One of the first things taught in financial literacy courses is budgeting. And in constructing the budget, we tell students start with income; only then should they move to spending. Once the students are addressing the spending side of their budgets, it's important to get them to differentiate between wants and needs. There are a number of ways of differentiating. One of my favorite rules of thumb is "needs are general (clothing, food), wants are specific (Nike, steak)." But another aspect of building the expense side is learning how to control spending. And a key part of that can be controlling what some people call "emotional spending." That is spending that we do that is mood-related: depressed, disenchanted, ecstatic, etc. Emotional spending almost always falls under the category of want as opposed to need. And while you may claim that your emotional state needs to seek release by spending; there are usually other ways that won't mess up your financial plan.
There is a good article on Investopedia.com> on this topic. It has a good explanation of what constitutes emotional spending, as well as offering some good suggestions on how to control it. For those of us teaching a basic personal finance course or a unit on personal finance within another course. It's worth a look. What do you think?