Woman facing retail window

Curb Your Retail Therapy Habit

Life doesn’t always go the way we plan it to and sometimes the disappointment that comes along with that truth leads us to dealing with our stress in unhealthy ways. We pick fights with our loved ones, drink too many glasses of wine, eat everything in sight, or start spending our money on items we really don’t need. And while none of these actions are great for our emotional wellbeing, our tendency towards mindless shopping can lead to a strain on our financial health as well.

Spending money during times of stress can provide a quick and easy mood boost to help cheer us up, and there’s nothing anything wrong with that - when it’s done in moderation. However, when it becomes the go-to stress reliever that constantly breaks our budget, it’s time to replace the habit with something that better serves us.

We often shop in times of stress because it makes us feel good: it triggers dopamine in our brains, which creates feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. And who doesn’t want more of those in their lives? The trouble, though, is that the feel-good surges we get from stress shopping are fleeting and temporary, not to mention expensive.

Retail therapy can be quite costly, stripping us of our long-term money goals and financial security. It‘s a short-term fix with the potential for a permanent problem, so a better way of increasing our dopamine in times of stress is to try some of the following ideas instead.

Window Shopping: It turns out that it’s often the anticipation of shopping, rather than the act itself that gets our feel-good juices flowing. Next time you feel the urge to splurge, try looking at the items you want, either online or in person, and see if the simple act of appreciating them instead of purchasing them keeps you satisfied.  

Hold Off: If window shopping doesn’t cut it, try to wait 24-48 hours until you actually make the purchase. You might just find that after a day or two passes you’re no longer interested in the item at all.  

Clean Up Your Phone and Computer: Unsubscribe from all of those “year-end deal/today only/sale of the century!” retail emails and remove any spending apps from your phone. Delete your stored credit card information for online websites as well. Making it harder to spend your money online can buy you more time to consider whether or not the purchase you’re about to make is an emotionally-charged one.

Know Thyself: Understand your triggers and what situations make you want to shop. It’s a lot easier to avoid the temptation when you know what caused it in the first place. Once you know why you wanted to frivolously spend money, consider finding healthier ways to cope with those particular emotions. There are numerous productive things you can do to relieve stress and provide some relief that don’t take a chunk out of your wallet. 

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