How to put a HALT to your spending when willpower starts to fade

Have you ever bought something and then the next day wondered what in the world you were thinking? While we may be able to exercise willpower in most circumstances, will power has limits. There are definitely times when our willpower is not nearly as strong. Learn to recognize the circumstances that drain your willpower, and HALT your spending

Hungry

Have you ever gone grocery shopping when you were hungry? You intended to buy two or three things that were on sale and some how you came home with two or three bag of groceries instead? When you are hungry, everything looks good. It’s pretty hard to say no to that bag of Oreos when you are hungry.

Angry

I had a friend many years ago who was upset and frustrated by some potential impending layoffs at his workplace, so he went out and bought a new truck to make himself feel better. OK. Let me get this straight. You might lose your job, so you just took on a bunch more debt to make yourself feel better??

When we are upset, scared, or angry we can often do things that are pretty irrational if we really stopped to think about it.

Lonely

Another time when you are vulnerable to making poor decisions is when you are feeling lonely. I fell victim to this myself a few times. I was 34 when I married my wife, and I don’t regret for a minute waiting until I found her. But there were many times in the years leading up to when I finally met my future wife that I found myself feeling very bummed out about being alone. More than once I medicated my loneliness with a trip to Best Buy to purchase some electronic item I thought would make me happy. The happiness was short-lived but the credit card scars lasted for many years.

Tired

Lastly, our willpower suffers when we are simply tired. It is Friday night and it’s been a long hard week at work. You don’t feel like cooking, so it’s easier to just go out to eat.

There is nothing wrong with doing that once in a while, but if you make a habit of it you can easily sink your budget. This might be the most dangerous of all of the threats to our will power. When you are tired, it is just very hard to say no.

Understanding when to HALT your spending

So what is the point? Never get hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Of course, that’s not realistic.

What you can do is recognize when you are vulnerable. When you know you are really upset and you are tempted to go shopping to make yourself feel better, stop and think about your motives. The first step in keeping these emotions from wrecking your budget is understanding what impact they have.

While making that purchase may make you feel better for a little while, ultimately you are just trying to medicate a bigger issue. And if you have to rely on credit for your purchase, you may feel even worse when the bills start to come due.

What steps do you take to keep from letting negative emotions lead you to spending decisions you’ll later regret?

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