Try This Simple Trick to Get a Grip on Emotional Spending

A unique twist on using YNAB’s memo field …

One of the things that I love most about YNAB is how customizable it is. The Four Rules and the software are there to support you, but they’re not pushy about what your budget looks like. Financial priorities should represent life goals, after all, so it’s entirely up to you to determine the perfect prescription for your success.

That flexibility often leads to creative budgeting tactics like, for example, one YNABer’s use of the memo field: recording, with the appropriate emoji, her mood at the time of her purchases.

Why Track Your Mood?

It might sound superfluous and strange to keep tabs on your mood in YNAB, but, in a world where marketers study our every spending habit, it couldn’t hurt to give them a run for your money by gathering and analyzing your spending data for yourself. Consider the following:

  • When we evaluate purchases, we engage our limbic system—the area of the brain that processes feelings and memories—rather than our rational left brain.
  • A poll of 2,000 Brits showed that they typically spent £104 more per month if they shopped while feeling sad or stressed, and 46 percent admitted to shopping in reaction to stress.
  • And, 66 percent of online shopping behavior is, at least, partly driven by emotions—both good and bad ones.

Whether or not we want to admit it, we’re emotional beings (and emotional consumers).

The Emoji Approach

So, let’s say you buy groceries to make a big dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday. You put a smiley face in the memo field because it feels good to treat them. The next week, life throws you some punches. You hit the store, again, but this time you load up on comfort food for one. Sadly, it’s a sad face in the memo field.

Over time, your emojis become emotional breadcrumb trails that point you towards the real drivers behind your purchases. If you see that you’re likely to overspend on groceries when you’re upset, it’ll be easier to catch yourself before you make it to the cash register with a frozen pizza that you don’t really want. Rather than blowing your ‘Grocery’ category, your awareness of your spending habits gives you the chance to put the pizza back, and maybe take a walk, instead.

The Impact of Awareness

When you know what your spending triggers are, you have the power to change—you’re no longer doomed to repeat your ingrained habits! If you struggle to stick to your budget, maybe give this a try. The only thing you’ve got to lose is buyer’s remorse.