Even my most disciplined clients can find themselves in situations where their smart decision-making seems to escape them. This reality used to catch me off guard.
There’s a certain thrill in witnessing a client’s financial progress, their improved decision-making, and the feeling of an overwhelming sense of pride in their financial growth and achievements.
But then, the unexpected can occur. Those rockstar clients, the ones who seem invincible in their financial choices, suddenly make a decision so out of character that I’m left feeling surprised, or even a little disappointed — because of the impact it has on the trajectory of their goals and simply because it’s just so out of character.
After experiencing this time and again I finally realized — the issue isn’t that these spending mishaps occur. The issue was that I wasn’t expecting them to occur, and therefore, I wasn’t prepared, which means there was no way I could prepare my clients for them.
Despite it happening to all of us, myself and all my coaches included (who are also rockstars with their money), for some reason I had this belief that spending mishaps shouldn’t happen.
So I shifted my perspective, and I’d love to invite you to shift yours too.
Instead of approaching the idea of “impulsive spending” with rose-tinted glasses, I began to wonder, “Why is this so common?” and “What are the triggers that cause this to happen?”
I stopped being taken aback by the existence of these triggers and instead I became prepared for them.
A more prepared coach = a more prepared client.
We both started to anticipate these moments, turning potential setbacks into proactive discussions.
Clients began identifying their triggers in real time, allowing them to reassess their thoughts and make more informed decisions in those crucial moments.
It was a game changer.
Instead of impulsive spending being unexpected and therefore potentially derailing the entire plan and trajectory of their goals, we acknowledged that this was likely to happen. And the result? My clients learned to be ready for moments of weakness or to identify their spending triggers. This also taught them how to respond productively and successfully. Their progress barely slowed down, if at all, and they remained confident and excited about their money.
Like I said … game changer!
So what’s the culprit?
First, we have to understand what spending triggers are.
Spending triggers are the emotions we experience that cause us to give in to spending temptations.
Typically what happens is this — 1. We feel an emotion and 2. We spend money in order to magnify that emotion or replace it with a different emotion.
The spur-of-the-moment unplanned decision is what we use to create that emotional shift.
Let’s look at some examples. Any of these sound familiar?
- You spend when you’re happy; you’ve had a good day and it’s your way of celebrating. You spend in order to magnify your feelings of joy and happiness. (“Let’s go out to eat! I got a raise today!”)
- You’ve had a bad day, and spending is a way of feeling better. (“Ugh, I’m so stressed, this new outfit will make me feel better.”)
- You’re bored. (“I wonder what’s new on Amazon…” while sitting at night watching TV.)
- You’re overly busy. (“I can’t even think about that right now,” or, “I don’t even know where to start,” and “my kids neeeeed new pajamas so I’ll just go shopping instead.”)
- There’s something you need to work on, and shopping or spending money is used as a distraction. (“I couldn’t wash my car because I was at Target getting some things.”)
Notice though that typically there’s an emotion that triggers the spending. What creates that emotion can be any number of circumstances.
Your goal is to pay attention to the emotion, what you’re feeling, when an impulsive spending choice is made.
We want to identify that underlying emotion, because unfortunately, purchases made or spending done as the result of a spending trigger will more often than not have a negative consequence. We may feel better in the moment, but once the feeling subsides, we usually don’t feel proud of the choice, because when we look back we realize we weren’t really in control.
Here’s maybe the biggest reason this is important for us to discuss: Depending on the size of the purchase, it can negatively impact a future goal or your big picture plan, which can create more negative feelings, and then you’re in a vicious cycle.
The goal isn’t necessarily that you don’t shop or spend money in those moments. It’s about having awareness so you can better predict and prepare for them.
Oftentimes the greatest benefit and outcome of us doing this exercise is that any guilt you feel when triggers happen will be alleviated. Instead of second guessing, feeling badly or guilty about spending, you can spend the money and grant yourself some grace as you practice these new habits.
We all have spending triggers. What’s important isn’t that you immediately eliminate them; what’s important is gaining awareness of them.
Helping you to get ahead and gain control of your spending is just one part of your money that I look at during Your Money Masterplan session. I look at four key elements of your money (income, savings, debt and spending) and create a personalized plan for you to become more financially fit. Add your name to my coaching waitlist to find out more about getting Your Money Masterplan that’s as unique as you.