What Is Revenge Spending And How Do You Avoid It?

Revenge spending isn't necessarily about getting back at someone, though it can be. People who engage in revenge spending tend to spend excessively in an attempt to soothe themselves in the wake of experiencing challenges or difficulties over a period of time. Revenge spending, also commonly called revenge buying, involves impulsively or aggressively buying things as a way of trying to relieve negative emotions that have been suppressed.


People often engage in excessive spending after dealing with adverse economic circumstances or some event that severely limits their ability to do things they enjoy. For example, if a person has to curtail their spending as a result of losing their job, they might engage in revenge buying once they get a new job and their income is restored. The same is true after a person recovers from an illness that limited their activities, or in the wake of a situation like the pandemic shutdowns.

Additionally, painful emotions like stress, sadness, and grief may lead to revenge spending. For example, someone who is facing a divorce or discovers that their romantic partner has been cheating on them may react in part by going overboard with excessive spending.


Ways to avoid revenge spending

While an occasional splurge (that you can afford) isn't a bad thing, revenge spending can lead to long-term financial difficulties when it goes for too long. It can also keep a person from effectively working through difficult emotions or challenging situations, which can have a long-term negative impact on their emotional and physical well-being. Want to make sure you can avoid engaging in revenge spending? One way is to develop a strategy that allows you to make an impulse purchase, every now and then, without going overboard — in the amount spent, or for a prolonged period of time. To do so, try and:

  • Set and stick to a budget: If following a budget becomes your ordinary approach to money management, you'll be better prepared to resist revenge spending when the urge strikes — or at least limit it to what your budget will allow (i.e., your discretionary spending).
  • Add it to a sinking fund: Rather than spend all your budgeted splurge money every month, instead, direct some to a sinking fund created for a big, future purchase, like a trip or a big-ticket item. Also, fund it automatically through an auto-deposit.

Deal with the real issue instead

Engaging in retail therapy at times can prove the right remedy, so long as you spend money you can afford to spend, and aren't using it as an excuse to avoid dealing with difficulties. However, regularly engaging in revenge spending, letting it go on too long, or impulsively buying high-dollar items you don't need and may not be able to afford is not in your best interest, even if you subconsciously think it'll help make you feel better. Habitual revenge spending can be a sign of poor money management, and, for those in long-term relationships, can quickly cross a line into financial infidelity


Instead, when you feel an overwhelming urge to shop all of a sudden, stop and think about whether you really need or want to make the purchase, or if something else is fueling your desire to shop. Be honest with yourself and take steps to deal with the real reason you feel compelled to spend money. After all, buying something right now may soothe you for a short time, but the emotions driving the purchase won't go away just because you spent some money.