Why does increased stress lead to higher spending?


According to a recent survey conducted by Credit Karma, a multinational personal finance company based in the United States, a significant number of people view shopping as a great way to relieve stress.

Over half of the 1,000 surveyed consumers admitted to indulging in ‘innocent’ spending, occasionally losing control to cope with anxiety or depression.

Why does increased stress lead to higher spending

So, what is the connection between fatigue, stress, and how individuals make spending decisions? Let’s delve into this article to find out!

The brain is overloaded when making many decisions

Decision fatigue” is a commonly used term that refers to the diminishing ability to make sound and healthy decisions after making too many decisions beforehand. The more decisions you have to make, exhaustion and depletion of energy are inevitable.

On an average day, a person faces more than 35,000 decisions – from what to eat today, which outfit to wear, who to meet, how to tackle work, and so on. All of these consume energy and time, so it’s not surprising that by the end of the day, we often feel tired and drained.

Therefore, it’s not hard to understand why nighttime is a time when we may feel somewhat “vulnerable” to the multitude of promotions from various brands, readily reaching into our wallets without too much thought.

Spending money is the fastest way to become cheerful

Money can’t buy happiness” We’ve all heard this proverb, but scientific evidence actually proves otherwise. As your income level increases, you tend to feel more satisfied and joyful.

The human brain inherently tends to favor small and immediate rewards, and shopping is the quickest way to stimulate the release of dopamine and endorphins—two magical hormones for mood improvement and pleasure.

In particular, spending money on personal pleasures has been shown to elevate our spirits and motivation. It provides a sense of satisfaction, pride, and a justified feeling of reward for the efforts we put in.

Spending money is the fastest way to become cheerful

Navigating Stress-Induced Overspending Moments

Aside from moments of fatigue, there are times when you are prone to excessive spending:

1. During Sadness, or Upsets

When facing a sad event or a sudden crisis, your brain expends a significant amount of energy to analyze and process it. Consequently, your brain may not have the energy and alertness to exert full control over spending.

Additionally, as mentioned earlier, spending is the quickest way to alleviate negative emotions. According to Verywell Mind, food, clothing, and vacations are the most commonly “rewarded” items when stressed.

During Sadness or Upsets

2. Striving to Make a Good Impression

If you’re in the dating phase, you’ll likely have frequent dates, which can lead to spending on stylish outfits and beauty products to make a favorable impression on your partner. Similarly, if you have upcoming business meetings, investing in your appearance to leave a positive impression on clients is crucial.

While making a good impression and earning favor with others is essential, striking a balance between expenditures for appearances and avoiding financial hardship can be challenging.

3. During Special Occasions

According to a LearnVest survey, a staggering 74% of respondents admitted to falling into debt after holidays or special occasions. The reasons may stem from a psychological desire for self-indulgence and reward after facing workplace pressures and wanting to comfort oneself after challenging times.

For example, when visiting a new destination abroad, you initially budget for hotel expenses and basic dining costs. However, once you arrive, you might be tempted to spend on new and exciting experiences in that region.

What to do to deal with uncontrolled spending?

NBC News once stated: “We may feel momentary satisfaction, but discomfort will always come back, and it may even be worse when you add an unexpected credit card debt.”

If anxiety and a continuous stream of bad news have been stressing you out for months, using a credit card might not be the answer. In the long run, you’ll regret having to pay monthly interest on an amount that you cannot afford. Instead, consider taking smart and long-term beneficial measures.

What to do to deal with uncontrolled spending

1. Limit Shopping Decisions When Fatigued

Next time you feel like buying something out of sadness, wait for about a day before making a decision. During that time, take care of yourself by going for a walk, taking a warm bath, or engaging in a favorite activity while working on the emotions that drive your desire to purchase to make yourself more comfortable.

2. Stay Away from Social Media and “Livestream” Worlds

Online shopping has never been easier than it is today, with everything just a click away. Start by distancing yourself from the enticing world of sales events and instead carefully consider what items you genuinely need.

3. Always Have a Savings/Emergency Fund

Agree that unexpected situations and emergencies arise in our lives. If you happen to overspend, don’t blame or feel guilty about yourself. Always have a fixed amount set aside to compensate for these expenditures.

Always Have a Savings_Emergency Fund

4. Take on a No-Spend Challenge

Choose a day to only buy necessities like gasoline, medication, utilities, etc. Exceptions might include your morning latte, eating out for lunch, or afternoon snacks. Instead, be proactive by making coffee at home, preparing lunch, and bringing snacks with you. When you practice this challenge over several days, you’ll be surprised at the money you save.

5. Find Ways to Reduce Stress

Exercise is a natural stress reliever that triggers the release of endorphins, providing a sense of well-being. So, hop on your bike, go for a run on the treadmill, or take a walk outside. Even tidying up your home can be a good workout. So, move to reduce stress rather than sinking deeper into debt.


In summary, the connection between stress and spending behavior is evident, with emotional states and decision fatigue playing pivotal roles. While shopping can provide momentary relief, it can also lead to financial regret.

To combat impulsive spending, individuals should consider delaying purchases, managing their online presence, maintaining savings, and embracing stress-reduction strategies. Balancing emotional well-being and financial prudence is key to achieving lasting financial satisfaction and stability.

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