Buyer’s remorse: How to kick your shopaholic habit
15 October 2020
Does a little ‘sale’ sticker conjure up big feelings of excitement? Do you find yourself having “nothing” to wear despite having more clothes than fashion week events? Do you receive parcels of online shopping in the mail more often than your actual bills?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be a shopaholic – but don’t worry! Here’s everything you need to know to rein in your spending this year.
To understand a shopaholic is to understand the mind of someone who, for all intents and purposes, is a loving and genuine human being. Their need to spend is symbolic of their passion for the activity, their generosity in providing for others; and tendency to self-medicate through the thrill of the experience itself. However, romantic notions aside, there is perhaps a point at which a harmless activity intended to celebrate pay day, bond with loved ones or simply fill a few hours becomes compulsive.
Let's face it though, shopping isn't what it used to be. Online shopping and tap-and-pay payments have made it much easier to shop, which brings about all sorts of potential issues – the most obvious being that new shirt you need for that party next week quickly becomes a new outfit, new hair product, and what about your feet? Ok, you've twisted my arm 'special member offer' ... a new pair of shoes also. The slickness of a modern online shopping experience is hard to resist, and even harder to stop using. What was supposed to be $50 ends up being $350.
Cue the buyer's remorse.
What is buyer’s remorse?
According to Wikipedia, buyer's remorse is the sense of regret after having made a purchase, frequently associated with the purchase of an expensive item. While it may seem, at first glance, that these feelings of regret arise purely from overspending, the condition may also stem from a fear of making the wrong choice, guilt over extravagance, or a suspicion of having been overly influenced by the seller. The seasoned shopaholic will find any number of ways to feel disappointment and regret about their purchases, however central to these is the common link of price. Did I spend too much? I've got bills to pay! I can't believe I got sucked in! What will my partner say?!
Art Markman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin states that the emotions that arise as a result of buyer's remorse " ... reflect the engagement of the avoidance motivational system. This system helps you deal with any negative things that might happen in your world (such as debt)." This suddenly puts your overspending into context, doesn't it? We know that money is the number one source of anxiety in Australia, so the guilt or regret felt from buyer's remorse triggers the same response as guilt – albeit on a smaller scale. Regardless, it is just as useful to understand where it came from than it is to address it.
So, where to from here?
Practical tips to keep in mind when temptation rears its ugly head
- Understanding that you have more control than you think over your actions. Your locus of control (that is, the extent to which you feel you can influence events and outcomes) is a fixed state. Challenge yourself to forego that new handbag or winter coat, and every time you succeed you will grow in strength.
- Train your brain to become more aware of your temptation to shop. Are your bored? Stressed? Upset? Give what you are feeling one of these labels, and replace your shopping behaviour/temptation with another behaviour that gives a 'happy hormone' hit' – e.g. take your dog for a walk or sit down to watch your favourite show on ABC iView
- Avoid the 'danger zone': sit and reflect for a moment and try to identify if there is a geographic location, shop or website that where you know you would be vulnerable to an impulse purchase. Don't punish yourself, because we all need to spoil ourselves every now and then, but set some ground rules for when/why/how much you are willing to do so.
- Write yourself a list and stick to it! It may sound simple, but the act of writing a shopping list doesn't apply just to your groceries. Write down your intended purchases and be extra vigilant in sticking to them. Call a friend or family member to warn them if you feel yourself veering off track!
- See a therapist if you feel it is something you are struggling to control, or is having negative impacts on your family. There is no shame in a bit of self-improvement. Seeing a trained professional can help gain greater emotional awareness and healthy emotion regulation strategies to help you 'think before you act'.
If you conquer your shopaholic habits and start seeing your bank balance looking healthier, consider keeping your savings in a separate account, such as a Suncorp Growth Saver account.
Long story, short: don't blame yourself as that only encourages the urge to self-medicate. Instead, learn to replace what's not right with another feel-good behaviour that actually addresses the problem (meditation, exercise, catch up with a friend for coffee). When the urge strikes, do something else more constructive and enjoy the process of discovering what that could be.
Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, financial situation or needs. You should make your own enquiries, consider whether advice is appropriate for you and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Product Information Document before making any decisions about whether to acquire a product.