Stress and Spending

Stress and Spending

Break the connection between stress and excess spending.

Provided by GreenPath Financial Wellness

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted millions of Americans — both financially and emotionally. Juggling changes in work schedules, loss of income and/or caring for children out of school are daily realities for many. Over time, the stress of these challenges can add up and affect all areas of our health, including our financial health.

How Stress Impacts Spending

According to a joint study out of Rutgers and the University of Miami, stress causes people to use their resources to regain a sense of control. In many ways, stress is a response to a loss of control in a particular situation, and one way we cope with that is by spending. The study also notes that stress can lead to both beneficial and reckless consumer behaviors.
For many people, stress tends to increase their saving habits. This is to ensure that money is available when needed. Saving is always a great idea for establishing financial wellness, so this aspect of stress can actually be beneficial.
But for others, stress increase may lead to increased spending on things they perceive as necessities and that give them a sense of control over an uncontrollable situation. However, stress also alters our perception of what those necessities are. (A mass run on toilet paper and hand sanitizer, anyone?)
One of the authors of the study says stressful situations lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol. This makes us hyper sensitive to threats, so we work hard to ease that feeling. In short, we enter into survival mode.
So how can you cope with stress? The first step is to prevent it before it starts.

How to Prevent Stress

While we can’t control every stressful situation that life throws at us, there are two time-tested ways to prevent stress from taking over our mind and body.


Meditation is a powerful tool for preventing stress, and it’s becoming more and more popular in top companies and schools. While meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, it has only recently undergone scientific scrutiny. Researchers found that meditation is a successful tool for reducing anxiety and depression when practiced for as little as 10 minutes per day.

Get moving.

Exercise and physical activity is another great way to prevent stress before it starts. When you work out, you produce a group of natural painkilling chemicals called endorphins. These help lift your mood and make you feel at ease. Additionally, endorphins help you sleep, which is something that is often disturbed during stressful times.

How to Deal with Stress Once You’ve Got It

If you are feeling the urge to impulse-shop, try these strategies:

Give it 24 hours.

If you’ve spotted an item you just need to have, stop and say you’ll come back tomorrow to get it. If you still want it, it’s likely a need. If you don’t, you just saved yourself some money and storage space.

Find another outlet.

If you’re using shopping as an outlet for stress, try something different. As mentioned earlier, meditation and working out are great options, but they may not be for everyone. Find something that works for you, whether it’s journaling, reading, gardening, or taking a stroll through the neighborhood.
Remember: The problem with stress spending is that it ultimately leads to more stress down the line.

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