Emotional Spending and Emotional Eating – Is there a link?

Emotional Spending and Emotional Eating

I have been struck in recent weeks by how similar emotional spending and emotional eating are. Both are conditions that affect me daily when I am struggling with my mental health.

Firstly, the last three months of each year are tough to get through. The darker days and lack of sunshine affect my moods in a huge way. I do what I can to manage it, trying to get outside as much as possible, use my SAD lamp and am taking vitamin D supplements. But something I struggle much more with is food. I emotionally spend on ‘treat’ food and then emotionally eat.

Emotional Spending and Emotional Eating

An example – Monday morning

There is nothing in the house to eat treat wise, except some mince pies. I popped out to pick up an order from Argos and whilst there went into Boots searching for something for lunch for later. I got my meal deal as well as a large bar of galaxy chocolate and a bag of Moam sweets.

The sweets and chocolate were both gone by 2pm, along with the ‘healthy’ lunch I had bought. There is less guilt spending money on food, as its part of the monthly budget, and I get to treat myself with something nice.

Memories of Emotional Spending and Emotional Eating

I have some stand out memories with money and food. Perhaps I have gotten to the bottom of why I reward my emotional state of mind with emotional spending and emotional eating?

Back in 1994 I was 17 and had a weight of responsibility on my shoulders. My mum had died the year before and I had taken on a caring role for my dad. It was an extremely tough year, and I wasn’t coping emotionally in any way.

I have a clear memory of walking around Tesco with a list, a calculator and £40 (many moons before mobile phones!). I was getting the weekly shopping and it had to come to less than the £40 that my dad had given me.

The shopping list food came to £38 and I had £2 left to buy some treats, some chocolate or cake or crisp just for me. It would go into the shopping basket and I would hide it when I got home. A special treat just for me that no-one knew about. I would eat it in secret.

5 frugal things post 30

This built up a link between money as a scarce limited resource. But I would always ensure that there was some money left to treat myself. But that reward was done in secret and the reward was something that wasn’t going to make me feel better in any long-term way.

Fast forward to university where I had free reign to spend whatever I wanted. I would go into that university shop every day and get treats for myself. Sweets, chocolate and always eat it in secret. I had the funds to buy whatever I wanted and would get that immediate sugar hit.

This is not helping with my Seasonal Affective Disorder

An important part of dealing with my mental health this time of the year is to eat better food, with good nutrients, to help combat the SAD feelings and spiralling downwards thoughts. And treating myself to a large bar of galaxy is not going to help with this.

I need to enrich my body with healthy vegetables, salmon, chicken, eggs, halloumi cheese and litres of water (not coffee). As if by magic, I just checked my Instagram feed and there was a vegetable box delivery advert from my local Church Farm. Vegetable box ordered and arriving this Friday!  I like the idea of random stuff arriving and me figuring out what to do with it. I must dig out my slow cooker for winter stews left cooking all tender for ultimate tenderness.

Setting a budget and tracking my food spends

I am going to start with returning to my spending diary but will separate out any food purchases into a different part of my notebook. A separate section for food spending only. I need to be very aware of how much this is costing me every week and every month.

I am also going to set a budget for the month. A budget of £300 for the whole month for food for the boys and I. This means I am limited to £75 per week. Let’s see if I can this habit under control. Switch off the emotional spending on food and the emotional eating.  

Using apps to help with the Process

I am also going to re- start using my Yolt app on a daily basis. This app is connected to all my spending accounts and categorises spending for me on a monthly basis. This will allow me to track the month to date and to track month on month spending.

Do you struggle with emotional eating and spending? What do you do to minimise the impact?


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Lynn Beattie

Aka Mrs MummyPenny

Personal Finance Expert

I write about personal finance made simple, lifestyle choices that will save you time and money, as well as products and services that offer great value.

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