What Is Retail Therapy?
Retail therapy is spending money to make yourself feel better.
But retail therapy doesn’t fix your problems. It just distracts you from them. For a bit. (And then it leads to even more problems in the end.)
The Psychology of Retail Therapy
So, that “fix” you get from retail therapy? You’re not just imagining it—there’s actually science behind it. Shopping really does make you feel better in the moment. Take a look at why retail therapy makes us feel so good:
It gives you a sense of control.
When life’s circumstances seem to be spinning out of control, deciding what to buy and where we’ll shop makes it feel like we’re back in the driver’s seat. But are you really in control, or are your emotions calling the shots?
It’s like a drug.
When we shop, the body releases dopamine, what Psychology Today calls “the feel-good neurotransmitter.”
It boosts your self-esteem.
Advertisers totally take advantage of this. They know which days and at what times you’re most likely to feel vulnerable, and they send out their emails, targeted ads and text notifications during those times.
It makes you hope for the future.
Advertisers know this. They paint a picture of the new life you can have if you just buy their product. And when you’re deep in your own emotions, that new life seems like the perfect way to avoid your feelings and your problems.
The Dangers of Retail Therapy: What Does It Actually Cost?
Is retail therapy really such a bad thing if it seems to be saving our sanity?
Here are some areas of our lives that both researchers and shopaholics agree can suffer at the hands of retail therapy if we don’t shop responsibly.
Retail therapy puts our financial security at risk.
There are two sides to this coin. First, saying “I deserve it” and splurging on big-ticket items is a quick way to get upside-down with your money. You aren’t getting rid of your emotions. You’re just adding money stress and strained finances to the mix.
Second, those daily or weekly smaller purchases really add up too. If you’re constantly hitting “Add to Cart” every time work gets overwhelming, you’re slowly but surely eating away at your financial security.
Retail therapy gets in the way of our long-term goals.
Hoping to get out of debt, buy a house, save up for your kid’s college tuition, or even pay for in-home care for your elderly parents? Satisfying short-term desires without factoring in the future, that comes at a cost, not only to us, but also to those around us.
Retail therapy increases our lack of self-control.
Thanks to the rush of dopamine released when we shop, retail therapy can easily become addictive and taxing on our self-control. For those who are already prone to addictive-type behaviors, not practicing self-control on what may seem like small things could lead us to chase that dopamine release through other addictions.
Retail therapy affects our health.
Let’s have some real talk: Retail therapy might work in the short term, but it can never cure what’s driving us to shop in the first place—it just numbs the pain for a moment.
Pile a load of guilt, anxiety and buyer’s remorse from all that money we just spent on top of the pain that drove us to shop, and we’ve got a royal mess of stress on our hands when the dopamine fades.
We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human! But when you internalize those mistakes as your identity rather than giving yourself grace, you’ll never be able to create a life you love.
If you think your past mistakes with money—retail therapy or any other financial decisions you’re not proud of—are too big to overcome, remember who you are, and whose you are.
John 1:12 (NIV) says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
This commentary was originally posted by RACHEL CRUZE Jan 26 2022
**Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.