Treat Yourself: A Thought On Emotional Spending

It's good to be back. Last Friday, I was feeling super overwhelmed and decided to take the day off to rest. Rest is such a beautiful thing that often times is taken for granted.

I was supposed to catch up with a beloved friend of mine this morning, but she reached out saying she wanted to reschedule to prioritize resting instead and I really loved everything about that. Communicating our needs and having those needs be celebrated by those you love and those that love you back? That is medicine.

Something that has been a topic of interest is the obsession people in the personal finance industry have with emotions and money, specifically, emotional spending.

“Curb your emotional spending.”

“Stop buying shit when you're in an emotional place.”

“Don't make emotional decisions when it comes to money.”

You can probably tell by now that I am not a fan of this and I will tell you why.

Our emotions tell us so much. It would be a shame to bypass our emotional experience when it comes to spending, making financial decisions, saving, investing, and even making money.

I think that when we are more in tune with our emotions that it will only benefit your financial wellbeing. Emotions should not be hierarchal. They all serve a purpose. Even the “negative” ones and yes, I put “negative” in quotes because who defines what's negative?

For example, I worked with a client who shopped. A lot. She made a relatively decent salary, but with her shopping habits, was in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. When she first came to me she said her goal was to get out of debt and stop buying shit she did not need.

I asked her why that was her goal. She took a long pause, confused by my question. She said, “Well, because debt is bad and I don't want to be bad with money.”

I helped reframe that with her and asked, “So your goal isn't to stop buying shit you don't need, nor is it really to get out of debt. Your goal is that you want to be ”good" with money. Let's figure out together what being “good” with money means to you."

She opened up to me about the anxiety and low self esteem she has been experiencing. She said that she wanted to make enough money to enjoy the things she loves such as travel and wellness. I asked her to make a list of things she loves spending money on, even if she thinks she didn't “need” it. Because who needs an $88 facial toner, really? The focus was on figuring out what she truly wants. To do that, you need to tune into your emotions.

Her list was fabulous. It included travel, house plants, really fancy single origin coffee, that $88 facial toner, organic food, going to the movies or a new restaurant with friends, wine, books, and yoga classes.

I told her to pull her last credit card statement and to mark the spends that were on her list with a ⭐and to mark the spends that were not on her list with an ❌. Then, I had her add up how many of each there were.

A majority of her spending was on things she ❌ did not ❌ want.

So, I told her, the issue isn't that she is buying things she doesn't need. The issue is that she is buying things she doesn't want. And, this was because she didn't feel like she deserved to have what she actually wanted.

She discovered she spent money on things she didn't even want so that she couldn't even afford to spend money on the things she ACTUALLY wanted.

Boom. That was her breakthrough.

Emotional spending is more nuanced than people in the financial wellness industry make it out to be. I don't want people to stop “emotional spending.”

I want people to know their emotions, the story behind them, and honor them when it comes to making, spending, and managing their money.

I hope this money lesson filled your cup up, even by a little bit. 💖