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Spending Choices: The Cause of Unnecessary Emotional Stress

How Our Spending Choices Can Cause Emotional Stress

While thinking about how our spending choices can get us into a heap of money trouble, I was reminded of an impressive situation that happened over 20 years ago.  A coworker, Judy, managed to get a traffic ticket on her way to work early one morning.  She was running behind schedule and decided to exceed the speed limit in order to make up time.  However, when she did this, she also crossed over a double yellow line to pass someone in front of her.  She also simultaneously blew through a red light at a major intersection.  Is anyone surprised that she got caught and ended up with a hefty fine and license ramifications?  Probably not!  But what was surprising was her response to it all.

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Don’t Do the Crime, If You Can’t Do the Time

We might expect someone who just got a nasty traffic ticket to be upset to say the least.  But Judy had the best attitude about it that I have ever seen.  She simply said, “Well, if you’re not willing to do the time, they don’t do the crime.”  In other words, Judy took a risk knowing that the price for getting caught could be very steep.  It’s much like going to a casino.  As long as you are prepared to lose every cent you bring in the place and just consider it an entertainment expense, you’ll be fine.  However, if you go in with the naive idea that you’re coming out a winner every time, you might be sadly disappointed.

The choices we make with our money and spending are very similar to the decision Judy made with her traffic infraction.  There are rules in place for a good reason.  We might like the rules, but they are designed to protect the innocent and prevent people from getting hurt.  The same is true with our spending.  We are not meant to spend more than we have available to us.  If you make $2000 a month, that amount will need to cover all your living expenses, savings plans, and charitable donations.  Only if there is some left after the expenses are paid, can we indulge and be a little more carefree.  Unfortunately, too many of us don’t budget properly and we get mad when we have to take ownership of the mess we created!

Reasons We Spend Too Much Money

There are many reasons why people intentionally choose to spend more than they should.  But they all have one thing in common.  When you overspend, you have increased emotional stress when you can’t pay the bills.  Money issues have claimed many marriages, caused many sleepless nights, increased psychiatrist visits & kept bankruptcy courts in business.  The first step in solving the spending problem is to find out why it’s happening in the first place.  So, let’s look at six common reasons why people intentionally choose to overspend causing money troubles and increased emotional stress.

  1. Keeping Up with the Joneses.

    No one wants to be the kid without the latest and greatest new shoes or video game.  The temptation doesn’t go away when you reach adulthood;  the items that you desire just seem to increase in price.  When you are an adult, keeping pace with everyone else means buying houses, cars, expensive jewelry, stellar vacations, and pricey toys.

  2. Don’t Want to Disappoint.

    The people in our lives are important to us and when they ask for something, it’s natural to want to please them.  The problem here is that you can’t give what you don’t have.  In addition, the pleasures that come with gift giving are often very short-lived.  Is it really worth it to bring home souvenirs that will not be appreciated or used frequently?

  3. Lack of Self-Control.

    The inability to control your own actions has the potential to cause all types of trouble, not only money woes.  Allowing your wants to take a higher place than the law, rational thought, or the needs of others is not likely to end well.  If trying to handle a lack of self-control on your own is not working, it may be wise to seek out professional assistance.

  4. Failure to Plan Ahead.

    Unexpected expenses are common enough, that we need to plan for them.  Appliances break and cars don’t always run smoothly.  Once the tire on our van actually fell off and my husband saw it roll away in front of him!  That shouldn’t happen, but it does.  It’s always better to plan for things to fail instead of failing to plan.  Putting aside money for emergencies is going to be your saving grace sooner or later.

  5. Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.

    You may have heard this rationale called retail therapy.  If you’ve had a run of bad luck, friends suggest that you go shopping.  While window-shopping may actually help, you’ll feel even worse if you end up with bills you can’t pay.  Shopping will not make you feel more loved, undo pain, or magically make troubles disappear.  So, be careful that your coping mechanism doesn’t cause you more pain than you started with.

  6. Using Credit is Too Easy.

    Regardless of what is going on in our mind when we choose to buy something, it is way too easy to whip out a credit card or enter the account number into the computer.  In fact, to make it even easier for you, you can store your credit card information in the electronic system for quick access in the future.  If you had to dig out dollar bills and coins, you would be able to slow down and think before you act.

Finding a Solution

In order to reduce the stress involved with spending too much, maxing out your credit card, and ending up more stuff than we really need or want, we have got to put an end to the madness.  The two basic ways to handle this is either independently or with the help of an expert.  There are things we can do to increase our self-discipline.  Dave Ramsey and others offer sound personal finance advice including budgeting that can take you a long way.  But if you find that your issue goes much deeper than just developing a more structured plan, then it might be appropriate to reach out for psychological or spiritual guidance.  Many people have overcome overspending issues.  If this is something you struggle with, help is available.  You just need to reach out and ask for it!

Reflection Questions:

  1. Which of the six reasons we spend too much is the biggest problem area for you?
  2. Are you willing to “do the time” and have increased stress related to overspending?  Or are you ready to put an end to the madness?

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