Stress shopping during lockdown? Your guide to how to stop spending money (unnecessarily)

61% of Brits are spending more online as a result of COVID-19

This is your guide to how to stop spending money, from an expert
(Image credit: Getty)

61% of Brits are spending more online as a result of COVID-19

Question: have you noticed you're spending more online during this lockdown?

You're not alone on that front. Understandably, as we're told to stay home to save lives, retailers have seen online sales increase dramatically. 61% of Brits have admitted to shopping more online during Covid-19, with the rapid increase in e-spending guesstimated to have added £5.3bn to UK e-commerce sales in last year. Plus, search for 'how to stop spending money' is up +60%.

Experts are calling it 'comfort spending', not aided by our increasingly cashless society, and warning that, now more than ever, it's important to get a handle on your spending.

So, without further ado, keep reading as a pro shares the definition of stress spending, plus her top tips for how to put a pin in it - for good.

Why are people spending more at current? 

It could be a whole host of reasons, according to Catherine Morgan, founder of The Money Panel, host of the In Her Financial Shoes weekly podcast, and award-winning innovator in the financial coaching industry.

We're living in a highly stressful time, with many people currently either on furlough or coping with redundancy. Pair that with being asked to stay home during yet another national lockdown, and spending money online, for many, may feel like an easy release and a fun way to spend the time.

Sound like you? Don't worry - stress, in general, is one of the key reasons you may overspend, but more on that later. For now, know that lots of people are turning to online shopping as a way to ease anxiety and soothe inner worries, and we're here to help you get your spending back in control. You need never Google 'how to stop spending money' again.

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 So, why do we overspend?

As above, for a whole range of reasons, but these five are the main underlying culprits.

1. You're feeling emotional

That can be bored, stressed, lonely, or sad, Catherine shares.

2. It's become a habit

Ever feel like you're running on auto-pilot? We often feel that patterns keep us safe, and so if you've fallen into the pattern of 'treating' yourself to new clothes every Friday, or bits for the house when you would be socialising, you could have formed a habit pattern already.

3. You have a bad relationship with money

Feel like you often get stuck in patterns when you're focusing on a 'lack of’ mindset? Then you might have a bad relationship with money. "Your brain will look for more info to reaffirm this belief, further pushing you spend to solve the 'problem'," explains Catherine.

4. You don’t plan ahead

In other words, you are reactive, not proactive. More on this in a bit.

5. You speak too negatively to yourself

If you tell yourself you're stressed, you're more likely to tell yourself that the solution is to spend. "This can often then lead to feelings of resentment, guilt, shame, and buyers regret," explains Catherine.

So, how do you overcome it? "The key is to identify the emotional trigger or the cue. For example, you may be feeling the emotion of boredom and spending to over-compensate for said emotion. Why? Well, it's human instinct to seek the feeling of safety and security at a time when we feel out of control," she shares. "When we don’t feel good enough, we fear we won’t have enough, and can sometimes overcompensate. ”

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5 tips: how to stop spending money

1. Identify the root cause

Try this 6 step strategy. Ask yourself:

  1. Emotion – How did you feel when you spent?
  2. Thought – What were you saying to yourself? For example, was it “This pair of jeans will make me feel better"?
  3. Behaviour – What did you do as a result of this thought? For example, did you grab your phone and start browsing your favourite designer store?
  4. Differently – What could you do instead? For example, could you leave your phone in another room and, instead, do something that makes you feel good, like having a bubble bath, or reading a book?
  5. Motivation – Ask yourself how motivated do you feel to change? Rank it on a scale of 1 to 10. "This is important, as in order to change a habit you need to be internally motivated to do so," Catherine explains. If the motivation is low, you are unlikely to enforce changes, she shares.
  6. Consequence – What is the consequence of inaction? Try find a new purpose for the money you don’t spend, she advises. "For example, you could set up a treat pot with a set amount allocated to no guilt treats, overpay on your mortgage, or save it for a holiday." Give every pound a purpose.

2. Evoke a delay

"Leaving items in your shopping basket for 48 hours (like a cooling-off period) can be helpful," she explains. This gives you the space to return to the decision when you are not feeling emotionally triggered.

3. Find a new path

In other words, try and work out what else, exactly, makes you feel that emotion? Catherine suggests creating a comfort box with your favourite treats (that could be a candle, a soft blanket, or your favourite chocolate bar), and have it ready as an alternative way to seek the same response. Our guide to self care ideas might just help.

4. Give yourself freedom

That means permission to treat yourself in other ways, too. "Rather than restrict your spending habits entirely, at a time when let's face it, we all need a treat, create a separate savings pot. Or, you could try and withdraw some cash and stick it in an envelope. That way, you give yourself permission to spend guilt-free but in alignment with your budget," she explains.

5. Think about your timing

This is important. "Don’t make any big spending decisions in the week," Catherine advises. Instead, she advises saving them for the weekend, when you may have more downtime to make better, less emotionally charged decisions.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.