Curing The Money Hangover

Paying or buying something you know you should can often cause 'the money hangover' but what is it and how can you avoid it happening?

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That dreaded feeling: Blurry eyed, alarm screeching. Hand crashing across the bedside table to Just. Make. It. Stop.

You finally land on your brand new iPhone (“but the camera was totally worth it”) and, managing to pry one eyelid open, you locate the “Stop” button and hit it.

Noooooo. It’s happened again.

“Why did I do that!” you scream, hopping around your tiny studio apartment desperately trying to find your laptop to cancel your 4k projector order before it ships.

It can happen at any time and anywhere thanks to the sugary cocktail of credit cards, social media and 24hr online shopping. We all do it. In a rush of excitement, or the frenzy of FOMO, we buy something — ANYTHING — just to feed that impulse.

Then afterwards, when the bills come due, that’s when it it hits: The dreaded Money Hangover

But don’t worry – we’ve got a cure for you and it’s better than the hair of the dog.

What is a money hangover?

The feeling you get when you make a purchase or financial decision that no matter how hard you try to justify you know deep down you can’t. It could be ordering another round of desert at Cheesecake Factory, or pulling the trigger on the Off-White Nike Blazers when you’re weeks out from your next paycheck.

It’s when our emotions take over and we throw caution – and our account balance – to the wind. It’s when we try to trick our brain but that dreaded regret starts to creep in. 

Why does it happen?

It’s caused by a disconnect between what we did and what we know we should’ve done.

You know how it starts: You think you want something – maybe even deserve it – and spend an inordinate amount of head-time justifying the reasons to yourself: “It’s been a stressful week”, “I work really hard”, “I’m totally going to get a pay rise next month”. You get a bit of a rush when you do it: “this is why I make money”.

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But once the emotional high of the purchase passes the reality sets in, and your brain gets to work. In the cold light of day it calculates what the real cost of what you just spent and whether you can really afford it.

That’s where the hangover feeling comes from: the realization that you just convinced yourself to buy something you didn’t really need and that you knew you couldn’t really afford.

How can I avoid it?

Well, it doesn’t involve chugging a gallon of water like you’re doing a hard 75 challenge after you’ve made a rash purchasing decision.

It also isn’t about stopping spending. We work hard for our money and should be able to spend it how we chose.

The answer is to feel confident in our money decisions. Confidence comes from knowing what we want, and knowing what we can afford. 

Here’s three simple tips to help achieve it:

  1. Know how much money you have
    It’s hard to make decisions about how much you can or can’t spend if you never know where you are. Just taking a minute each day to check how much money you have and within a week you’ll feel more confident about what you can spend.
  2. Cool off before the decision
    Go for a walk, take a shower, play some Fortnite. Do anything to give yourself a few minutes break before you make that purchasing decision. Then ask yourself: “do I really want this?” Think about how you’ll feel a few days after it arrives and if you detect the slightest whiff of a Money Hangover then run a mile.

    Our pro tip: Call – or text if calling is terrifying – a friend and bounce the idea off of them and see what they think.
  3. Drop the fear of missing out
    Just because you want it today, doesn’t mean that it won’t be there tomorrow. Phones don’t disappear if they’re not ordered. We live in a world of abundance, so apart from PS5s almost all products will still be there tomorrow.

We work too hard for our money to feel regret about it when we use it. So let’s ditch the hangovers and take a little more time to enjoy our money (responsibly).

Sam Garrison

Sam Garrison

Sam Garrison is the President and co-founder of Stackin, a financial wellness company. Before Stackin, Sam built and launched new ventures at BCG Digital Ventures, the venture and incubation arm of The Boston Consulting Group, where he also supported the executive team as strategic program lead. As a lifelong millennial, Sam has tried to solve most of his problems through technology instead of waiting in line at a drab office.