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Do You Need to Change Your Spending Habits?

Kaitlin Broderick LCPC

For the majority of people, our childhood and how we were raised have a direct impact on our relationship with money as adults. Beliefs about money that we learned in childhood such as “there is never enough” or “you need to value everything you own” can follow us into adulthood and can induce feelings of guilt about throwing things out that we no longer have use for. 

What some people don’t realize is that money and spending habits aren’t just a matter of how practical or responsible you are, but can tie into deeper emotional issues. Issues such as shame, guilt, and envy can tie into our spending habits. For example, do you shop more when feeling lonely or sad? Do you have shame about not paying back creditors or loans which leads you into even more avoidant behavior that worsens the problem? Are you buying expensive products because of a feeling of lack and insecurity thinking buying more things of value will increase your value as a person? Explore this and be clear on what emotions and feelings you tie into spending and money. 

The following are some tips for saving that can help you learn to develop a healthier relationship with money. 

Practice delaying gratification. 

If you are still thinking about something two or three days later you can always go back and get it. This can lead to a decrease in buyer’s remorse where you buy something immediately and in the moment which you then later regret or never end up using. 

Think about your long term goals. 

Maybe you are saving up for buying a home or taking a big vacation. Ask yourself, why do I want to buy this? Is it in alignment with my goals? Will buying this push me back further from achieving my goals? 

Look for Patterns

Notice patterns with your saving and spending habits and how they coincide with your emotions. Do you purchase more when you’re feeling stressed? Maybe you purchase more when you’re feeling excited. You can even write down habits you notice which can be an eye-opening experience. Once you become aware of a pattern you have, it can make it easier to break it. 

Pay attention to your justifications around money. 

Maybe you tell yourself, this is the last one left and so, therefore, I need it. Or maybe you justify by saying that you will be making more money later or you can save more at some other time in the future. Maybe you tell yourself that since something is on sale you need to get it. 

Be open and honest with your friends and loved ones. 

If you are trying to save and not spend so much money on things you don’t value, tell your friends this. This doesn’t mean that you don‘t get to see your friends. If your friends are always inviting you to fancy dinners and you are wanting to cook more and eat at home, suggest an alternative such as going for a walk or going for coffee. 

Be aware that oftentimes the more you buy, the more you want. 

Spending money can bring a rush of excitement and increase dopamine temporarily. This dopamine hit can make you want more and like any addict looking for a fix, it can lead to more and more spending. 

Try to stop comparing yourself to everyone else. 

Even if your friends are all buying homes, this doesn’t mean you need to as well. Prioritize what is important to you. It can feel empowering to take control of your finances and spend money or save money for what you value.

If you would like to talk to a professional counselor about your spending habits, contact Symmetry Counseling to learn more about financial therapy in Chicago. Our skilled counselors are here to you help you. Schedule your appointment today.

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