Shoppers in San Francisco.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Covid-19 vaccinations are on the rise, states are dropping their pandemic restrictions, and Americans feel good being able to go out and spend after a year and a half spent mostly indoors.
“We’re basically out of a cave now, and there’s a lot of emotion involved,” said Susan Greenhalgh, an accredited financial advisor who heads Mind Your Money in Providence, Rhode Island.
It’s okay to self-medicate, especially after you’ve weathered the coronavirus pandemic, as long as you do it within your budget and comfort zone, Greenhalgh said. But for those not careful, the momentum of finally being able to return to normal activities after the pandemic could lead to a hangover of debt in the coming months.
To combat this and keep your budget in check, here are some warnings from financial professionals that you should look out for in order to identify a spending problem and what people can do to correct one.
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You pile up debts
An early sign that you might have a spending problem is that you are in debt, especially on high-yield credit cards.
This is especially worrying when you suddenly find yourself unable to make a full payment at the end of the month, reduce the amount you owe, or even pay the minimum amount, according to Jacqueline Schadeck, a certified financial information planner based in Atlanta .
Of course, it’s likely that credit card balances will rise after a year of not spending much on going out, Greenhalgh said.
“We got used to very low credit card bills every month and now they have gone up significantly,” she said.
A higher bill in a month is not an immediate cause for concern, but it is something to monitor for the next few credit cycles and consider whether or not you need to get back on your budget, she said.
Your credit score suddenly goes down
Another thing to look out for that could indicate that you are over budget is a sudden drop in your credit score.
This is because one component of the score is your credit utilization, which is how much you have spent compared to your overall limit. As you go into debt, your credit load will go up and your credit score could go down, to reflect this, Greenhalgh said.
“When all of a sudden you’ve got to travel and put on clothes and restaurants [your credit card] and you don’t think about it, don’t be surprised if your creditworthiness goes down, “she said.
You let your emotions guide spending
After a year of stopping doing many of the things we’d like to do, it can be tempting to put our emotions in control and spend without limits. This can be especially difficult in the face of an uneven recovery where the pandemic has been beneficial or net neutral for some Americans but very harmful for others.
“You can see that some people get into trouble simply because they use expense as a means of getting accepted and keeping up,” said Adam Blum, a licensed psychotherapist and founder of the Gay Therapy Center. He added that this was perceived as a problem, especially among gay men.
“If we pass out and don’t think about what we’re doing, the more likely we are to make mistakes that we regret,” said Blum.
You have tried budgeting or limiting spending but are having problems
Of course, some things will cost more after a pandemic due to inflation and congested supply chains.
If this increases your spending it may be undesirable, but it is not necessarily a problem, said George Blount, financial therapist and managing partner at nBalance Financial in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
On the other hand, if your spending has become uncontrollable, that’s a red flag, he said. And if you’ve tried budgeting with a system or product that just doesn’t work for you, this is also a cause for concern.
“You have to use the tools and you have to use them effectively,” said Bloun.
If you’re making a lot of money but aren’t sure where to go, this could indicate an overrun, according to Schadeck.
We’re basically coming out of a cave now and there’s a lot of emotion with it
Accredited Financial Advisor at Mind Your Money LLC
The solution? Mindful spending
To solve a spending problem, financial experts recommend understanding the details of where your money is going and the emotions behind the purchases.
“I always encourage people to watch their money,” said Greenhalgh. That means looking at her expenses for a few months in a row, she said.
Take some rest with your bank account and credit card statements and really see where the money is going, she said. Then assess what you feel good about and what you are not so happy about. This could include comparing spending against a pre-pandemic budget, identifying spending shifts, and making course corrections if necessary.
Linked to what you spend money on can help you develop new habits, she said.
If you are still having problems spending money or feel that it is related to emotions that you cannot control, seeking help from a therapist or financial therapist can help you resolve those problems.
You can also do certain exercises, such as: B. Check with your emotions before buying, said Blum.
“Everything we do has an emotional component, and when we don’t know what it is, we work kind of baffled, we get stuck,” he said. By asking yourself why you are making a purchase before you swipe your credit card, you can become more aware of and address the emotional component.
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