Indulging in a little retail therapy can seem like a harmless habit. After all, if treating yourself makes you feel better, is that so bad?

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It actually can be more harmful than you’d think. Besides the risk of spending beyond your means and taking on high-interest credit card debt, impulse buying can create a dependency on your credit card as a way to solve a problem or celebrate success. If you’ve fallen into the pattern of making purchases to boost your mood, being more mindful can help break unhealthy, emotional spending habits.

Recognize Your Emotional Spending Habits

If you’ve had a bad day, a really great day, or you’re bored, going shopping becomes the bandage, the reward, or just something to fill time. When you shop out of emotion, you could wind up spending money on things you don’t actually need.

In the short term, it feels good. But in the long term, you’re wasting money and possibly even spending beyond your means. Whatever mood lift you get from buying something will quickly be squashed by the growing interest payments on your credit card debt.

Taking on debt because of emotional spending just isn’t worth it, especially when there are many free ways to cope with an emotional day. Clear your mind with a walk or a workout; exercise does wonders for your mood. Call up a friend for some sage advice. Watch your favorite TV show. Read a good book.

You’ll feel much better treating yourself in this way, and it won’t leave you with a higher credit card bill and more stuff to find space for in your closet.

Stay Focused on Buying Only What You Need

You pass by your favorite shop on your way home from work. Or you happen to be buying something you actually need, when you see something that you want. Impulse purchases, like when you go grocery shopping for eggs and end up buying $50 worth of snack foods, really add up.

To put an end to impulse buys, make a list of what you really need before you shop and stick to it. Also try giving yourself a limited time to shop. Time your errands during a time where you’re a bit more pressed for time-such as just before an appointment or on a lunch break at work. The less time you have to wander around the store, the less you’ll be tempted to buy more.

If that doesn’t work, take a more extreme approach: Leave your credit cards at home and only bring enough cash to pay for the items you need.

Avoid the Pressures of Social Shopping

Let’s face it — shopping with your friends is fun. You help each other find treasures you wouldn’t have found on your own. You compliment each other as you try on clothes. You encourage each other to treat yourselves. You cap off a successful day of shopping with a pricey lunch.

The reality is that fun day could have cost you a lot more than you’d have spent if you shopped for clothes alone. While it’s sometimes helpful to have a second opinion, bringing friends along can sometimes lead to overindulging. You feel pressure to keep up with friends who have a higher budget than you.

The next time you need to buy a specific item of clothing, shop by yourself. It’ll be a shorter and more efficient trip, and you’ll be able to search with fewer distractions. And if you need a second opinion, ask a store clerk. They know more about how clothing should fit, and are knowledgeable of the store’s inventory so they can suggest clothing items within your budget.

Control Your Credit Card Usage

Cutting down on emotional spending requires a few habit changes. First, be more mindful of your reactions to extreme emotions. Then work to find a better coping method than shopping to deal with stress, anxiety, boredom or loneliness. When you feel the urge to pop into a store, pause and ask yourself if you really need anything there.

Know what you have spent already and how much you have left to avoid overspending. This doesn’t necessarily mean checking your accounts every few hours. Many credit cards offer free tools that track your spending habits and can even send you alerts when you are approaching your limit.

And if you still struggle with impulsively handing over your credit card, make it less convenient to use. Leave it at home — possibly frozen in a block of ice if necessary. Don’t save your credit card number on online retail sites, so when you’re about to click “buy” you have to think things over while re-entering your number.

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Reducing the convenience of using a credit card and considering your purchases more carefully can save you a lot of money and help you break the cycle of impulse buying.

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