• Advice

Why We Spend More Money When We're Stressed

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and bought something online so you could fall back asleep?

No? Just me?

When I can’t sleep, a checklist of shoulda’s and coulda’s rotate around my head and sometimes, my anxiety gets the best of me and I need to check something off the list. Two days later a package shows up with resistance bands, a 100 pack of hair ties, and a napkin holder.

You may have read about a Spending Values pie and in a perfect, ideal world, every purchase we made would be according to our values and goals.

The reality is much messier and it actually doesn’t have much to do with our willpower.

Window of tolerance OR Why you buy more sh*t when you’re pushed over the edge

💕 HUGE acknowledgement to our interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB) teachers, who have asked to remain anonymous, for this transformative information. 💕

The fancy definition of the window of tolerance is that it’s the emotional zone where our nervous system is most regulated and we’re able to function and thrive in daily life, access our executive functioning, and communicate effectively.

In other words, when you’re living in your window of tolerance, you feel like you can handle anything life throws your way.

Your window of tolerance shrinks or grows, depending on internal stressors and past trauma or external stressors such as hunger or lack of sleep.

Every time you have to:

❌code switch 

❌deal with a micro aggression 

❌put on a fake smile 

❌suppress a reaction to an injustice 

❌hide who you really are, 

your window of tolerance gets smaller and it’s much easier to get pushed outside of it.

When you get pushed outside of your window of tolerance, you either become:

Hyperaroused and experience anxiety, irritability, hypervigilance or overwhelm

Hypoaroused and experience fatigue, depression, shame, shut down

You don’t consciously know when you’ve been pushed outside of your window of tolerance and you can’t control how you react when you’re in this state.

This is why people might spend more money when they lose their job, have credit card debt, or have to dip into their savings. 

When your window of tolerance shrinks, it’s much easier to get knocked out of it and go into f*ck it mode with your money. You’re trying to find a sense of control while you’re feeling out of control.

Joined Window of Tolerance

More IPNB wisdom - “A supportive relationship is more regulating than food, sleep, or water… when you allow someone else to join your window of tolerance, you expand your own window of tolerance.”

When you have more space and more support, your window of tolerance expands. You’re able to process the raw emotions that come up in a way that is effective and healthy for you.

Someone is reflecting back what is happening to you so you feel seen and heard.

I remember the first time I told a room full of people in a workshop that I would wake up and buy something in the middle of the night just to fall asleep. The knowing laughs and nods in the room made me feel less alone. I felt less shame about this secret habit I was keeping. Eventually, that habit fell away completely.

Finding your money buddy

You don’t have to tell a room full of people your deepest financial secrets, but it might help to know who you can call when you’re feeling particularly stressed or overwhelmed, when you feel like you’re shutting down and about to hit the buy button on an IG ad for $20 chapstick.

Ask yourself:

Who can be your money buddy in your life?

Who can you trust when it comes to talking about money - from venting to celebrating wins?

Who can advocate for you and who can you advocate for?

Collective care is a revolutionary act.

Pamela Capalad Pamela Capalad is a Certified Financial Planner™ with a background in private wealth management. She loves helping freelancers and small business owners feel confident about their finances.

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