I’ll clarify now that what’s written here is not intended for someone with a diagnosed compulsive buying disorder. I recommend seeking professional counseling advice for that. What’s written here is for those who want to make a strategic shift in their life and may just need a little structure to help make it happen.
What is Retail Therapy?
I remember when I first learned what retail therapy is. If you don’t already know what it is, for my sake, please pause and go look it up. I promise It’ll blow your mind!
In short, retail therapy is when you go shopping for no other reason than to boost your mood. This is an actual therapeutic practice that can even be prescribed. I don’t know about you, but my jaw literally dropped when I learned this.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how much of a valid reason this gives me to spend all my money. After all, it's for my emotional and mental health, and who could argue with that? The answer is my wife - my wife could argue with that.
Humorous as it was for me to learn about, I just couldn’t overlook the immense negative impact this reality could have on me and so many others. How often have you gone out and purchased something you didn’t need because it “made you feel good” at that moment? Only to experience buyer’s remorse shortly after.
4 Focuses For Empowerment
I immediately started to spot this bad habit in my own life and decided to work to undo it. Like most, I went to the opposite extreme first, choosing to become a minimalist. While I still am a minimalist, my motive for choosing this lifestyle matured past that point - I'll share more on that in another post.
I eventually discovered four focuses that gave me immediate empowerment to change my purchasing habits. I found that when I kept these things in mind I had more power to say no to unnecessary things that I’m tempted to buy. On the other hand, when I would forget these things I would make purchases I quickly regret.
Here are the four focuses that help me to avoid making unnecessary purchases:
FOCUS ON EXPERIENCES This focus is the biggest help for me when I’m REALLY tempted to buy something. When tempted I’ll pause and ask myself, “Would I rather have this new thing or save for an awesome adventure?” Often, just answering this question alone is enough to pull me off the retail therapy ledge and back into reality.
FOCUS ON DEVELOPING NEW SKILLS When it comes to money, you can spend it or you can invest it. You can spend money on a new pair of sunglasses, or you can invest in guitar lessons, photography classes, a creative writing course, etc. New skills never lose their value but new stuff almost always does.
FOCUS ON IMPROVING INSTEAD OF IMPRESSING Most poor purchases are made from a place of insecurity, like wanting to please people whose opinion may carry more weight to you than they should. Thoughts such as, “What will they think if they see me in the same shirt twice this week?” needs to be replaced with, “How can I take bigger steps towards my goals this week?” You take your power back when you stop living to impress people.
FOCUS ON YOUR BUDGET Documented goals with clear details such as deadlines and financial boundaries can serve as healthy guardrails for combating poor purchasing habits. A simple way to anchor your goals to your everyday life is through a budget. A good budget gives you a clear daily spending cap that lets you know when it's time to put your wallet away.
QUESTION: Do you already have a way to keep yourself from making unnecessary purchases?
Maybe as you read this post you realized that you already have some built-in habits that help you safeguard against retail therapy. What I shared above is by no means an exhaustive list. Send me an email or leave a comment below to let me know how you combat this bad habit.