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What Pulls Your Trigger? Four Reasons You May Overspend

Do you ever feel triggered? Do you ever find yourself spending money you didn’t intend, but you do it anyways? Sometimes I feel almost defiant when I’m in this mode. “I know I didn’t plan this. But screw it! I’m buying this!” Usually, it is because I’m triggered.

Over the years, I’ve gotten in touch with my own spending triggers. Knowing them has helped me avoid being triggered in the first place and better able to analyze my own overspending when it does happen. Thinking about triggers also helps us not beat ourselves up so bad. Everyone overspends sometimes. But if you can then think about WHY you spent the way you did, you’re less likely to fall into that trap again. Yes, you can actually use overspending as a personal growth experience!

Here are four kinds of triggers:

Emotional State Trigger: Many of us overspend if we are emotionally triggered. It can be similar with eating. If we just had an awful fight with our husband, we may turn to food to make us feel better or we may spend money to feel better. Sometimes we spend when we are depressed. We feel like buying something to lift our spirits. Sometimes we spend when we are lonely. What about you? In what emotional state are you most likely to overspend? If you name it, you can come up with some alternatives before that feeling hits you. Besides ice cream and the mall, what else would make you feel better?

Situational Trigger: Sometimes it doesn’t matter what emotional state we’re in. We know that when we go shopping with our friend Ellen, we tend to overspend. Or we may notice that whenever we are kid-free, we head to the mall to relax. Some situations just lend themselves to overspending. For me, when I had an entire day to myself with no plans, I could easily overspend. Once I identified this, I was able to stop spending simply because I had no plans! (This was also likely related to my divorce. I suddenly had some weekends without my son and I felt a bit “adrift.” This just goes to show you that many situational triggers have an emotional component to them as well.)

Location Trigger: Some places trigger me, no matter how I’m feeling. Certain places just seem designed to suck money out of my wallet. For me, it is the center isle of Costco, where all those “you never know what will be there/ great values” lurk. I’ve had countless clients report the same thing- the dangers of that alluring isle. I also am triggered at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I walk in there and I just want to spend money. If you are trying to be careful with your spending, it may be best to stay away from certain locations, unless you have a solid plan for how you want to spend your money.

Bio Trigger: People tend to spend more when they are hungry. So if you are hungry, don’t go shopping! Eat first, plain and simple. I’m not saying that you don’t want to go out to lunch when you go out shopping. But if you hit the mall or your errands on an empty stomach, you tend to overspend without thinking through your plan. You get a bit “fuzzy” and power through your shopping, throwing money at things instead of stopping to take care of yourself first.

So what about you? What your triggers? For each of these four areas, can you come up with a personal example? The more you think about this, the less likely you are to blindly overspend.

We all have our triggers. Name yours.