5 Emotions That are Making You Spend Way Too Much Money

Joanne Poh



If you’ve drawn up a budget so austere it would reduce the Dalai Lama himself to tears, don’t be too surprised when you have a meltdown at work and end up spending six months’ worth of savings on the entire rainbow of Havaianas slippers. While we often think of financial decisions as a matter of cold, hard dollars and cents, unless you’re a robot you can be damn sure your emotions affect your spending decisions. Here’s how.


1. Sadness

Being sad sucks in more ways than one. Sadness creates impatience and urgency, making us more willing to spend larger amounts of money, especially in order to make ourselves feel better. If you’ve ever had a crappy day at work and then found yourself going on a shopping spree to make yourself feel better, then you’ve already seen this at work.

While everyone does this from time to time, if you’re chronically depressed you might actually end up blowing huge amounts of cash if you’re not careful. In the months after a break up, many people end up drinking excessively, partying like there’s no tomorrow and replacing their entire wardrobe in an attempt to keep the sadness at bay and make themselves feel more desirable.


2. Stress

In times of stress and anger, we tend to make poor decisions. For some of us, that might mean unwittingly engaging in risk-taking behaviour; for others, it could mean taking an overly safe approach. For instance, if you’re running to the bus stop and have just missed a feeder bus which takes half an hour to arrive, in a moment of anxiety you might just hail the first cab you see, even if you could actually have just texted the person you’re meeting to say you’d be late.

Stress is also notorious for causing people to make poor investment decisions, such as panic selling of shares when share prices are on a downswing, or buying into investment scams for fear of losing out on such a “good” deal.


3. Guilt and obligation

Without a sense of obligation half of you probably would never even turn up at the office. Other than the deep sense of obligation most Singaporeans feel towards their parents, we’re also supposed to be grateful to our bosses, generous to our friends and help the needy. Phew.

So when that old beggar lady comes up to you and bursts into tears, saying she wants to commit suicide because her kids have abandoned her or owe money, you hand over $10 because you feel bad. Then later you go online and read an article about how she’s a scam artist and has been using the same sob story for years. (This actually happened to me once. Two seconds after I handed that one notorious lady some money a man came up to me and exposed her.)


4. Happy drunkenness

If you’re a happy drunk, you might want to hold on to your wallet, because when you’re in that state not only do you love anyone and everyone, you’re also eager to shower generosity on the world at large. If the first thing you do when you wake up in bed after a crazy night out is reach for your wallet to check if it’s empty, you should probably be particularly wary.

In practice, a night out can be as simple and as inexpensive as a beer at a bar and then a bus ride home before midnight. But we know all too well how that can inadvertently turn into an open bottle at a club, trays of shots or “lady drinks” depending on where you are, a $30 cab ride home and an MC excusing you from work the next day.


5. Fear

Being overly fearful or “kiasee” can often save you from taking big risks. But in many situations it can also make you miss opportunities or spend extra money just to try to save yourself from the monsters you imagine are everywhere.

Fearful or overly conservative people tend to feel safe keeping their money in the bank just in case they lose it in unwise investments, but that also means their savings end up getting eroded year after year by inflation.

Kiasee behaviour also often means playing it safe, even if means having to spend more money. For instance, if you’re out at lunch during the work day and it starts pouring but you’ve got no umbrella, you can either wait it out with your badass colleagues even if it means you’ll be late for work. Or you can spend money on an umbrella or cab ride to ensure you remain in your boss’s good books.

Have you ever made money decisions based on emotions? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.