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3 Reasons Nostalgia is the Surprise Budget Buster

by Arielle Vogel April 11, 2018

Data has proven that nostalgia is a powerful emotion that can cause us to spend and donate more money, in addition to making it easier for us to part with our money. Your sentimental, warm fuzzy feelings of happy memories are the target of many marketers!

Has nostalgia ever cost you money? And if so, how much? Today we are going to explore the three main reasons your sentimental feelings may be wrecking your budget…and how to prevent it.

1. Makes Your Purchases Emotional, Less Material

The first reason you’re more inclined to spend a pretty penny when feeling sentimental or nostalgic is that your purchase quits being about something material and becomes about something emotional.

Perhaps the store smells like your grandma’s house, it’s something your mom or dad would have just loved, or you just need a little “pick me up”. Of course, we love the warm, fuzzy feelings that things, smells, or memories can bring. “Retail therapy” can actually improve our mood…temporarily. But those warm fuzzy feelings or improvement in mood can then lead to buyer’s remorse, an overdrawn account, and debt.

3 Reasons Nostalgia is the Surprise Budget Buster

2. Puts More Significance On Your Purchases

Going hand-in-hand with reason number one, nostalgia and emotional shopping puts more significance on your purchases. The functional storage chest you spent too much on went from being just a chest to a family heirloom. Marketers know that we think this way – it’s only natural.

The tricky part is recognizing our own weakness in making objective purchasing decisions. There’s nothing wrong with having valuable, high-quality, sentimental things. We could probably all point to a “most prized possession” and explain, with great emotion, the reason it has value greater than a price tag to us.

The danger we need to protect ourselves from is crossing the line from sentimental to wasteful. While you may be able to point to an item of extreme importance, you may also be able to point to a basement full of “prized possessions” that no one actually wants. Many families have the “keeper of the stuff” – someone who holds onto everything and makes it difficult to get rid of anything.

It may be difficult to come to terms with, but in a few years, everything you have will belong to someone else. Chuck Bentley, Crown’s CEO, is married to a woman who “walks this walk” of frugality. If she senses they are going to make an unnecessary purchase, she’ll suggest they just go drive by the dump to take a look at where that item will end up in a few years. That will remind you of the truth in Matthew 6:19-21!

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

3. Decreases Price Sensitivity

Lastly, nostalgia can get us in a financial bind because it decreases our sensitivity to how much things actually cost. Maybe you’ve caught yourself in the middle of a store aisle or online shopping cart asking yourself the questions, “Can you really put a price on a family heirloom? A lifelong memory is invaluable, right? Think of all the use they’ll get out of this cherished possession!”  

3 Reasons Nostalgia is the Surprise Budget Buster

Well, the problem is marketers, retailers, and advertisers know that you think like this and they work very hard to manipulate your emotions to still walk to the checkout line (or “click” to the checkout line). Part of what researchers have found is that individuals are much more likely to part with money if they’ve had feelings of nostalgia, regardless of if those feelings are associated with what their money is being spent on.

So how do we keep ourselves from overspending due to nostalgia?

  1. Make a budget. Your budget gives you the freedom to spend the right way; it doesn’t only restrict your spending. Your budget will also not lie to you – it is your objective friend that can rationalize your subjective, emotional thoughts.
  2. Make a list. Even if you’re browsing, shopping for others, or looking for a gift, make a list and write down how much you can spend (not how much you’re willing to spend – there is a difference!).
  3. Be self-aware. If you’re an emotional shopper, you need to be honest about your weaknesses. Most sentiment is wasted on me, but I am tempted to shop if I’m feeling down or lonely. I’ve had to give my wallet to friends or lock it in the car if I know I’m going to be tempted. Why? Because I know I can justify about anything, or do some creative math to make it work into my budget. Know yourself, know your weaknesses and temptations, and set yourself up for success.
  4. Spend intentionally, not emotionally. Hopefully, stewardship is already part of your everyday life, but if it’s not, make it a priority. Instead of focusing your spending on the things you want, focus all aspects of your life and finances on God’s Kingdom. Then instead of justifying an emotional or sentimental purchase, you can find joy in putting your money towards multiplying the Kingdom.

Have you ever been caught in a nostalgic spending trap? How do you prevent budget busters? Are you an emotional shopper? Share with us on Facebook!


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