Have you ever started the day without any planned expenses yet by the end of the day, you have less money than you had at the beginning? If your answer is yes, then you are not alone. Millions of people fall prey to spending triggers every single day, which undermine their efforts at controlling their finances.

A spending trigger is any situation, emotion, location or even person that tempts you to use money, which you had set aside for other purposes or hadn’t intended to use at all. They are dangerous because they are often subconscious yet they can have serious repercussions, such as forcing you to take on unplanned debt, failing to pay for essentials on time and ultimately, preventing you from achieving financial freedom. What are some common triggers?

  1. Emotional Triggers

If your first impulse when experiencing strong feelings is to buy something, you may be an emotional spender. Jealousy, guilt, fear and sadness sometimes prompt people to spend money  spontaneously on things they do not need in an attempt to ease these negative emotions. Even hunger can cause you to overspend unintentionally, which is why you are advised to go grocery shopping on a full stomach. However, even positive emotions can encourage irresponsible spending. Some people are more extravagant when they are in a celebratory mood because they feel the need to reward themselves. 

Once you figure out the emotions that trigger your spending, find an alternative activity to replace them. That way, the next time you experience that emotion, spending money will not be your first impulse. 

  1. Physical Triggers

Sometimes, spending is triggered by where you are, physically. In the same way a child will want candy once they pass a candy shop, you will probably feel compelled to buy something you want if you find yourself near where it is sold. Thus, if you avoid the physical trigger, it will be easier to avoid the temptation to spend too. If, for instance, your daily route forces you to pass near a clothing store and you want to avoid buying too many clothes, then use a different route. If that is impossible, then make sure you don’t have any money with you when you pass there. 

  1. Situational Triggers

You are more likely to spend money in certain situations than others. Looking at your previous expenditure, can you tell what these situations are? Perhaps after having a few drinks, you usually offer to buy a round or two for the people you are with. Maybe every time you meet up with your friends, you end up overspending. Like physical triggers, the easiest way to deal with situational triggers is to avoid the situation altogether. If hanging out with friends causes you to be extravagant, avoid them or meet with them at home, where there are fewer opportunities to spend. 

  1. Relational Triggers 

These may be the hardest triggers to overcome because they involve your relationships with other people. You may be a generous person. If someone asks you for a loan, you will give it. You are always the one “buying lunch” or picking up the tab when with a group. Indeed, generosity is a virtue, but if yours reaches a point where it is hurting your financial health, then you need to subdue it. This is not to say that you should become a miser. Instead, budget a certain amount each month for relational spending. Once that has been depleted, you must learn to say no, even if it is difficult to do so.

In conclusion, a crucial step in controlling your spending is understanding what compels it and then managing your reaction the next time you are triggered. This way, you will have more power over your money, increase your capacity to save and invest, and gain some financial discipline.

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