The Psychology of Spending Money


If your wallet is feeling a little lighter from impulse buys, blame your brain. It surges with feel-good chemicals after a purchase, making you crave more. That’s why therapy for shopping addiction actually exists. Heartland Bank is here to help you understand your brain’s cravings – and how to fight back.

The role of advertising

Advertisers and marketers are pros at sabotaging your brain by making it laser-in on potent desires and fears:

  • The desire for health and well-being
  • The fear of physical harm
  • The desire to be loved
  • The fear of financial loss
  • The desire for recognition
  • The desire to look the best

Our brain is warped into thinking our desires and fears must be satisfied like the people in the ads we consume. Our quest for perfection fuels a mad case of “Keep up with the Joneses” syndrome.

Immediate gratification and impulse shopping

This compulsive need to always have the best thing creates a need for immediate gratification, which can lead to impulse shopping, or shopping without thinking of future repercussions. When you purchase a $300 TV because your friend just got one, you no longer have that $300 to spend on important things like food, gas or rent. This can lead to higher credit card use and rampant credit card debt.

How to outsmart your pesky, irresponsible brain

Here are a few ways you can overcome the overpowering chemical reactions in your brain that make you want to go out and blow your budget on things you don’t truly need:

  • Never go shopping in a foul mood (sad, angry, depressed, etc.)
  • Ask the following questions:
    • Will I really use what I’m buying?
    • Can I get this product or service for less somewhere less?
    • Why am I purchasing this item?
    • Can I actually afford this product or service?
    • Was this need real before I saw it on the shelf, in a commercial, or on the airwaves?

Your brain may celebrate the moment when you let the cash flow, but you’ll celebrate in the long run with a healthy dose of self-restraint and smart planning.

Heartland Bank

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