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Are Your Emotions Driving You Into Debt?

AJ Smith

Many factors go into your financial health: saving habits, spending habits, debt, income, monthly payments and, believe it or not, your emotions and attitude. Many of us look for emotional satisfaction by purchasing new items. Most commonly, a new purchase brings excitement and happiness, while the resulting bills bring a different set of emotions. Because of the delayed timing, the process continues and many Americans spend sleepless nights surrounded by expensive purchases.

Even with the tightest of budgets and savviest of financial decision making tools, most of us have made a purchase we may regret based on how we felt leading up to the moment of transaction. Sometimes, we are lucky enough to have purchased an item with a good return policy. But, other times, our emotions can lead us to make poor financial decisions that we cannot erase. Here are three feelings that affect how we spend and how we save.

1. Sadness

When you feel down, it may seem like a new pair of shoes or a night of fine dining will left your mood. Being upset is often a trigger of spending irresponsibly because it causes impulsive decisions. Instead of thinking things through, you react emotionally and don’t think of consequences.

2. Euphoria

We see this often with athletes, celebrities and newly promoted friends. Coming from a situation of smaller income to that of larger income can lead people to be overly generous. Maybe instead of buying one sports car for themselves, they get one for them, one for each of their siblings, and one each for mom and dad. Many lottery winners or suddenly wealthy people cite this as a reason for blowing through their money quickly.

3. Apprehension

Being indecisive or stressing over every decision is not the solution. These traits often lead to investment paralysis and rash decisions pressured from friends or other influencers. Doing research to make an informed decision is a good idea, like when it comes to whether you should buy or rent a home. But hemming and hawing until someone else (a friend, family member or even stranger) makes the decision for you isn’t the best idea.

Of course this doesn’t mean you should try to block out all feelings altogether, but try not to let a bad date cause you to buy a new wardrobe or let a new job convince you to buy everyone at the bar a round of drinks — all 80 of them. Financial decisions guided by a fleeting emotion often lead to overspending — and debt. And, unfortunately, your amount of debt is a major factor in how your credit scores are calculated, meaning that emotional spending can have long-term consequences. You can see how your debt is affecting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

Try to keep your emotions from guiding your financial choices. A great way to avoid giving feelings too much power is to study your own patterns, recognize what triggers emotional spending for you, and look for alternate, less expensive, ways to deal with those feelings.

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