The 3 Emotions Americans Blame Most for Their Overspending

Photo by Kaspars Grinvalds /

Try not to let this news stress you out, lest you rack up credit card debt.

Sixty-four percent of Americans have credit card debt or had it in the past, and about half of Americans — 49 percent — say their emotions have caused them to spend more than they can reasonably afford, according to a new NerdWallet survey of more than 2,000 adults.

This is more likely to be true of younger Americans. The survey, conducted by Harris Poll, found that 67 percent of millennials say emotions have caused them to overspend, compared with 29 percent of people age 65 and older.

So which emotions are most to blame? According to the folks who say emotions cause them to overspend, the following are most likely to prompt overspending:

  1. Stress (cited by 29 percent)
  2. Excitement (22 percent)
  3. Sadness (13 percent)

Women are more likely than men to blame stress, however, while men are more likely to blame excitement.

NerdWallet’s survey also explored another emotion tied to debt: embarrassment.

It found that while most Americans (86 percent) say there are acceptable reasons for credit card debt, just as many (87 percent) would be embarrassed to go into debt.

By far the most embarrassing reasons for racking up credit card debt are:

  1. Unnecessary purchases you can’t afford (cited by 69 percent of survey respondents)
  2. Nonemergency travel expenses (43 percent)
  3. Cash advances (41 percent)

Sean McQuay, NerdWallet’s credit and banking expert, notes that you can use emotions to your advantage, however:

“Money spent on interest payments is money not saved and money not spent where you wanted. Channel any shame you feel about your debt into paying it off as quickly [and] as reasonably possible.”

For help paying off debt, be sure to check out:

If you need professional help getting out of debt, also check out “Ask Stacy: Where Can I Find Help With Credit Card Debt?

Would you say emotions have caused you to overspend? Let us know which emotion would blame most in a comment below or over on our Facebook page.

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