Do you notice that sometimes you just want to spend money? It’s like a little switch that goes off in your head that triggers you to buy, buy, buy. That, my friend, is what I call a spending trigger.
Understanding the practical side of money doesn’t mitigate the emotional side. This is especially true when it comes to spending. Sure, you can learn money management skills, but unless to you acknowledge how you EMOTIONALLY respond to spending money, your habits will never change. This is especially true when it comes to spending triggers.
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What is a Spending Trigger? (2:08)
A spending trigger is anything that compels you to spend spontaneously. A spending trigger isn’t going to the office supply store because you ran out of ink. That’s just something that came up or unplanned spending. If you need help understanding the difference between need vs. emotional spending, check this out!
Triggers are a form of emotional spending.
By nature, triggers are emotional spending because they’re reactive spending. They’re never based on a need. Rather, spending triggers are a reaction to internal and external factors, such as a recent experience in your business or personal life, something that somebody said to you or something you’re telling yourself, or even your limiting beliefs about money.
There are lots of situations that spark spending triggers, but there are only two types of spending triggers.
Positive Spending Trigger
These are spending triggers that are a result of something positive happening in your life.
We often respond with spending when something good happens, which is also why we leave these types of triggers unchecked. We tell ourselves that it’s all for a celebration, and we deserve to spend money!
Negative Spending Trigger
This is more commonly associated with spending triggers because these are spending triggers that result from negative experiences. We’re using money and spending as a mechanism for self-soothing.
Just because something is a spending trigger doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t buy something. It’s all about intentionality. It’s not about shaming positive and negative spending triggers. We’re just becoming aware of what our spending triggers are.
Recognize the triggers.
Most people have spending triggers that are positive AND spending triggers that are negative. It isn’t just one or the other.
The other thing to keep in mind is that spending triggers can be layered on top of each other.
Here’s an example: You get a big check in the mail. On its own, that doesn’t make you spend. You’d put that money in your savings account. However, this time, you’ve worked 12 hour days for the past two weeks. You realize how exhausted and overworked you are. You think, “I deserve to buy myself something nice as a reward for working so hard.”
If you were in a position of not being overworked you wouldn’t spend money. And if you were overworked and but not received money, you also wouldn’t spend it. What triggered the spending was BOTH of these factors layer on top of each other.
Your spending triggers are unique to you because you have a personal relationship with money. Your history with money, plus your experiences with money now and in the past, contribute to the complexity of your spending triggers.
Common Spending Triggers (9:42)
Here are the most common types of spending triggers:
This is unexpected money that comes into your business. It feels like free money because it magically fell into your lap without any effort!
You think, “Well, I have this extra money now, I might as well spend it.” I’ll be honest with you; This is my biggest spending trigger. This is what gets me in trouble because I have a limiting belief that money’s hard to come by, and it requires a lot of work to obtain. When I earn money, sometimes I feel like it’s my only chance to buy something.
Sometimes, it doesn’t need to be extra money. Just the act of getting paid and money coming into your account can trigger spending.
Maybe you’ve been waiting a long time for a big check to come in. Maybe you’ve been waiting to finally land a big client, and you finally land them! It’s not extra money, it’s just regular revenue. But as you imagine getting paid, you immediately start thinking about what you’re going to buy when that money hits your account.
Major Milestones or Win
This is when something really good happens in your business and you go and buy yourself something as a reward, also known as celebratory spending.
Sometimes we do celebrate ourselves with money- which is totally fine! But, if you’re consistently buying on an impulse every time something good happens, you’ve got a spending trigger.
This is when you’re working so much and so hard that you feel the need to do something for yourself to make up for the overwork. You think, “I’ve been working all the time. I just really need to do something nice for myself and give myself a break.”
You’re craving self-care so you spend money on things that feel like self-care. However, the root cause of your need for self-care isn’t addressed and the spending just acts as a band-aid.
