7 Ways to Overcome Retail Therapy

Shopping

3 Min Read

illustration with the word buy typed multiple times surrounding a green emoji symbolizing what is retail therapy

Is strolling through a posh retail outlet and spending freely your ideal way to combat stress, suppress anxiety, and give your confidence a boost? If so, you're one of many Americans who bank on shopping to brighten up their day. This activity is known as retail therapy. And the science says it's okay!
But while occasionally treating yourself can contribute to a happy and healthy lifestyle, it can turn dark when you persistently rely on shopping to lift your spirits. Should this otherwise harmless habit turn into a compulsion, you can quickly find yourself drowning in debt and possibly develop debilitating psychological issues along the way.

What's the Definition of Retail Therapy?

Retail therapy is the act of shopping primarily to lift your mood. Usually, it's a short-lived habit that's either sporadic or meticulously planned, but always with the intent to alleviate some form of emotional or psychological distress. Items purchased by individuals during a retail therapy phase are sometimes called "comfort buys."

Is Retail Therapy a Real Condition?

While there is disagreement among psychologists about whether retail therapy qualifies as a genuine disorder, there's no question that the phenomenon is real.  A Pennsylvania State University study published in Psychology & Marketing showed that 62% of participants engaged in retail therapy to improve their mood.


Overreliance on spending to alleviate stress and tackle adversity can lead to grave repercussions. Retail therapy can progress into a condition called compulsive buying disorder (CBD) or oniomania. At this end of the spectrum, your shopping routine becomes a coping mechanism that can wreak havoc on your financial, emotional, and psychological health.

7 Tips to Combat Retail Therapy

Luckily, there's a whole slew of tactics you can incorporate into your daily life to keep retail therapy at bay. Here are a few to get you started:

1. Recognize Your Triggers

It's helpful to identify what emotional state you're in when the urge to shop first materializes. By doing so, you'll gather insight into what's triggering your uncontrollable spending sprees - and be able to act quickly to diffuse it. Ensure you make a note of every emotion-based purchase you make to pinpoint the source of each trigger.

2. Make a Budget

Crafting a detailed budget can enable you to track your expenses and uncover areas to optimize your spending. You should divide your budget into three categories: necessities, savings, and wants. The third category is where you can dedicate a reasonable portion of your income to a few personal luxuries.
To help you better organize your budget and place limits on your discretionary spending, try a shopping app like Monorail.

3. Unplug from Social Media

Few activities are as addictive as scrolling through your social media feeds, which is why it's wise to take an occasional detox from this part of the online world. Most of these platforms rely on advertising for revenue, so it's a given that you'll be inundated with promotional offers, sales, and influencers touting the latest brands and trends. This avalanche of advertisements can induce impulse buying and aggravate your fear of missing out on the latest gadgets, games, clothes, etc.
You can read more about influencer marketing and the future of social commerce here.

4. Delay Your Spending

The next time you're eager to head out to a mall or log in to your treasured Amazon Prime account, consider taking a day or two to ponder about your intended purchase. The extra time will allow you to reassess your need for the item; you might decide against buying it upon closer reflection. Conversely, if you buy on impulse, you'll find a plethora of ways to rationalize your hasty decision.

5. Delete Retailer Apps from Your Phone

The retailer apps on your phone are designed to make the purchasing process as quick, convenient, and effortless as possible. You're just seconds away from being able to pick out your item and click on the "Pay now" button. Removing them from your phone is the wisest option - without access, you'll be less inclined to shop.

6. Find a Support Group

Support from family and friends is invaluable when you're working on ejecting a negative behavioral pattern from your life. They can help reinforce your resolve, foster your confidence, and hold you accountable. Contact them and have an honest chat whenever you feel anxious, stressed, or just down in the dumps. By simply engaging in a meaningful conversation, your urge to shop can dissipate.

7. Get Professional Help

If any of the above methods don't quite work to get your retail therapy under control, consider seeking help from a qualified professional. Seeking help isn't a sign of weakness - it's a testament to your honesty and determination to do what it takes to rid your life of a detrimental habit and mindset.

Final Thoughts on Retail Therapy

Occasionally treating yourself to an impromptu shopping spree is perfectly fine. However, it's also vital to recognize when the urge to shop becomes dangerously compulsive, to the point of harming your financial and psychological well-being.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid falling into shopping traps that can break your budget. Check out how Monorail can help you plan your purchases safely.
Additionally, here are several mental health resources for your consideration should you decide to investigate further or seek help.


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