Why do people shop? This question has been examined by psychologists and personal finance bloggers for years and the reasons are usually broken down into the old needs vs. wants dilemma. I think it goes much deeper than that.
We buy things we budget for and things we need – food, clothing, transportation, shelter, climate control, and sometimes we buy things to replace items we’ve worn out or outgrown (I’m going through sneakers and clothing like crazy with three kids!). Sometimes we buy things we want (electronics, boats, new furniture, etc) and that’s okay so long as our decision is made with an idea of where the money is coming from and it isn’t from high interest debt. It’s also a good idea to make sure the money you spend on wants doesn’t jeopardize your ability to meet your future needs.
But many times, we shop for other reasons:
1. We shop because we’re mildly depressed
It’s called retail therapy and it’s no joke. In some people, shopping causes an increase in dopamine which causes you to feel happy for a short time.
A better idea: call a friend and talk things out. That’s what friends are for.
2. We shop because “we deserve it”
After a hard day at work, or a long day at home with the kids, shopping is your personal reward for the stress and overwhelming circumstances you’ve been through.
A better idea: try taking a walk in a park. Getting out into nature can have a wonderful effect on our psyche.
3. We shop to feel more in control
That cash or plastic in your hand gives you control over your circumstances and human beings love to be in control. There’s nothing like a salesperson working to make you happy.
A better idea: prove to yourself how much self control you have and avoid the mall.
4. We shop to make a point
Closely related to #3, you may shop to prove that no one can tell YOU what to do. Your wife, your husband, your parents, or even a blog can’t control you.
A better idea: make a point to yourself by putting that cash into your savings account.
5. We shop to escape
Going through the mall is your escape from reality and it feels great to blow off everyone and everything and just clear your mind while you decide between royal blue and teal blue.
A better idea: escape to the gym or to the park.
6. We shop to be someone else
You really believe that those new shoes or that new iPhone will make your life better. Those shoes make you feel glamorous and that iPhone makes you feel important and part of the “in” crowd. Hopefully, your acquaintances will be jealous.
A better idea: remember that things don’t change people, they only reveal who you already are. The two things that will change you are the people you hang around with and the books you read. Change those to become someone else … and give up on making someone jealous.
7. We shop to socialize
Shopping is your “day out” with the girls but is isn’t just for women. No, men shop too, just check out Bass Pro Shops for the guys comparing camouflage overalls or trolling motors. Shopping satisfies our urge to socialize.
A better idea: invite friends over for a potluck or to play some board games or get a group together for a volunteer project.
8. We shop on impulse
You shop out of habit, stopping by the mall every day on the way home from work, or every Sunday afternoon as your way to relax.
A better idea: don’t try to quit ANY habit, but replace that habit with a better one like exercise or reading a book. And change your route home from work.
9. We shop to to fool ourselves
You claim to get so much exercise at the mall, that all the walking is doing your body some good.
A better idea: get your exercise somewhere else like visiting people in a hospital or by walking in the park.
10. We shop to build our ego
You love the attention salespeople give you and the way they compliment your choices. When your teenager doesn’t want anything to do with you, your spouse is wrapped up in a project, or layoffs are coming at work, those salespeople at the mall can really build your ego.
A better idea: remember that those salespeople only like you because you’re shopping. To really build your ego and self esteem, get busy serving others and making someone’s life better.
The first step to overcoming a bad shopping habit is to discover why you’re doing it in the first place. See if any of these reasons reverberate with you and then take the necessary steps to overcome it and give your budget a break. Here’s a hint – the one that made you mad could be the one you need to work on!
Photo by Brave New Films