Impulse shopping is something that all of us are guilty of doing.
You have a stressful week, receive bad news, or maybe you just aren't happy at the moment.
You sit and realize that you need something —anything to make you feel better, so you get dressed and head to the store.
Several items later, you skip out of the store and back home where you put the clothes you bought in a draw, and slowly go back to how you were feeling before you decided shopping would help.
It's a cycle of buying things to make yourself feel better but never having the feeling last.
Psychologically it makes sense why we would resort to spending money instead of saving for happiness but for the sake of our pockets, it's a habit that can be kicked.
Keep reading to find out why we all do it, what can be done about it.
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What is retail therapy?
There's a lot of psychology behind retail therapy. From the way it stimulates your brain and releases feel good neurotransmitters, to the marketing tactics used by store owners.
It's also the action of buying items for the sake of getting over an experience or feeling. The way some people choose to eat comfort food there are those who whip out their credit cards to indulge in comfort purchasing.
The goal is to improve your mood, provide an escape or distraction, a sense of control, and even provide connection to others.
Does retail therapy work?
As you pick up items, browse aimlessly through online shops or put the items on the counter you feel better even great for the time being.
Its an adrenaline rush, endorphins are coursing through your body and your decision making skills are being hindered.
Endorphins make us feel good.
They're the part of our brain that tell us that we like what we're doing. And its the feeling we remember the next time we find out selves in a similar situation.
Why is it dangerous?
Retail therapy can make you credit a new mattress when you already had a high balance on a credit card.
Or cause you to spend money that your budget had allocated for something else, like rent or groceries.
It's not to say that spending money is unhealthy, in fact responsible purchases can make all of our lives better, but the aftereffects are what get us all down.
It's the guilt and shame and worry over expenses that follows.
The anxiety over how you're going to pay your bills or where you're going to get back the money the money you just spent.
It's the stress to your body that spending excessively or without thinking can do.
But with all of the effects of retail therapy pointing in the negative direction why do we do it? If you find yourself seeking comfort in buying food, clothes, furniture, expensive vacations, don't beat yourself up.
Let us dive into exactly why this happens.
Why do we retail shop?
It's one of many mechanisms we use to get through tough situations since it provides relief.
I've been learning my own habits so actively, that now I can recognize the urge to retail shop. I start to feel a burst of almost jittery energy and the urge to get dressed becomes overwhelming.
I feel the need to go outside and spend money. In my head I'll instantly comb through all of the stores located around me and try to decide which direction to go in once I'm out of the house.
That hint of aimless, outside is my adventure spirit, that erupts inside of me is my clue to first stick my head outside the window and deeply breathe in some fresh air.
It usually clears my head and reminds me that what I'm feeling is just that, a feeling.
No matter the state of your life you have ultimate power over what you put in your cart.
Handing over your debit/credit card or cash is up to you and won't be done unless you allow it.
2020 alone has been a year full of stress and turmoil for a lot of people, and shopping because it feels nice is not a new trend.
We just don't realize the cycle causing it to happen because we're buying things that give us a false sense of happiness.
Similar to working out, when your body is focused on the actions and movements that it's doing, you think less.
The homework that's sitting on your bed is no longer a thing. The people you have to help are no longer around to hassle you.
It's just you and an aisle.
All you have to focus on is whether you want your mascara to be mega long or mega luscious.
It feels good
Humans strive for positive feelings.
We don't like feelings that we consider to be negative so even though we know we shouldn't make that purchase, it's a combination of distraction, control, and relief that make us forget the negative consequences
So now that we understand the logic behind our actions what can we do about it?
This is not to convince you that ALL retail therapy is bad because it's not.
It may be the day that you decide to replace a pair of old shoes that were making your back hurt and made walking uncomfortable.
That would be an investment in your health and mood in the long run, which could be argued as extremely therapeutic and worth it.
We all have habits that make us feel better when times are hard or our minds are racing with thoughts.
Discussing retail therapy is only to bring old habits to your attention so that you may build a defense mechanism to prevent it from becoming dangerous or destructive.
Now that you understand it you can...
Have compassion toward yourself
Everyone, even those who have been budgeting for years, have slipped up.
Without judgement, accept your purchase and work on combatting the next one.
Stop and sit with your feelings
Sometimes being mindful and saying "Oh, I feel sad", "That hurt my feelings", "I feel frustrated and angry", lets the feelings that are knocking at your door enter.
It gives them room to breathe and as you tune into your breaths, or go back to your activities the intensity begins to fade.
Look at your budget
If you only have $100 until your next check, and you see your financial plan of expected expenses written, it may be a reminder or a wake up call that you can not go out and buy something.
Set a budget
If you don't have a budget you can create one.
There are simple and easy to use templates to help you understand and manage your money.
Indulge in other forms of self care
I have an entire easy to understand post dedicated to at home FREE activites you can do.
Read it here
Talk to someone / Seek support
Reach out to your friends and family.
You can even use social media in a positive way and make meaningful connections with people all around the world.
You do not have to suffer alone. Seasonal depression is a real thing, compassion fatigue is draining, your anxiety is a valid response to stimuli around you, and you deserve people to lean on during these hard times.
In conclusion impulsive shopping and retail therapy can be a thing of the past. Each day we're breaking old habits and forming new ones that are guaranteed to set us up for financial freedom.
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