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Health & Balance

Are You an Emotional Spender?

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WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

By Jean Chatzky

Good Housekeeping Magazine Logo Shopping is fun for most women, but it comes with two price tags: one financial and one emotional. We spend more than we can afford and then beat ourselves up about it. But you can break this cycle (and save yourself a lot of money). Before buying anything more expensive than a newspaper, ask yourself the following four crucial questions. If your answers are more emotional than rational, you should probably shop less. Keep reading for our advice.

What am I doing here? If you have a reason to buy-you're out of paper towels or your best friend just had a baby-fine. But if you're shopping just because...then think of something else to do.

How do I feel? A shopping expedition shouldn't feel frantic or pressured. If it does, it's time to put away your wallet, go home, and chill. Watch bad cable. Take a bubble bath. Just don't shop.

Is what I'm reaching for something I really need? In other words, what happens if I don't buy it? Remember: Unlike needs, wants are optional. If you want something and don't get it, your health will not fail and your family won't go hungry.

What happens if I do buy it? Perhaps purchasing the item you've spotted will make you happy-for a little while. But when the bill eventually rolls in, you may find yourself feeling guilty or regretful.

Ready to stop impulse buying? Here are five strategies for shopping smarter:

- Cancel the store credit card. That will keep retailers from wooing you with enticing catalogs and e-mail offers. Plus, store cards are a notoriously bad deal, with interest rates that are, on average, double those of bank cards.
- Give yourself other escapes. Exercise is a good choice since, like shopping, it causes endorphins (your body's feel-good chemicals) to kick in. But if working out is not your idea of fun, pick something else that you can do regularly: Read, knit, call your mom. The key is to decide in advance, so when you feel like hitting the mall, you'll go to your backup plan instead.
- Break the habits that encourage you to shop. As you leave work each day, do you pass your favorite store on the way to the car? If so, find a new parking garage.
- Steer clear of dressing rooms. Research shows that if you try clothing on, you're more likely to buy it.
- Leave the plastic at home. Carry only the cash you're willing to spend that day. If you can't pay the bill, then you're "just looking." And that can be a great way to spend the day-without spending a lot of money.

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