How to Avoid Overspending While Depressed

Did you know that you are four to six times more likely to experience a debt crisis if you have mental health issues? That’s right – and it’s easy to fall into a dangerous pattern of overspending while you’re feeling down. Behavior which stems from wanting to make yourself feel better can quickly make things worse by plunging you into debt, adding more stress and worry to your life.

Becoming aware of your spending patterns while depressed is the first step towards making a positive change. Once you know when, how, and why you’re spending, you can start planning to avoid a financial crisis.

1. Set a Realistic Budget

Have you tried setting extremely strict budgets for yourself in the past, and failed to stick to them every time? This can easily leave you feeling disappointed and frustrated, and there’s a risk that you’ll give up on moderating your spending altogether.

The key to successful budgeting is being realistic about how much you need to live comfortably, and accounting for any reasonable extra spending you might do while you’re feeling down. For example, if you struggle with motivation to cook while feeling low, you might budget a little extra to buy healthy ready meals. If an evening out with friends usually cheers you up, you could allocate some money for this.

A smart budget allows you to cover all your essential expenses and set aside some money for self-care related costs.

2. Avoid Credit Cards and Loans

Spotted a new designer handbag or a cool piece of technology that you’re sure will make you feel better? Considering taking out a massive loan or just spending on your credit card? Stop. Making extravagant purchases using borrowed money is one the fastest ways to end up in tons of debt, which will quickly worsen your mental health. While it’s likely that the immediate buzz after buying a big ticket item will make you feel a little better, this won’t last long and is a dangerous cycle to fall into.

If you’re worried about your self-control while depressed, you could try giving your credit cards to a trusted family member or running potential purchases by a friend before going ahead with them.

3. Find Free Self-Care Strategies

How do you currently try and cheer yourself up when you’re feeling down? Do you go for an expensive massage? Spend the day at a pricey local spa? Unfortunately, many common self-care strategies can become expensive over time, and this can be really damaging to your finances if you’re on a tight budget.

Putting together a list of free self-care techniques is a good way to plan for the times that you’re feeling low but don’t have much money to spend.

These could include:

  • Going for a run
  • Taking a bubble bath
  • Having a movie night with friends
  • Listening to free meditations
  • Spending some time in nature
  • Writing in a journal
  • Doing at-home yoga

Once you have your own personal list, you’ll feel empowered to do things that benefit your mental health without spending a fortune.

4. Recognize Overspending Triggers

When you fall into a pattern of compulsive spending, it’s likely that there are certain triggers causing you to behave the way you do. Identifying these triggers helps you to become more self-aware, and lets you take action to avoid spending too much.

For example, you might notice that you’re prone to overspending after criticism at work. You can then take steps to reduce your chances of acting on the urge to spend. For example, you might think, “My boss shouted at me today, so I’m likely to want to overspend later. Instead of risking a trip to the mall, I’ll go over to a friend’s for coffee.”

Once you become aware of your triggers, your spending patterns should become a lot clearer to you. Keeping a daily journal to write down what happens each day alongside how much you spend can be very enlightening.

5. Ask Your Doctor for Help

Depression and overspending can wreak serious havoc on your life, so it’s important to seek help and support as soon as you recognize that there’s a problem. Your doctor will be able to advise you on treatments including talking therapy, CBT, and medication. When you tackle your depression, there’s a good chance that your spending issues will also subside. Don’t feel like you have to wait until you’re seriously depressed or in tons of debt to speak to your doctor – the earlier you address the problem, the easier it will be to solve.

Worried that you’re spending too much as a result of depression? Follow the tips above to avoid debt and improve your mental health.


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash