Emotional spending costs £26.5 billion in credit card debt

Broken heart
Broken heart

Break-ups, retirement or bereavement are triggering spending sprees among millions of Brits, who are racking up hundreds of pounds in credit card debt - and in some cases end up in serious financial difficulty.

A study by Asda Money found that19 million Brits send for purely emotional reasons, with 1.8 million going on a spree after a break-up, 1.9 million spending to deal with the emotional impact of retirement, and 2.4 million overspending when dealing with a death. An astonishing 5.5 million people spend most when they are feeling unhappy.

A third of people spend this cash on a holiday they cannot afford, while some will embark on expensive home renovations or buy a new car. Others will try for a new look - with new clothes and a haircut, while some will buy a new pet.

The average spend is £300 - but this masks instances where people spend thousands of pounds to help them get a hit from sending, and distract themselves from the bigger issues going on in their life.

A worrying one in three people suffered financial difficulties as a result of their spending, and one in ten are still feeling the effects. Even when they have recovered from it, 43% of people felt guilty about the money they wasted.

Karen Harkin, Head of Asda Credit Card, said: "While it is perfectly reasonable for credit card holders to spend on credit following impactful life events, careful spending is key. With the right financial guidance and methods in place, shoppers can overcome the urge to overspend and avoid that unpleasant feeling of guilt."

See also: Valentine's Day rip-offs

See also: Families face budget squeeze as spending on essentials hits three-year high

See also: More than a third of New Year's Resolutions hang by a thread

If you are going through emotional difficulties - especially with Valentines Day on the horizon - it's therefore important to set some ground rules to protect yourself. There are five useful steps.

1. It may be better to actively decide not to touch your credit card for a couple of weeks. Take it out of your wallet and put it somewhere safe.

2. It's also a good idea to decide not to buy anything significant for while - regardless of how you buy it. Now is not the time to be making big decisions - and that includes spending decisions.

3. Avoid temptation. When you're feeling low, stay away from the high street and off shopping websites. Go for a walk, call a friend, write a chart-topping hit about your break-up - just don't go anywhere where you can spend money.

4. If you then want to buy something, make a pact that you will sleep on any purchasing decisions, to see if it still feels essential the following day.

5. If you struggle to stick with any of these rules, then ask a friend to help you. You can call them before any purchase, and they will help either talk you out of it or confirm it's something you genuinely need.