Spending

'The world opening up again is a marketer's dream': How to keep your 'revenge spending' in check

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Shoppers are seen inside a shopping mall in Bethesda, Maryland on February 17, 2022.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Key Points
  • The average monthly spending on recreational activities increased from $151 in December 2021 to $173 in February 2022, according to recent data.
  • Some experts are labeling this as "revenge spending," trying to make up for two years of not being able to go out very much by spending more on recreational activities.
  • "The world opening up again is a marketer's dream, so consumers are seeing messaging in places they don't even realize, validating their desire to spend money in order to make up for lost time," one expert says.

Despite inflation driving up the cost of pretty much everything, Americans are spending money, and not just on essentials. The average monthly spending on recreational activities increased from $151 in December 2021 to $173 in February 2022, according to recent data from Morning Consult. People are spending more to visit museums, attend sporting events and concerts, and buy reading and crafting materials.

Some experts are labeling this as "revenge spending," or the act of trying to make up for two years of not being able to go out by spending more than they typically would on recreational activities. People, more or less, are looking to buy happiness, says Nashira Lynton, a certified financial counselor and the CEO of Breaking Cycles.

"I am hearing a lot from people who are recovering from the pandemic and are in search of all the things that bring them joy," she says. "They are feeling a part of them that has been suppressed for a long time. When it's all said and done many are overspending again, which we know causes more financial stress in the long run."

Brands are taking note of how excited consumers are to get out there again, says Ashley Agnew, director of relationship development at Centerpoint Advisors.

"The world opening up again is a marketer's dream, so consumers are seeing messaging in places they don't even realize, validating their desire to spend money in order to make up for lost time," she says.

Here's how to indulge responsibly.

Plan for fun

The term "planned fun" can resurrect the image of an awkward office party, but when it comes to your personal life and your finances, planning is smart and can bring you more joy than mindlessly spending.

"Setting aside 'fun' money in your cash flow plan help you not only enjoy the experience but not have to deal with the financial stress of overspending later on," Lynton on Breaking Cycles says.

Write down your priorities

If you're not sure where to start, try making a few "short lists" at the beginning of each month, says Agnew.

  • What are three feelings I want to have this month?
  • What three things do I want to spend on this month that will help me reach these feelings?
  • What three activities do I want to do this month that do not cost money?

Answering these questions is "especially useful for those who aren't great in working with numbers and budgeting to be able to get their spending aligned with their values," Agnew says.

Set aside money for fixed expenses first

On the day you receive your paycheck, write down all the bills and expenses, such a rent, that you need to pay, and immediately set aside that money, she says. Then, write down how much money you have left.

"Looking at the total of what is left after savings and bill pay will be a good speed bump," she says. "Keep the number somewhere accessible as a reminder throughout the pay period to reference when you think of making a purchase."

Setting aside 'fun' money in your cash flow plan help you not only enjoy the experience but not have to deal with the financial stress of overspending later on.
Nashira Lynton
certified financial counselor and the CEO of Breaking Cycles

Check in with yourself

Keeping that amount handy might help curb your spending, but so will evaluating how much joy the purchase itself will bring you.

"Before you make the purchase, ask yourself, 'How will I feel about this purchase three days from now? One week?'" Agnew says.

Got back to the lists you wrote down at the beginning of the month and see if this purchase aligns with the feelings you want to have that month.

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If you're someone who is motivated by mantras, think of a few that can keep you from revenge spending. Agnew suggests the following:

  • "Possessions are not the only dictator of my happiness"
  • "I deserve my future goals"
  • "I control my money and I control this decision"
  • "My money decisions are my own"
Before you make the purchase, ask yourself, 'How will I feel about this purchase three days from now? One week?'
Ashley Agnew
director of relationship development at Centerpoint Advisors

'Deprivation is not a healthy money habit'

Remember, not all spending is bad. The key is moderation.

"Deprivation is not a healthy money habit either, and excessive saving can also be a bad habit believe it or not; hoarding is indeed a disorder that can also apply to money," Agnew says.

If a purchase will bring you joy and is within your means, there is no need to feel guilty about buying it, she says: "Rewarding yourself with something that will let you enjoy the year to come is not a bad thing if it is within your budget and in line with your values and goals."

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