Three women sitting in a row with lots of shopping bags at their feet

Getting help with compulsive spending

Worried about the way you spend your money? Here are some tips to help you stop splurging on retail therapy. 

7 tips to help you control emotional spending

1. Get to know your spending triggers

Ask yourself what’s going on when you spend money on things you don’t really need. A ‘spending trigger’ is a feeling or situation that makes it easy for you to break your spending rules. For some people, it can be feeling stressed or bored, while others want to buy things their friends have got. Make a list to help you understand what triggers your impulse to spend.

Small purchases add up to big costs

It’s easy to dismiss spending on the small stuff, especially with contactless payments. Adding up the purchases you don’t usually worry about can reveal how they take a big bite out of your budget. Check your bank account transactions at the end of a month and add up all your spending on stuff like drinks, snacks and taxis. Then see how much you could save with cheaper alternatives, like packed lunches and public transport.

Beware of impulse purchases

Make a checklist to help you work out whether something you want is just an impulse buy. Why do you need it? Could you get a cheaper alternative if you wait or go elsewhere? How much use will you get out of it? Have you bought things like this before and regretted it later? These simple questions can help you keep your cool when faced with the temptation to splurge.

2. Take cash instead of a credit or debit card

Whether you’re going shopping or heading out to meet friends, take only the cash you’ve budgeted to spend and leave your cards at home. That way, you won’t be tempted to splash out more on the plastic.

3. Avoid tempting ads and apps

Think carefully about which marketing promotions you sign up for. When you buy things online, you’ll often be given the choice to opt in to offers by email, text message, phone and post. It’s your decision, but the more offers you sign up for, the more you could be tempted to spend. If you want to stop getting offers from a seller, look for the ‘unsubscribe’ link in its emails. And ask whether having that fast-food or taxi app is helping you spend money you might later regret.

4. Get your retail highs another way

Buying stuff to treat yourself makes you feel good – that’s why it called retail therapy. But the thrill soon wears off and isn’t worth the financial hangover. If you overspend when you go shopping with friends, arrange to meet those friends somewhere else and go shopping another time. Think of simple ways to enjoy your spare time, like a DVD at home with your friends instead of going to the cinema.

5. Set a realistic budget

There’s plenty of help available to guide you through setting a budget. Try the free budget planner calculator from the Money Advice Service – an independent, government-sponsored organisation that offers impartial advice. The calculator breaks down income and spending into categories and asks questions that will help you set a realistic budget.

6. Get help from a friend

If you find it hard to follow a budget, ask your partner or a good friend to help. Tell them what you’re trying to achieve and then set some time each month for them to ask you how it’s going. Getting someone else to take a look at how you manage your money and spending can help you to be more objective – and help you to stick to your plan.

7. Get free help from the experts

There’s loads of free advice available to help you keep your money in order. The Money Advice Service has tips, calculators and tools to help you control your money and plan for your future. You’ll also find practical help on where to get free advice if you’re worried about debt

Other things to consider

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Managing your card

Control your card on the go

You can control how and where your card is used through the ‘Cards’ section in our app1. Set limits on payments online or abroad and cash withdrawals, temporarily freeze your card if you don’t know where it is, report it lost or stolen, view your PIN and more. 

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Managing your money

Getting your budget back on track

Dev was having trouble controlling his finances and was often relying on an overdraft to cover expenses; here’s how banks can help.

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Debt and mental health

When debts aren’t the only things on your mind

Mental health and money management can sometimes be two sides of the same coin. For Sarah, her mental health led to her missing payments, which added to her anxiety.

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Budget calculator

Plan out your repayments

It’s important to be sure repayments will fit in with your other monthly commitments.


We’ve prepared this budget planner to help you see what you can afford.

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Money management

How to improve your financial health

Develop your money-management skills with our easy-to-follow guides on budgeting, saving, planning for the future and handling debt.