Spending binges happen to everyone. Afterwards, it’s natural (and awesome) to want to figure out how to prevent them from happening again. But first, show yourself some grace and try taking care of your emotional and mental health.
Though utterly convenient, online shopping often turns my bank account and self-image into total turmoil. Hundreds of dollars worth of clothes, home decor, makeup, and plane tickets can be purchased with a quick click of my MacBook’s mouse.
I go to Nordstrom.com to purchase a lingerie set for a friend’s upcoming bachelorette party. An hour passes, and a moisturizer, mascara, workout top, pair of booties, denim jacket, decorative couch pillow, and bath mat sit in my shopping cart. I need some of these items, and a few are on sale. These are great deals, I also tell myself, drooling on the keyboard. The pillow will tie the living room together. Your current mascara is volumizing; shouldn’t you have a thickening one, too? You’ve been working so hard. Treat yourself.
And “Complete Purchase.”
Hours later, I realized I forgot to purchase the lingerie. y And this put me way over the monthly amount I budget for shopping. (Honestly, I knew this at the time of purchase.) I start to feel guilty, beat myself up for having zero self-control, and stop looking forward to receiving the items. (P.S. Pretty sure mascaras all work the same way, what was I thinking?)
As I anxiously contemplate returning the items and blocking ecommerce websites from my browser (which reminds me of my parents blocking MTV when I was a teenager), I instead close my laptop. This negative self-talk was getting old and not helping the situation. How can I start recovering more gracefully and treating myself with more kindness after these spending binges?
Here’s how I navigated this spending binge, along with how difficult each step was for me.
Step 1: Forgive yourself—outloud
I thought about how I would talk to a friend who had recently gone a little overboard (OK—a lot) in terms of spending. Would I tell her she was a total financial failure and had the self-control of a toddler, like I was currently telling myself? Probably not.
I decided to forgive myself the same way I would a BFF: verbally. And with eye contact. I dragged myself to the bathroom, looked myself in the mirror, and forgave myself. “I forgive you for getting caught up in a spending frenzy. It’s going to be OK. Thank you for apologizing.”
Resilience Score: Good
It sounds simple and easy, but it took me awhile to get myself to actually do this. But after a few hours of languishing in my own self-pity, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try some positive self-talk. To be honest, it felt completely hokey and awkward. But to my astonishment, it worked. I felt better.
Shouldn’t we value our relationship with ourselves just as much as those with our loved ones? Doing this for myself lifted a weight off my shoulders and cleared the air. It gave me permission to move forward.
Step 2: Assess the damage
Once I forgave myself, I was able to stop dwelling in guilt. My next step was to realistically assess the damage. I returned to my desk to objectively review my credit card statement and budget. After all, it’s hard to repair something if you can’t grasp the damage that’s been done.
Yes, I was way over the amount I allocate for shopping. But after taking a closer look, I noticed that I had barely spent anything on transportation this month. If I also cut my budget for social activities by $125, I would be back on track. I texted a few girlfriends who I had plans with in the upcoming weeks. They happily obliged to cook at home instead of trying a new restaurant and watch Netflix rather than going to a movie. One even mentioned she wanted to watch her spending and was grateful I suggested it.
Though my shopping budget is way over, I made adjustments and compromises in other areas to keep my overall monthly spending on target.
Resilience Score: Needs Improvement
I sat down at my desk with the intention of immediately assessing the damage, but I procrastinated on Facebook and email for a few minutes before finding the courage to pull up the shopping bill. When I first saw it, I felt a quick pang of guilt. But once I started looking at my budget and brainstorming solutions, I started to feel productive and and capable. After I discovered one solution, I felt motivated to find another. Though diving in was momentarily difficult, staying resilient throughout was easy and incredibly rewarding.
Step 3: Detox and Reset
We feel hungover when we have too much booze. In this case, I was in the midst of a spending hangover. Continuing to pull out my credit card would just make the hangover last longer. I decided to engage in a spending detox for 12 hours to feel balanced and start fresh. I hit the “reset” button on spending.
Resilience Score: Excellent
This was the hardest step of all. I entered Starbucks only to immediately exit—I forgot I couldn’t buy my afternoon latte. Instead, I headed home to make a cup of coffee. Dinner was comprised of leftovers instead of takeout or fresh groceries. My favorite $20 yoga class transformed into a simple walk around the park.
Though this was difficult and even felt somewhat silly in the moment, I was proud of myself at the end of the detox period—a stark emotional contrast from just hours before. These moments of saying “no” reminded me of my strength. I was ready to ease back into spending from a place of balance and confidence.
Next up: I’m planning to take steps to prevent spending binges from happening in the first place. However, finding ways to take care of my mental and emotional health post-binge was critical for me. By doing this, I think I’ll be in an even better position to consciously (and lovingly) assess my spending habits.