Emotional Spending

September 9, 2009

Many of us shop, or spend money, to fulfill emotional needs rather than actual or physical ones. Many times this is unconscious spending.

A colleague alerted me to a new programme on TV1, “Save our Home” and I have just watched the first episode on TVNZ’s “On Demand” service. http://tvnz.co.nz/save-our-home/s2009-e1-video-2961127

The mother/wife, Karen, in this first episode, is a classic example of someone who spends money for emotional reasons, rather than any physical need. She is desperate to keep her  three adult sons living at home with her and her husband, so showers them with money and provides them with 5-star accommodation and service….all rent free, so they will remain living at home! She and her husband Graham, provide  a  great party place for the boys and their friends. They do this despite being at risk of losing their family home as they cannot keep up the mortgage payments.

The family see the way forward as selling their current home and purchasing a smaller one with a correspondingly smaller mortgage.

The presenters, a successful real estate agent Sarah and a financial advisor Hannah, go very thoroughly through the family’s financial situation including getting a realistic valuation on their current property and then showing them the realistic options of what they could buy. The financial advisor prepares a budget which would enable them to stay in their current home; one which necessitates the young men and one of their partners paying board.

By the end of the show, despite the whole family seemingly understanding the need to change how they are spending money, one is left with the feeling that they will indeed lose their home because they will not take the hard decisions and reduce their spending and insist that their sons and the grandmother, who also lives with them, pay their way.

Sarah and Hannah did a great job of showing the hard facts of the situation but I was left with the feeling that they left an enormous piece, and for me the key piece, the emotional side of this situation unresolved. Karen was not going to change her attitudes to money…. or to spoiling her children… without significant emotional and psychological counselling and support. I believe that until she had significant insight into the reasons behind her spending, and gained some clarity about the “money fog” she was operating in, she was powerless to change.

I felt saddened that Karen’s out of control spending was exposed publicly without any obvious emotional support put in place.  A reminder for me that “reality shows” are for entertainment.

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4 Responses to “Emotional Spending”

  1. Vanessa Says:

    I was actually thinking about emotional spending yesterday, and went back to my Google Reader to read all your previous blogs. Of course, emotional spending was the first one!

    I am definitely an emotional spender, and an emotional eater (but that’s a different blog altogether). For me when I am really upset (mostly sad) I will buy books! It is one huge weakness for me as books are the one thing that truly fills the void and reading brings me immense joy. I also get a lot of joy from giving, so spend a fair amount on gifts for other people.

    I did watch this episode of “Save our Home” and I felt real anger towards the mother. In retrospect (and after reading your blog) perhaps the true emotion I was feeling was actual sadness. Sadness that her love for her children had seemingly gone so wrong! Sadness that Karen was so desperate to keep her children from leaving home, that her spending had driven them into a horrible ‘debt-riddled’ place. I do not have children, so probably cannot truly understand the bond between a mother and her babies, but I am a daughter.

    I know how hard it was for my mum to let me go flatting; however she did not try and bind me to our family home by ‘bribery’. In saying that my aunt tried to do this with my cousin and it actually drove a bit of a wedge between them.

    One thing that really made me mad was her son’s reaction and how he pretty much refused to pay the amount of rent that they wanted him to pay; I thought “you ungrateful brat”! Let’s not even go down the track of how some people have been so spoilt! The scariest thing was that she did not even realize how much she/they were spending. Denial is my friend, I know her well.

    I do agree with you that Karen needed emotional and psychological counseling/support to help her understand the reasons why she spends etc. Unfortunately, I could think of nothing worse than airing my dirty ‘money’ laundry on national TV; for me they portrayed her in a horrible light. From my own experience, learned behavior is such a hard thing to break, so when emotions are high it is so easy to revert back to learned ‘negative’ behavior.

    My husband and I come from completely different financial backgrounds and this causes friction constantly. Obviously, time for a change!

    • jillporter Says:

      Thanks Vanessa for this very thoughtful comment.
      Firstly let me reassure you; you are not alone. It is always easier to resist temptation,be that food or shopping, when we are feeling emotionally strong. Books are a common buy..and were one of mine, especially when I was living in the US where they are so much cheaper. However, the libraries here are so good, when you get the urge, try and steer yourself in that direction.
      Karen as portrayed on the the show had huge issues and I agree with you they portrayed her very badly. It makes good reality TV. I am often moved to interact loudly with the TV when that show is on! I also agree with you on the son’s behaviour, but sadly, the parents were reaping what they had sowed.
      Money is one of the most common conflicts in any relationship and one I deal with regularly. Luckily there are tools, which can be very successful, to deal with this.

  2. Vanessa Says:

    I actually catalog all my books (a little OCD) and have a huge list of books I own and books to read. We have a really awesome library, so about 2 months ago I started at the top of the list and started requesting. It has meant a huge saving for me money wise, and also I am getting through the list.

    Every so often I cannot wait and buy books! I have made the decision to sell any books that I will only read once (excl. non-fiction). So I guess that is a start.

    I am very vocal about that program when it is on TV as well, and I think I tweeted about that episode as well. Definitely agree with the parents reaping what they have sown.

    • jillporter Says:

      That’s good Vanessa. Are you an affiliate of fishpond? http://www.fishpond.co.nz. Put a link on your blog or website and for every sale that goes via you you get10%. You won’t get rich but it will offset some of the cost of the books. You don’t necessarily have to bought the books from them.


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