At some point or another we have all done it – indulged in a little retail therapy. Whether it was after a tough day or to celebrate an achievement we tend to splurge and make impulsive decisions when our emotions run high, these impulse buys are some of the worst kinds of budget busters.
It’s part of our human nature to be social creatures and a big part of that is social acceptance. Showing or feeling that we are successful in the socio-economic environment is one of the strongest driving forces to the human psyche. This desire to be liked or looked at as upwardly mobile has a tangible effect on our lives, it influences where we go to school, where we work, who our friends are, where we live, who we date, etc… In our modern society the quickest and easiest way to satisfy this urge is to spend.
The combination of primal urges and high emotions is a recipe for disaster when it comes to our bank accounts. The reasons behind this are complex but put simply, in high emotional environments our logical analytical brain shuts down and a more primitive emotional brain takes over. This is a natural human reaction and it has its benefits. The ability to make quick instinctual decisions quickly served ancient humans perfectly when faced with life or death situations out in the wild – leading a tribe on the hunt for food or using the tools around them for defense or hiding if threatened – but in the 21st Century this impulsive decision making can lead us to buy those expensive shoes or that new outfit when we are feeling down or sad and need a pick me up.
A study conducted by Derek Rucker and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University had test subjects write about recent events when they either felt powerful or powerless. After writing their stories the participants were shown expensive luxury items and asked how much they would spend for these products. It turns out that those who recently wrote about weakness or powerlessness were willing to pay much more money for the luxury items than those who wrote about power. It was surmised that those who recently felt powerless were much more willing to spend on luxury items, which in most cases equates with power, as a defensive mechanism to help them avoid feeling powerless again or to eliminate that powerless feeling.
How Do We Avoid Being An Emotional Shopper?
The research suggests that these impulsive reactions are a result of a feeling of powerlessness or a feeling of lack and then we tend to over react and splurge on items that make us feel more powerful – typically luxury items but it could vary depending on the circumstances. When we fall into these emotional states these are the natural human reactions and unless you have some sort of superhuman level of self-discipline it’s nearly impossible not to fall into these traps from time to time. So the key is once we have slipped into the emotional mind we recognize and work to remove ourselves from it and get ourselves back up into the higher brain functions.
We need to help our analytical logical brain get back in charge before our emotional brain goes and maxes out the credit card!
This my 5 Step Checklist to Mastering Emotional Shopping
- Acknowledge – Understand that you are in this altered emotional state
- Stop – Stop what you are doing and take a deep breath and just wait, emotional states don’t last long they are just very intense
- Distract – They key is to take your mind off of how you are feeling and think of something else, this will break you out of your state and bring the analytical mind back out. I typically start asking myself questions about work or think about things I need to do.
- Get Away – Once you’ve stopped yourself and started the distraction process you need to get out of the environment that could encourage you to spend or do any other kind of impulsive act. It could be as simple as getting up and walking to another room or going and taking a walk.
- Reevaluate – Lastly once you have broken yourself fully out of the emotional state and your logical analytical mind is back in charge it’s time to reevaluate the action you were going to do. This is when you decide whether or not you really need to do what you were going to do. Most of the time you’ll find that you’re over it and can move on. If you still feel that purchase is justified and you can afford then by all means enjoy.
Have you self-medicated with a little retail therapy before? How did you deal with the after effects? Let me know in the comments below.
Next time you feel like you’re going to fall into the trap of impulse buying send me a tweet @peterdserrano and I’ll help you walk through the 5 Step Checklist to make sure it’s really a worthwhile purchase.