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Is Fear Inducing You To Spend When You Know You Shouldn’t?




This  is a guest post from Todd at Fearless Men. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact me. 

Why are people sometimes completely overcome with the urge to spend? Whether it’s on a big ticket item or a being a serial spender? Most people understand the concept that they shouldn’t spend out more than they bring in.

If people know this to be true, and know it’s a simple enough rule to abide by, why don’t they seem to easily follow it?

Being induced or compelled to do something is often hard for people to be self-aware about. There are many factors as to why people make decisions that they are aware will hurt themselves. It can be self-deceit, arrogance, greed…Well in all of those cases they are probably foolish enough to think they are above hurting themselves.

What are the reasons that smart people seem to get in a cycle of bad decisions? We all could think of a relentless list of reasons, but let’s zero in on one that I frequently talk and write to men about:


Fear is a powerful internal motivator. People will do almost anything for the sake of preserving themselves out of the fear of death, fear of failure, or just plain the fear of looking stupid.

Now why in the world would we allow fear to drive us to SPEND?

1. You’ve made a mistake and you’re trying to make up for it.

Ha, I laugh as I write this. This is almost all-encompassing.

Kobe Bryant, after it was brought to the public eye that he cheated on his wife with a 21-year-old while rehabbing in Colorado, bought a MULTI-MILLION dollar apology ring for his wife. Why? He did something stupid and was fearful of losing her.

Sometimes people spend extraordinary amounts of money to cover up their mistakes. Maybe it’s a rich person throwing around hush money, or even a broke bloke blowing cash on covering up his small web of lies.

Yet another tragedy is when a person playing the investment game makes a bad, costly call. They might feel compelled to double-down on their investment in the hopes of making a double-or-nothing play that brings back the money they burned.

2. You can’t stomach looking at the bills, so you keep spending more than you should.

A person overcome with fear about money has a debilitating emotional correlation with the debt they’re in. It can be paralyzing. Therefore they just try to ignore the painful online credit card or loan statements because it’s just too plain difficult to look at.

And with that, they are ignorant of the debt they continue to rack up. It’s not uncommon for a person to continue to blow money in this insecure state, with the hopes of getting some immediate gratification that will cover up that bad feeling in their stomach.

Who hasn’t eaten a piece of delicious cake when they felt down about something? Or the guy that blows some money on drinks to make his sorrows go away?

The fear of facing and having to wrestle through this problem is paralyzing for people, and they continue to spend away.

3. People are afraid of something new.

Isn’t it bizarre that people are afraid of learning new information? As in, people know there are people out there more financially savvy than them, yet they’re afraid to grow in their knowledge?

This fear can grip anyone who’s made some mistakes and now fears further failure.

What can a man or woman do who’s stuck in this mess?

1. Identify the fear.

What is it exactly that you’re afraid of? Is it failure? Is it looking stupid? Is it that you’ve lost sight of how bad things might be and can’t stomach the reality?

2. Evaluate if it’s real.

Is what you fear a real risk? Is it tangible and external to you, or is it internal?

For example, ballooning debt is real, and it’s something to be afraid of getting yourself further stuck in. But that actual feeling of insecurity about that, it IS something you’re experiencing, but it’s not real outside of your mind.

Your fear is no more real than you give it power to be.

3. Exposure

Whether or not that fear is reality, it certainly is reality to you. And the next thing you can do to tackle it is expose yourself to it. Sure, that might sound scary and counter-productive. But the person who’s afraid of talking to people should go out and talk to people. The person who’s fearful of debt they’re piling up should look at it.

The person who keeps spending and spending either because they choose to remain ignorant or because it gives them a momentary emotional escape should expose themselves to the reality of it. Look it in the eye.

4. Begin the Next Step of Your Journey

If you want to escape any repetitive cycle of fear that’s inducing you to repeat mistakes, look that fear straight in the eye, evaluate if it’s real, and expose yourself to it. Next, create a plan of action and begin your journey to be done with it!

This is a guest post written by Todd. He’s the co-founder and content manager at Fearless Men, a men’s blog on Manliness that inspires men to grow strong, get fit, be wise, kick fear in the face and become a better man. Check out what else he’s written on Overcoming Fear.

[Image credit Chris Morrison / http://dribbble.com/shots/857372-Bills]

Kim’s Comments: I have to say that even us girls can find lots of wisdom from Fearless Men! I know that I certainly have been guilty of letting fear hold me back, but no longer. I’ve come to realize that facing what scares you is the only way to truly be happy, unless, of course, it’s spiders or birds. You can avoid those all you want!


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Fear has the complete opposite effect on me. It prompts me to save money rather than spend it.

  2. I try to not let fear rule my life, but when it comes to money I do tend to fear not having enough more than I should 🙁

  3. I think I am seeing you and John just about everywhere lately. 😉 Seriously though, fear is a huge motivator and we try to harness it to induce us to save/plan more and not become slaves to it.

