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Are You an Emotional Spender?

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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