Mental Health Moments: Curbing Depression Spending

By Kaylin Staten

Deck the halls with boughs of holly and a slew of Amazon boxes ending up at your front door. You may purchase your own rendition of the “12 Days of Christmas” for those on your Christmas list (and perhaps yourself), but how do you know if you have a spending problem?

The source of overspending during the holidays and other times of the year could happen for a variety of reasons. I wanted to write about depression spending during the holidays because I know what depression spending does. I’ve been there throughout several times in my life.

When I was in college, I purchased a book for each A on an article for my newspaper writing class. It’s perfectly fine to reward yourself for a job well done, but over time, I began using material items to maintain a certain level of happiness. We are all human and have our vices, but I used stuff to clog my attention span with my latest purchases to not deal with the root of problems. Avoidance came in nail polish bottles, binge shopping trips at Ulta, vintage purchases on Etsy, Princess Leia action figures from my youth that I always wanted but didn’t get back in 1998…

My list of depression spending could go on and on. I enjoyed the thrill of the chase to the online shopping cart, watching the status of each tracking number and opening my purchased item of choice. When I received it, though, the magic lost its luster. On to the next purchase to fill a void I never knew existed.

The holidays can be increasingly tough because you could use your depression spending tactics to find the perfect gift -- or 87 -- for others. You could be down because you miss a dearly departed loved one or anxious about all of the holiday parties you have to attend. No matter the reason, here are three ways to curb your depression spending during the holidays:

Have a budget and check in with yourself.

Being honest with yourself is the first step to securing better financial fitness. If your overspending “isn’t a big deal” in your eyes, then you may not think to address it head-on. If the ways you handle money comes at a great cost to you, others around you and even your business, it could be time to check in with yourself. What do you spend most of your money on? Do you have a monthly budget? Does depression spending hamper your overall financial goals? After you assess your spending habits, craft a plan of action. Use an app like Mint to track your expenses. If you’re quick to swipe your card for gifts for others, create a master gift list and assign price points for each person -- at the minimum.

Do something else that makes you feel better.

Chances are, you’ve probably bought something to boost your mood after a bad day or to commemorate a moment in time. Everything in moderation, my friend. If you’re finding more and more packages clogging your mailbox and front porch, it could be time to assess your overall happiness levels. If you’re depressed and are using spending to provide that pick-me-up, you may want to look to other hobbies for relief. Read a book that you’ve been putting back on the shelf, talk with a loved one, cook your favorite meal, talk with your cat. It could be easier said than done, but when you find yourself with several items in your cart, ask yourself if you need them and if you could manifest permanent happiness instead of chasing a temporary shopping fix.

Find the root of the problem.

You could be shuffling other issues to the side when you decide to spend money while you’re anxious or depressed. Chances are, if you have to purchase groceries in a depressive mood, you will end up buying something else to boost your mood while you’re at the store. It’s human nature. If depression spending becomes more frequent, find the root of the problem through therapy, meditation, writing in a journal… whatever helps you cope and find answers in a healthy way. Once you realize your triggers, you can better prepare for them and adjust your behaviors accordingly.

Please note: These blog posts will not be clinical, although we will provide symptoms and other information. These posts are based on my experiences with anxiety and mental health in general.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit a website like Mental Health America to learn more.

Mental Health Moments blog posts are every other Tuesday of the month. Our CEO and contributors highlight what it's like to live with a mental health disorder and continue to fight the stigma through storytelling.

Copyright © MMXVIII Hourglass Media, LLC

Kaylin R. Staten, APR is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer. She owns Hourglass Media, a consulting company based in Huntington, WV.

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