute rule” will curb a lot of over-spending:

“Follow the 10-minute rule. Usually the urge to buy something unnecessary will … pass after 10 minutes.”

12-step programs

When all else fails, chronic over-spenders who can’t seem to get a grip on their habit can turn to DA — Debtor’s Anonymous — a 12-step program for shopaholics. Do an online search for a chapter in your city.


Daily Finance
Psychology Today 


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