    • Well John that’s in part b/c we’ve learned so much from you! You’ve been so giving to the financial blog community with your guest posts–I’ve got to tip my hat to you. Hopefully these points on fear will help create some additional awareness out there within people.

  4. I certainly think that it can be “paralyzing” sometimes to be in a tough financial spot. I personally would recommend taking a deep breath and then committing to evaluate your finances and how you can adjust your spending or income to put yourself in a less stressful situation. There are always ways to make more money (which is something I highly recommend) and if you need to, there are areas that can be cut. Knowledge can empower you to overcome your fear of finances.

  5. Oh yes, all of these reasons seem to resonate with me, I have to say. It’s been a constant battle to not give in to spending because of feeling like we have to make things up to the kids, so we can avoid looking at the bills, or because a life without debt is so foreign to us that it scares us. At times when the fear comes, we try hard to just focus on the now, on not spending today, and on wanting better for our family Wonderful post, Todd!

    • Thanks Laurie!! I appreciate it!
      I think fearing not providing what our kids want and fearing not giving them a memorable childhood can be a valid and also an invalid feeling. Regardless, we feel it. It’s great to process is that fear valid and what to do about it!

  6. I think fear is sometimes confused with nervousness. I am nervous about the outcome is not the same as fear. I usually handle nervousness and fear the same way, I practice or work on it until I am secure.

    • That’s an insightful point. Sometimes uneasiness (nervousness) comes from knowing something is at risk. And that’s valid to feel a little nervous when the outcome is unknown! Keeps us on our toes at the least.

  7. Fear makes me actually stop in my tracks and go the opposite direction. I’m afraid to spend money on everything. I do know people though who fear facing their financial reality. I was one of those people at one point.

    • It’s a good point, hopefully people are fearful enough of going into debt that they simple don’t.

      As you point out, some people are so afraid of facing reality, that they won’t do that either.

  8. These reasons are spot on. I really agree with your point that people are afraid of something new. It’s amazing how little people like change, even if the change is for the better. I agree with Budget and the Beach that I actually stop spending because of fear of not having enough money. Although, I do know that many people spend because they are scared, luckily my wife and I are not one of these.

  9. I used to overspend because of fear, AND because of denial. =/

  10. When it comes to fear and spending I see this a lot with buying gas. Often times I’ll get family members telling me that gas prices are going up and that I should buy it now. The problem with this is most of the time they are usually wrong an a week later the price is back down again.

  11. Great post, Todd. Fear really does a number on us. For some reason it seems easier to do anything – even spend money we know we don’t have – then to confront our fear and why we do things we do. I can’t claim to have never been fearful, but when I find myself making fear-based decisions, I try to figure out why. Fear makes you reactive and I would rather be proactive and in control.

  12. Great point about the fallacy of using money to attempt to buy back trust, Todd. Relationship based on this obviously never work for the right reasons.

  13. Nice post Todd. I know fear held me down when I was in credit card debt and that is what allowed me to continue spending beyond my means. Once I got a hold of it, I changed my ways and made a difference.

  14. I know-isn’t it interesting how fear can sometimes induce us to keep spending on those cards? It’s sad, but I’m glad you’ve climbed out of that habit!!!

  15. Yeah I think I may be on the verge of number 2. I am still opening bills at this point even though I kind of want to just throw them in pile and run away. But gotta face my fears, no point in avoiding the inevitable.

  16. Good advice. Fear is such a powerful (and sometimes negative motivator). I used to be #2 through and through. Thankfully I got through all of that and got control of my finances back.

  17. The fear of not fitting in is a big one. This is especially true with tendy products like an iPhone.

  18. I’ll admit that there have been a few job postings that I simply didn’t apply to simply because I made the assumption that I wouldn’t get it. But when you look at the thousands of applications I’ve filled out and resumes I’ve submitted in the last 4 years, it’s really tough for me to say I wasn’t right.

  19. I also tend to react to fear by turning a little miserly. I’d say, though, that the times that I have spent because of fear were the times I was afraid of missing an opportunity or a great sale price.

  20. I’ve seen the fear kick in for some people I know that have done stupid things and off they go and spend. Yes it’s a ‘feel good’ method of telling themselves it’s all going to be ok. Fear worries me into a corner so I do the opposite and spend less. Great post mate

  21. I’ve met a number of people with similar motivations. It’s maddening to watch them do it to themselves, but you can’t really stop them!

  22. I bought a car once because of fear! My job depended on my having a car, my car blew up, and I went into a panic about it. I convinced my parents to be cosigners for a loan I couldn’t afford and that eventually sunk myself into quite a debt hole. Now I’m working myself out and learning to take the time to think through things before taking action!

    • Lindsey thanks for sharing your story! That’s a prime example of fear motivating us in the wrong direction. Sorry that happened :(. It sounds like getting a car wasn’t necessarily the unwise thing to do, but just feeling the rush and pressure of fear made it tough to pick the right timing and price.

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