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Everyone has them: the emotional triggers that entice you to spend. The question is, do you know what yours is?
Personal finance experts talk a lot about spending less and saving more, but that’s not possible if you don’t understand the root causes of your spending. Here’s a list of the nine most common — and costly — spending triggers:
1. You’re drunk. Or hungry. Or both.
Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, which means a few glasses of wine might make you more likely to splurge on that shiny new electronic you’ve been eyeing, budget consequences be damned. A recent survey found that Americans spend an average of $139 in an “unplanned booze-filled buying session,” with men spending a whopping four times more than what women spend when they’re under the influence ($233 for men compared to $45 for women).
Hunger has a slightly different effect, psychologically — but it too, will drain your wallet. Research shows that we have our caveman hunter-gatherer instincts to blame for this. A 2015 study out of the University of Michigan found that while hunger is our body’s cue to find and consume nutrients, the stimulus extends to non-food items, too. The study looked at shoppers in a department store and found that the hungrier ones spent a whopping 60% more than customers who were not hungry.
2. You’re sad or angry.
It’s not called retail therapy for nothing: studies have found that when we’re in a state of emotional turmoil, buying stuff can — in the short term — restore our sense of control and make us feel happy. The key phrase there is “in the short term.” If you go on too large of a shopping bender, the credit card bill you get at the end of the month might very well undo those positive feelings.
3. You’re lonely.
Sound familiar? Your friends are out of town and you have no plans, so you decide to “just browse” at the local bookstore. Or “just window shop” at the mall. Hours later, you come out with stacks of books — or clothes — feeling a bit less lonely than you were when you started the day. A 2013 Journal of Consumer Research paper says this is because material acquisition can decrease loneliness over time. But be careful: this same paper also found that there’s such thing as a “loneliness loop” wherein materialism and loneliness create a self-reinforcing cycle. “Valuing material possessions as a measure of success and as a medicine for happiness were associated with increases in loneliness over time, and loneliness in its turn was associated with increases in these subtypes of materialism,” the researchers wrote.
Read the full article "Anger, Hunger, The Thrill Of The Hunt: What's Your Spending Trigger?" at Forbes.