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How Caroline managed to regain control of her emotional spending, and the coping methods she used.

From Emotional Spender to Savvy Saver: My Story

This guest blog is written by Catherine Morgan, she is one of the participants in our Money and Mental Health video series and also runs her own blog and coaching business at The Money Panel.

From a young age, my relationship with money was a fractured one. My parents divorced when I was small, and the contrast between the financial positions of my mother whom I lived with full time, and my father when we went to visit, was vast.

My Dad was an ambitious entrepreneur, while my Mum held a part-time job and devoted her time to raising myself and my three siblings. I recall feeling very acutely that money was something I wanted to be in control of for myself. I did not want to be dependent upon anyone else for money, and I also had a strong sense of what was mine; if I had money it was going to be me who spent it.

Control

Aged 15, that feeling of needing to be in control became something that would drastically shape my life, at least for the foreseeable future.

Both my father and twin brother emigrated to Australia, leaving me with an utter feeling of emptiness. Two very important people had been uncontrollably torn from my life, and I began to control the only thing I felt I had any power left over; food. It consumed me, quite literally. And alongside came a new feeling of being out of control, one which was related to the way that I looked and appeared on the outside.

No matter how much I meticulously controlled the food that I put into my body, I never quite felt good enough. I wasn’t slim enough or pretty enough, my clothes weren’t good enough or at least not on me.

With my emotional control over food came an equally emotional over-spending on clothes. I would splurge on the latest fashion items, desperately willing them to make me feel better in my own skin. I was chasing a perfect version of myself, and a perfect version of my life, that just cannot ever exist in reality.

Taking it Back

One of the most significant lives of my life came after my partner treated me to a visit from an image consultant styling session for my birthday. The turning point for me came when she left me one evening sitting on my red couch, surrounded by bin bags.

I cried my eyes out as it was as she has given me permission to get rid of the ‘stuff’ in my life that I had been hoarding. My wardrobe had been crippling me, in more ways than one. It was then that I decided I wanted to take control and create change. I also wanted to help other women feel more confident in their bodies.

Having deferred my university place at 18 and taken a job in a bank, I started my very first business as a side-hustle called ‘Before Meets After Image Consultancy’ just before I fell pregnant with my first son. It gave me the push that I needed to start saving. 

The Final Hurdle

It wasn’t until my second son was born 3 years later that and was critically poorly that my emotional response to money returned. We were told when he was just 4 days old that there was a 50/50 chance he would survive. Three short weeks later and he was back in hospital but this time with Bacterial Meningitis. As a result of nearly losing my 5 week old baby, I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and my spending had become out of control again.

The diagnosis helped me to address things, and I was finally able to understand why, and how, my spending habits were so closely linked with my emotions. I spent because I was unhappy, anxious and ironically out of control. 

I’d spent years chasing that Instagram life, trying to fill perceived holes in my life, myself, and my own happiness. Once I was able to see just how very emotional rather than rational my spending actually was, I vowed again to use that experience to help other women. So I decided to become a financial coach, and set up ‘The Money Panel’.

I knew that money was emotional and that the financial services profession needed a greater focus on reducing jargon and increasing focus on our behaviours and emotions around money. I wanted to explore how I could use coaching principles to help women improve their relationship with money as I had done. I knew that if other women were emotional spenders, I could help them to become better savers. I had the technical, practical experience, the knowledge and more importantly the personal experience.

I feel more in control now than I ever have, and it fills me with joy knowing that I’m able to help my clients, customers, podcast listeners, and the community that I have built to take back control and feel just as confident. 

Catherine’s top 3 financial wellbeing tips:

Challenge the emotion

What is driving you to make the purchase? Challenge the action; is what you are doing going to make you feel any different in 20 minutes? 

Your emotional driver could be something really serious. If you are not ready to challenge it then you need to put something in place to stop you behaving in that emotional way.

Enforce a cooling-off period

Give yourself 48 hours before purchasing anything. That might mean leaving an item in your Amazon basket so that you can allow your brain to think more rationally. 

You can also choose not to store credit card details online so you have to get up and find your purse every time you want to buy something! 

Affirm the positive

Make a conscious decision not to use negative language with money. Rather than saying ‘I don’t have enough money’. Instead, say something positive like ‘I can be in control of my finances.’ Look for evidence of the things you are good at. 

Reframe what you are thinking; “I can be wealthy and increase my income”, or “I can control my spending.” Being conscious about your own money mindset will help you to change your belief systems which will lead you to make better financial decisions. 

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