Compulsive buying otherwise known as impulsive spending is a behaviour that can be influenced by mental health, personality and adverse childhood experiences. People may spend impulsively because they feel it is comforting and distracted from negative experiences. It can be considered similar to binge eating, where food is used to comfort.
Impulsive spending occurs when the person spends spontaneously, struggles to manage their thoughts including behavioural biases and emotions and is seduced by marketing including social media. Impulsive spending is usually not planned, sudden without the consideration of consequences. The benefits is usually temporary with feelings of guilt and regret afterwards. The person does not need the item but wants to have it without considering the negative consequences. Positive consequences for impulsive spending behaviour may include a high feeling, comfort, improved identity and improved mood.
While impulsive spending can have positive consequences they are short lives and overcome with negative consequences that can be damaging and lasting. Negative consequences include problems with relationships, financial hardship, negative effects on mental health and low self-esteem. However, the consequences may not be fully acknowledged as the thoughts of spending is pervasive.
Impulsive spending is an external coping strategy. Therefore internal locus of control can manage the behaviour. Cognitive behaviour therapy, and acceptance commitment therapy are treatment options available. Thinking about long-term goals, distress tolerance, reviewing your relationship with money, healing from childhood adversity, and reflecting on what you want to buy can help with impulsive spending. Financial literacy and reviewing your budget can also help improve money management and spending behaviour. Moreover, healthier coping strategies can also alleviate spending behaviour. While these strategies sound easy, it can be challenging for the person to manage the behaviour, however with time, support, trust and patience it can be done.