Reasons for Overspending

You’ve seen her racing through the aisles at local clothing and department stores. She’s fingering the clothing racks, trying on jackets and robes without heading into the fitting room. Anything she touches is tossed into her shopping cart for purchase.

She knows all the name brands by heart and can recite them like a child spitting back the alphabet. She never looks at the price tags on anything … because price is not a concern. If she likes, she’s going to buy it – no matter what.

She is the dazed shopaholic. Every store hosts one. What we do not know about her is that she cannot afford a single item in her cart. She bites her nails all the way home because she does not know how she will pay for everything in her car once the bill comes – and worse: how will she tell her husband how much she has spent today alone?

The motivations behind this kind of overspending are various and, most of the time, a psychic response to some unresolved emotional issue going on inside her. Here are some of the common impulses that may be helping to drive the bill up for her.


Because the U.S. social climate has always been one undergirded by economics, the amount of money one appears to have has become a way to gauge community power. Those who have are in control. Those who have the power to spend at leisure without worry about the payoffs appear to be in control of their own lives. Being able to swipe a credit card or pull wads of cash out of a purse is a huge ego stroke – and the ego takes priority over the means to truly afford a purchase.


Have you ever been around siblings who have to keep “one-upping” each other when they make purchases? It is the same mentality as keeping up with the Joneses: you have to appear to have the biggest, the best, the brightest and the most expensive item there is. One brother buys a BMW; the other has to have a Mercedes. Maintaining a public image is, again, connected to the need for power. People are willing to lose their entire savings just to keep up an image.


Some people spend uncontrollably because they feel they “deserve” it. Perhaps it is because they have just survived some great financial struggle, because they work hard and never reward themselves, or because a spouse always seems to get whatever he or she wants. For some, it is a lifelong commitment to healing an emotional scar: they grew up poor and vowed not to ever feel “poor” again. Impoverished childhoods, in this case, have helped to create a poor self-image.


Overspenders sometimes believe they will be judged for not having the money and spend so that others will not know their true financial situations.


Spending can be at its most reckless when it is a way to avoid the truths of your own life. If you have just lost a job, or have a cheating spouse, just discovered a serious health issue or know that you are about to lose a home, you may spend to delay confronting that truth.


Dealing with the death of a loved one or fighting depression can sink you into a spending frenzy. Sometimes you have no idea how much money is leaving your account, but you spend because it soothes your grief or depression a little and makes you feel less detached from the world.


Boredom is one of the easiest spending traps to fall into. You go to the local department store and buy tons of storage totes, plastic food storage containers, tons of toilet paper – things you do not readily need. These purchases hang out around your home (sometimes still in the bags you brought them home in) and accumulate dust because you really did not need to buy them. Bored shoppers are at great risk for hoarding. Before they know it, there is not a clear walking path from the front door to any place in the house.


Lots of money is wasted because the shopper was too lazy to either perform the task himself (i.e., shoe shining), or he has not done the comparison shopping that would make him knowledgeable enough to know avoid the highest prices. Instead, he buys the first thing he sees.


There is no “ka-ching” sound that resonates when you swipe a credit card, but for many buyers, there should be. There is a huge swell inside of them each time the magnetic stripe of the card slides down a processing machine … and it becomes an instant high when the purchase is approved. One reason this credit card high may occur is because it is not cash. You are not fazed because you do not have to physically give up cash, but the huge bill still comes at the end of the billing cycle.


You are due for a bonus or raise, or you just received a letter saying that the insurance company is about to send a check to cover the costs that came with your accident. You do not wait for the check; you begin to spend immediately charging everything in sight. It never occurs to you that there may be some other delay until the check arrives or that an economic slump might bump you out of line for your raise or bonus. Have the money in hand first and then spend wisely. Spending money that has not yet arrived is almost as delusional as making purchases because you believe you will win the lottery.


So many people in love would do just about anything to keep their significant others happy – including buying them the world. If you cannot afford it, simply sit down and discuss it. If the other person does not understand, you might need to re-evaluate your relationship. If love always costs (in dollars) them it may be time to let it go.


Busy parents more than anyone else fall prey to trying to “buy” the affections of their neglected children. Do not attempt to make up lost time with expensive gifts. Once the time is gone you cannot get it back. The best thing to do is to turn a corner, apologize to your child for being absent and make the best of the time you have now.


Food and decor for family gatherings and gift-giving during these times are a major hit in the wallet. People will do anything lavish to honor holiday traditions. If you are the host, you will be judged for the type of party you give. Forget the judgment; think about your money. These occasions are best handled on a budget or by asking everyone who will be participating to share the cost.


Because money management has never been part of the national curriculum, many working adults have never learned to manage their money. They spend, do not keep good records of that spending, never save or invest and often live from paycheck to paycheck.