There is a psychology to everything – even why we let more dollar bills wiggle out of our wallets than might be wise. But the good news is that once you understand why you do what you do, you can try on a new, more budget-friendly habit. Here are the top three reasons moms tend to overspend.
- We can be people pleasers.
I know you have been there: you are in the supermarket and your children are looking at you with those big puppy-dog eyes and pleading, “Can’t we just buy the super pack of cookies with the marshmallows or the cereal with the pirate map or the jump rope that has SpongeBob handles?”
It reminds me of my son’s birthday party that I had a few years back at a party-themed restaurant. More kids showed up than I had expected and a few bold parents were ordering “gluten-free everything” off the menu. Mid-party I knew I was sunk – I had overspent. And then this damn balloon-making clown strides into the party room. Happily, he exclaimed, “Do the kids want balloons? They are only $3 a piece!” I looked at all their hopeful little faces already lining up asking for a dog or a flower and wanting to please them all I said, “Why not?” (All the while cursing the clown.) I went home that night and tallied just how much “extra” I had spent and vowed never to be mowed over again.
It’s a wonderful quality to care for others and to want to make people happy – but having a limit and sticking to it is healthy for all concerned. I’ve found it helpful to know my limit, to write it down and to communicate it to my family beforehand. That way you and they know that there is a firm line. There’s no guilt, there’s no pleading, there’s no puppy-dog eyes. By sharing the plan, you can all act as a family unit to stay on track financially.
- There is a high to getting a good deal.
Face it. Who doesn’t want to feel smart and savvy, like they scored – like they found a deal that may never be found again? There is an actual endorphin rush that occurs when you feel you are the queen of the shopping mall. Now it may seem like I am obsessed with clowns with balloons – but I once purchased a summer purse at a store grand opening because they had happy clowns everywhere. And, yes, the purse was being sold at a good price. But it was nowhere near summer and by the time summer came along, there were plenty of purses in my budget that would have done the job. But I can still remember the excitement at having secured my summer purse at an unheard of price. I nearly wanted to high five the clown.
- Purchasing can be an emotional bottle.
Just as a baby asks for a bottle when he or she is not hungry (really just wanting the comfort) so goes the shopping trip. Ever shop when you have the blues or feel bad about yourself or your life? Yeah – me too. It didn’t go well. Four months ago, I had a fight with a friend while on the phone in the grocery store. After I hung up, I purchased twice the amount I usually buy! Out went the budget and in went thoughts like: we haven’t had really good steak in a while, maybe I should stock up on two-for-one gummy bears since they remind me camp when I was nine, my son loves mango ice cream, maybe I will buy two gallons. It wasn’t pretty. I got home, unpacked it all and was stunned. It was as if I had been shopping while impaired.
How to watch the overspending:
- Think about your firm-budget line before you enter a store, before you go on vacation, and before you throw a birthday party. Communicate it to your family. Make it a family project to stay on track.
- Remind yourself that telling yourself “no” is a positive habit. Reward yourself in a non-monetary way when you stick to your budget.
- Remember that you may experience discomfort when you can’t please everyone. Practice it – I’m telling you it gets easier!
- Have an instant gratification alert. Sure it may be a good deal, but do you need the product? Good deals will come along again – pat yourself on the back when you can walk away from a purchasing high.
- Don’t shop while emotionally impaired. If you are hungry, angry, lonely, tired or overwhelmed (H.A.L.T.O.) back away from the store. Get some rest, soothe your soul and approach the purchases when you feel more balanced.
- Use an app to stay on track! There are some wonderful new apps out there to help you monitor and control your finances. Some that I like are: http://expenditure.com/, www.mint.com or http://www.ireconcile.com/ireconcile .
If you find yourself falling off track, don’t beat yourself up. We can all slip backwards when exhausted, feeling vulnerable or if we’ve just had a bad day. Just gently pick yourself up the next day, dust yourself off and whatever you do – if you see a clown with a stack of balloons, head the other way.