When Money Can Buy Happiness: Why Shopping is Addictive

When Money Can Buy Happiness: Why Shopping is Addictive

Shopping is an activity people either love or hate. Those who love it do so for different reasons, but most of them find shopping soothing and enjoyable. Singaporeans, in particular, are big shoppers, placing number one in a study that ranks Southeast Asia’s online shopping activities. The study, which was done in 2014 by Visa, found that 58% of Singaporeans shop online at least once a month.

When the pandemic hit, online shopping activity in Singapore grew even more, just like in other countries. But this isn’t surprising at all, because shopping is essential in all our lives, whatever the state of the world is. However, people can shop a little too much. And during these tough times, they can be more prone to shopping excessively.

Retail therapy is a term we’ve all heard of. It’s supposedly a short-term remedy for stress. Indeed, if you love shopping, the mall tends to be your go-to stress reliever, and irresistible credit card offers are like signs that you need to buy now. But until what point is retail therapy healthy?

Why Shopping Makes You Happy

People who aren’t into shopping or any material things for that matter argue that retail therapy isn’t a real mood booster. But a 2011 study has found otherwise, and that shopping makes you happy for the following reasons:

  • Spontaneous shopping relieves bad moods
  • Resisting the urge to buy something has a similar positive effect for people trying to avoid impulse-buying
  • Retail therapy doesn’t result in buyer’s remorse, guilt, anxiety, and other feelings of distress
  • The effect of retail therapy can last well past the purchase

Though retail therapy can open a path for overspending, that’s not automatically the case, according to the study. In fact, most participants didn’t go over their budgets when they shopped.

Where to Draw the Line

Retail therapy has a such a bad reputation among frugal consumers, but is it really that terrible? Well, the answer to that depends on your financial situation and emotional responses. If shopping doesn’t make you feel regretful, then retail therapy must really work for you. However, if it drains your savings, which will stress you out eventually, you have to draw a line between retail therapy and overspending.

As with most activities that make you feel good, moderation is key. Stay within your budget and don’t buy what you can’t afford. If you don’t have money for shopping yet, avoid all temptations to buy, even window-shopping.

shopping woman

Are You a Compulsive Shopper?

Compulsive shopping is actually a psychological condition known as compulsive buying disorder. In other words, shopping addiction. Some people who love shopping fear that they have this condition, but engaging in retail therapy doesn’t automatically make you an addict.

The similarities between compulsive buying disorder and retail therapy end in shopping. But retail therapy can turn into an addiction, because shopping activates the reward system in your brain, which is also the case in any other addictive activity. But in compulsive buying disorder, you’re not addicted to the things you’re buying. Rather, you’re addicted to the good feelings shopping cause.

Also, compulsive shopping disorder causes the following behaviours:

  • Buying things you don’t need
  • Shopping in secret
  • Being unable to stop shopping
  • Compromising your well-being or values just to shop
  • Feeling guilty after shopping
  • Needing to shop to feel normal

If you don’t find yourself practising those behaviours yet, then you’re all clear. Hence, draw the line while you’re still in control, and manage your money more wisely before temptation overpowers you.

How to Control Your Shopping Budget and Impulses

Self-awareness is the first step to controlling your urges to shop. If you find yourself in a store after feeling stressed, ask yourself if buying something can indeed make you feel better. It’s alright to treat yourself to your comfort food or anything that makes you smile, as long as it’s within your budget. But if you keep picking up items knowing that you don’t have the budget for them, it’s time to step back and rethink your actions.

Once you struggle to find cash, curb your emotional spending before it takes a toll on your finances. Use your credit card only for important items that you can repay on time. Going into debt because of shopping too much can taint your reputation among lenders.

In addition, when you feel tempted to buy something, try to wait it out for at least 24 hours. If you’re still thinking of that item after 24 hours or so, don’t buy it immediately, but keep it in your wish list. But if you’ve stopped thinking about the item, or a nagging voice in your head is saying that you can’t afford it, postpone your purchase for a longer time until you’re certain that you really need it.

Remember, retail therapy is effective, but only in moderation. Prioritize your financial stability over your urges at the end of the day, you’ll be rewarded with even more money to spend. Only by that time, you’re already a wiser spender.

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