There’s a reason retail therapy earned its name. For some people, getting something new and shiny can help keep certain tough emotions at bay, at least for a little while.
A 2014 study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that retail therapy not only makes people happier immediately, but it can also fight lingering sadness. As the Cleveland Clinic explains, sadness is generally associated with a sense that situations are in control of the outcomes in our life, rather than life being in our own hands. The choices and outcomes inherent in the act of shopping can restore a feeling of personal control and autonomy. This is true for residual sadness we may be feeling as well.
Unfortunately, feelings aren’t facts and one hard truth is people are spending more than they have, particularly young adults. Or at least that’s the gist of a recent Credit Karma report that analyzed survey findings that took a look at Americans’ spending behavior.
According to the report, 39% of Americans identify as emotional spenders with 58% of Gen Z and 52% of millennials saying they are more likely to make purchases in response to how they’re feeling at the time. This is compared to just 19% of respondents aged 59 and above (Boomers+).
Some of the top emotions respondents identified as reasons they spend was Happiness (29%), boredom (28%) and depression (22%). And, as self-care culture continues to grow, Americans shared they’re more likely to spend money as a way of treating themselves when they’re having a good day (40%) or bad day (46%).
In both situations, Gen Z and millennials were most susceptible to treating themselves regardless. This includes both material items and experiences, to which Gen Z said they spend money because of FOMO, fear of missing out (24%).
“While treating yourself is a form of self-care, emotional spending can have an adverse effect on your finances,” said Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma in a news release shared with ESSENCE. “If you’re an emotional spender, try pausing before making a purchase and consider how you’re feeling at the moment. Are you buying the item because it’s something you really want or need, or are you buying the item to offset how you’re feeling? If you’re unsure, try imposing a 24-hour rule on all discretionary purchases. If you’re still thinking about making the purchase the next day, consult your budget and make sure the purchase fits into the dollar amount you have allocated for your ‘wants’ that month. As a general rule, you should allocate 30% of your take home pay towards ‘wants’, 50% towards ‘needs’ and 20% towards financial goals, such as building savings and/or paying off debt. If you’re unable to make the purchase and still seeking a dopamine hit, consider other ways to improve your mood like exercising, watching an episode of your favorite show or learning a new skill. This can give you the mood boost you’re after without taking a hit to your finances. And if you find yourself not being able to stop thinking about that item, consider saving a small amount each week or month to save up for it.”
As previously reported by ESSENCE, Americans are currently $1 trillion in credit card debt and this figure is predicted to only get bigger as inflation rages on. If you find yourself with looming debt, it’s important to take steps to get it under control.