a reader’s question: emotional spending

Note: These shoes are my new faves. Vegan J-41 “barefoot” shoes, $30 from Costco. Sooo comfy.


Last week, after the post, Out of Debt: 5 steps, a reader Carrie (who btw, makes & sells these awesome totes), sent me this email in response to my response to her original comment on the post:

 I appreciate you mentioning that budgeting is a lot like weight loss. I have been the heaviest I’ve ever been ever since having my first child (currently 27 weeks with #2) and I think a large contributing factor IS being in school, having the uncertainty (husband graduates tomorrow and we have no idea what’s going to happen), and feeling out of control. I was praying for years for comfort, and then recently started changing my prayers to solutions.

The first thing was to get out of debt. We have a hefty goal of getting out of credit card debt by the time the baby gets here and I really am surprised at how quickly it’s moving!

And yes, food has been a huge money sucker. We were grocery shopping all the time (Costco can kill us), AND eating out. In the two weeks that I have actually made (and stuck to) a meal plan, we have come under budget and cut our expenses like crazy! We are always good at finding deals, but we are learning that while trying to get out of debt, it’s not about how much you SAVE necessarily, but how much you SPEND.

I’ve also found that I’m a totally emotional spender. Do you do this? Like, I really REALLY wanted to buy a scarf today because these last few weeks of my husband in school has been stressful. How do you manage to keep self control? I’m also an emotional eater, so any tips would be helpful 🙂

In a follow up email she writes:

I never knew just how much of an emotional buyer I was until I stuck to a strict budget. I found that I used ALL the same rationalizations as I do with food. “I deserve this, I’ve had a rough week.” “I deserve this, I had a good week!”

It’s pretty unhealthy, but if I could I would mourn with cake and celebrate with cake. Mourn with shoes and celebrate with shoes.
Self-control is not fun, but it feels so much better when I see that debt going down!




First of all, congrats on your 2nd!

What an exciting time for your family. Especially your husband graduating. A milestone for both of you guys.

I know it’s a scary, unpredictable world out there, post-college. While in school, you’re able to comfortably live in a bubble of denial. It’s cozy & you don’t have to worry about the “real world” yet–or at least it’s easy to feel that way.

After Joseph finished his B.A., we had no future employment prospects.

Just a month before graduating, a career path that he had been planning on entering completely fell through. That was a huge disappointment. So we took a year off, lived with my parents, & saved a lot of money. Fortunately, we had no student debt, in fact, we were totally debt-free.

At that time we had 2 kids & one on the way.

It was humbling to be put back in that position of living with parents, but it was also a blessing. Not just monetarily, but we were able to spend quality time with extended family & get to know them better.

During that year, Joseph studied for the LSAT & applied to law schools. Then we waited. He was accepted to the school of his choice, & we spent the next 3 years after that working very hard.

Those were the years of babies & sacrifice. And when it was all over, we had a job lined up, but it required that Joseph pass the bar before he could begin. That was 6 more months, followed by 9 more months (because Joseph didn’t pass the bar exam the first time around & they only administer the test twice a year).

A lot of waiting & more debt. It was an uneasy period of our lives. It was also one of the most blessed. Joseph was a stay-at-home dad & the kids got to spend so much time with him.

April 2011, $110K in debt

This morning I read the following scripture in the New Testament.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out. And having food & raiment let us be therewith content.”
1 Timothy 6: 6-8, KJV

In the moment of reading I was struck with how true these words are. The solution to controlling appetites, be they for food or material things, is contentment. And realizing, material things are temporary parts of our much greater existence.

As I discussed on Friday, money is as only as good as we allow it to be. It’s tool to help us live (that food & raiment bit), to be self-sufficient so then we can help others.

I could give you a list of “tips for not emotional eating” or “tips for not emotional spending.” But what it comes down to, is not a list of do’s & don’ts (although that may be helpful) but rather a principle: contentment. Which means, to be grateful for what we do have, to focus on that. To look around & notice the beautiful, the good, the kind. And acknowledge that what we have is “good enough.”

This mindset runs contrary to the thinking that pop culture sells which is: you are not enough. Therefore, you must buy what you do not truly need, you must eat when you are not hungry, because in doing so (they want you to believe), you may be made complete. The good news is, this only works if you buy into the idea that you aren’t “enough” & that what you have is not enough.

The beautiful thing about contentment is that it eases these feelings. It softens the edges of want, & helps us to focus on what is most important–not the things, but the people.





Do you have anything to add?
Please share your experience or tips with Carrie.


  1. Melanie
    on May 9, 2013 at 11:05 pm said:

    I also want to say… this line made me laugh:

    “I found that I used ALL the same rationalizations as I do with food. “I deserve this, I’ve had a rough week.” “I deserve this, I had a good week!”