Stress or Sadness
This is using buying as medicine. You’re imaging how carefree and happy your life would be if you could afford that one thing. Or, the actual act of shopping relaxes and destresses you. In both of these cases, you spend money to escape from what’s currently causing you sadness or stress.
This is a major spending trigger for people! This is when there’s a sale or discount that feels too good to pass up. It’s a type of fear-based spending.
You’re not planning on buying something… but the price is SO good that you reason that, if you pass up such a good deal, it means that you’re not good with money. Often we use saving money to justify spending money…even though you’re still buying something you didn’t plan for!
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
You’re worried that if you don’t purchase that amazing thing, you’ll never get the chance again. This could show up as a limited-time item, the urgency of a cart closing, or an item that’s selling out.
This is another example of fear-based spending. The fear of never being able to buy this thing that you didn’t want to begin with is so great that you impulsively buy it.
Just in Case
This spending trigger is based around something that you haven’t needed, don’t need, and probably won’t need. BUT you are buying it “just in case” you DO need it. Besides buying things you don’t need, this can also show up as buying multiples of something that you haven’t even used yet!
This one is going to be controversial, but here’s the deal… Many people use the excuse of spending money on others to justify their spending. We often believe that if we’re generous, it means we’re a good, more likable, that we’ll have more friends, and that we’ll be more popular. So we spend a chunk of our money on other people.
Often, with this type of spending, it’s more about what you’re getting out of it emotionally than what you’re giving the other person. Are you buying something that the person really wants? Or are you buying something YOU want and giving it to another person? Do you get a buzz from making the purchase, even if it’s not for you? If so, it’s a spending trigger.
Those were the most common spending triggers for small business owners, but not all people have the same spending triggers.
Identifying Your Spending Triggers. (23:28)
Identifying your own spending triggers helps you overcome them. But where do you start?
Keep a Spending Journal for 2 Weeks
The best way to identify your spending triggers is to keep a spending journal for two weeks. It’ll help you track when, where and why you’re spending money. At the end of two weeks, you’ll reflect on your spending patterns.
A spending journal is not for the faint of heart. You have to confront your spending habits for two weeks which can be difficult. It takes diligence and motivation because it’s hard for most people to do one thing every day for 2 weeks and it’s even harder when that one thing has to do with money.
I have a template that you can use for your spending journal. You can tune in to the video at timestamp 24:40 to watch the demo. You can observe how I fill in the template to cover a variety of spending habits. This journal will help you understand what you’re buying, how often you’re buying it, and what your reasoning was behind the purchase.
Immediately after your purchase
These are the questions you’ll answer immediately after the purchase:
- How long did it take you to buy?
- What’ your mood today?
- Did anything different or notable happen today?
- How did you feel right before buying?
- How did you feel right after buying?
24 hours after your purchase
You’ll ask yourself two questions 24 hours after the purchase:
- How do you feel about the purchase now?
- Is there anything you would change about your decision?
3 days after your purchase
3 days after buying you’ll ask yourself the same questions:
- How do you feel about the purchase now?
- Is there anything you would change about your decision?
Two Weeks Later
Two weeks after starting your spending journal you’ll ask yourself a series of reflection questions. Go back through all of your entries and search for patterns. The key here is to search for trends and answer:
- What time of day did you make most of your purchases? Why do you think that is?
- How long do you usually take before buying something?
- What types of events trigger you to spend? Do you respond to positive or negative events (or both) by spending?
- What emotions do you feel before spending? Why do you think you feel that way?
- What emotions do you feel after spending? Why do you think you feel that way?
- What’s your response to spending 24 hours later?
- What’s your response to spending 3 days later?
I know that seems like a lot of questions to answer but they’re important for finding your triggers!
The last step is to list your spending triggers, the unmet need associated with each trigger, and an alternative to spending money. The point is to use the information from your spending journal to come up with alternatives to spending.
Even if you don’t spend, keep a log of the days that you don’t spend. It’s helpful to understand the circumstances that DON’T trigger you to spend too.