I have seen and heard many comments on recalling your childhood money memories or understanding your emotional money triggers. It is true that what we are taught and experience in childhood, sticks with us as we grow into adulthood.

Children really do learn what they live.  If you grew up in a home where money is spent wisely, then you may have learned not to overspend.  

If you grew up in a home where money is used to fill emotional holes, you may have learned to overspend to feel in control.

So, how do we overcome our challenges and better handle our personal finances?  As with any issue that is a challenge, we have to first recognize that there is an issue.  

Now that you know there is a problem, what are you willing to do to resolve, manage, or eradicate it?

To start, watch and document your spending. Just like with monitoring eating habits during weight loss, jot down what you purchased, how you felt when you purchased it, and which emotion triggered this action.

Sometimes a trigger can be a bad day at work; such as being passed over for a promotion or being harassed by a co-worker or manager.  The trigger could also be a bad relationship where you are not respected or loved.  

Whatever your trigger, you need to identify it and recognize its effect on you. The outcome can be feelings of inadequacy or loneliness which normally translates into plain old stress.  

I do want to be clear that purchases are not just clothes or any other type of retail therapy.  Spending is spending whether it is an office supply store, a grocery store, or a dollar store.  

Once you note your triggers, determine if you can handle resolutions on your own. If not, seek help from a professional such as a financial instructor or coach.

Taking simple steps can still yield beneficial results.

Below are a couple of ways that can help ward off the urge to splurge or self-medicate:

  1. Set financial goals and view them daily or at least weekly so that you do not forget your purpose.  If you know what you are saving for (retirement, new appliance, vacation, etc.), reviewing your goal sheet will keep the reminder in the forefront of your mind so distractions are easier to handle.
  2. Find another outlet that is constructive and/or cost effective; start a workout routine, relax with your favorite hobby, or plan events at home.  You can host a potluck movie night or a theme party where everyone brings one or more items that they want to get rid of and sell for a minimal price.  Say the theme is Designer Bag night; everyone gets to bring their unwanted good condition purse to sell.  Light hors’ de oeuvres can be served and everyone can gain a nice item for an inexpensive price.  You also get to enjoy time with friends, release unused items, and make a few bucks in the process.  

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