    Isn’t it so true – it is so easy to rationalize anything. I hope I can remember this as I go through this time so I don’t go bingeing. 😉

  2. Melanie
    on May 9, 2013 at 11:03 pm said:

    I delivered a full-term stillborn baby last night and right now I’m appreciating this post. The reality of coming into and out of this world bringing nothing and taking nothing with us…. Yes, there really is little in this world that we “need.” We can be content with less. It is the people, not the things, that are important…

    • lfwfv
      on May 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm said:

      I just need to say that my heart grieves for Melanie. I lost my sister in a car accident when I was 22 and she was 24. The pain of that loss was unimaginable. Now that I have my own little 6 month old boy, my heart aches at the thought of losing him and the dread of the empty cavernous feeling that would ensue in my heart. May God give you grace, comfort, and rest in the days, months, and years to come Melanie. Death is a horrid dark thing, and it is true that when you lose someone, you see so clearly what really matters…not accomplishments, belongings, to-do lists….nothing except for people. Only relationships last into eternity.
      ps: Oddly, Melanie was the name of my sister…

      • Melanie
        on May 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm said:

        Thank you, LFWFV. I appreciate it. How interesting your sister was Melanie too. Good name. 🙂 haha.

  3. Shira
    on May 9, 2013 at 12:05 am said:

    Janae, this is such an important topic for so many reasons. As somewhat of an emotional spender (I have struggled with shopping addiction on and off for years), I can’t echo enough the sentiments that it is a very hard cycle to break out of. Like you, I tend to do best when I avoid the situations that get me into trouble (my weakness is clothing & shoes), and try to focus on what it is that is urging me to go and ‘buy’ my few moments of happiness…which all too sadly pass and in the end always leave a bigger hole than what was there before.
    Spending is very much like emotional eating, or really any addiction, and learning to identify the triggers can save not only money, but also lots of self loathing and personal agony. I’ve been there, and I’ve been back too. I really have found that looking outside of myself has been my saving grace – there is much real joy in doing something for the greater good, and no amount of kitchen gadgets or yet another white tank top (my weakness) will do that.
    Love this topic and I could go on forever, but thank you for touching on something so real for so many.

  4. Ashlee @ Plant Infusions
    on May 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm said:

    Beautiful post, Janae. I love the scriptures and their simplicity. The world can be so complicated but then when you sit down and read the scriptures, it all seems so simple. I also love how you applied the principle to all of us. The same principle can also apply to other things besides money. For instance, I am prone to anxiety about things of which I cannot control. Choosing contentment instead, no matter the outcome of difficult situations, can make all the difference. And, like you said, can help us enjoy that time with the people we love.

  5. Carrie Chapman
    on May 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm said:

    Thank you for this beautiful response! I 100% agree that contentment is the key. It’s just unfortunate that it’s during my times of most discontent that I want to spendspendspend. I try to keep a bigger perspective, though and I do much better when I set a goal for myself. Like, deciding on something we NEED and at a price we can afford and then putting myself to work to find it at that price. It usually takes me awhile but distracts me just enough from “casual shopping” and I don’t feel guilty about it later.
    Thanks again for this lovely response. It’s always a good reminder- and something I have bookmarked so I can keep coming back on those really hard days 😉

  6. Joya
    on May 8, 2013 at 8:01 am said:

    Contentment is certainly the key. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t struggle sometimes with impulses in eating, shopping, spending money on things they don’t need.
    What it boils down to for me in my life too, is constantly giving thanks for all the things I do have, beautiful family, health, strength, etc. I pray for contentment constantly because I don’t want to struggle with the things that come along with discontentment.
    Life is constantly a journey of learning, we are all at different points in our lives and we can all learn from each other.
    Recently, I have started the transition into making my own cleaners, detergent, body products, etc and focusing on all the ways I, along with my family can be self sufficient.
    The interesting thing is that to me now, there is so much more value in what I can create with my hands than what I can spend hard earned money on. I think the lesson in that, for me anyway, is really to use what God gave me and remember that it’s more about what He has given us (talents, graces, love) than what the world can give us.

    • Janae Wise
      on May 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm said:

      Recently, I have started the transition into making my own cleaners, detergent, body products, etc and focusing on all the ways I, along with my family can be self sufficient.
      I’ve begun doing similar things–line drying our laundry, making our bread, having a (small) garden, & just started making our own soy/almond milk. There’s something about doing it yourself, in an effort to be self-sufficient & save money, that helps you be even more careful with all your expenditures. I found focusing on the details, the small expenses, that I’m really much more attentive to bigger expenses & would be impulse buys.

      I think controlling emotional spending takes quite a bit of practice, self-discipline, & just to be frank, an avoidance of those things that can trigger it. For example, I LOVE Target. I CAN go into a Target & walk out without spending a dime. Is it easy to do? NO. So I rarely ever go to Target “just because.” It’s too tempting & not very fun if I don’t have money to spend.

      & just to follow up, Carrie, I most definitely have times when I want to buy stuff but don’t have the money. So what do I do? I call my husband. We talk it through. That helps A LOT!