I once heard someone describe retail therapy as financial suicide. I used to agree with this thinking, but I’ve since changed my viewpoint and believe that in moderation, retail therapy isn’t the worst habit to have.
A 2013 survey conducted by TNS Global found that “more than half of Americans engaged in retail therapy.” This probably comes as no surprise. What may be surprising, however, is that some experts believe this type of therapy can be healthy. In fact, according to San Francisco therapist Peggy Lynn, “in small, manageable doses” retail therapy can soothe the soul.
This might be the best news yet, especially if you battle guilt after a spending spree to lift your mood. But although retail therapy can work, there’s still a healthy way to approach this type of shopping.
Cash Only, No Exceptions
There’s nothing wrong with a little retail therapy after a rough day, but there is something wrong with using a credit card and getting into debt to achieve a better mood.
A shopping spree with a credit card can provide immediate comfort, but the comfort is short-lived when the credit card bill arrives. If you can’t pay off the card, you’ll carry the balance over several months. And once you factor in interest, the price of lifting your mood might be more than you bargained for.
Set a Splurge Budget
The same way you budget for everything else in life, you need a budget for retail therapy. There’s no rule that says you have to spend $300 to feel better. Don’t get me wrong, buying an expensive pair of shoes that you’ve been eyeing can put a smile on your face. But for retail therapy to be healthy, only buy what you can afford.
I have a friend who sets aside money each week for splurging, and she only touches this money every couple of months. It comes in handy when she needs a little retail therapy. She can enjoy guiltless shopping without spending bill money or using a credit card.
Only Buy What You Need
Don’t walk into the first store you see and purchase the first item you find, or else you’ll end up spending money on stuff you’ll never use or need. Use retail therapy as a way to buy items you actually need. If you already have 50 pairs of shoes, it doesn’t make sense to add to the collection. Instead, look for items you may need for the house. Or instead of buying stuff, spend the money on an experience, such as treating yourself to dinner and a movie.
Use Gift Cards
If you receive gift cards as a present, or if you have enough credit card reward points to redeem for a gift card, you can accumulate these cards and only use them when you need a little retail therapy. Since many gift cards never expire, you can hoard them in your wallet and only pull them out when you need a little pick-me-up.
Don’t Include Others in Your Therapy Session
Don’t call up your favorite shopping buddy when you need a retail therapy session, especially if your shopping buddy is a big spender. There’s nothing wrong with taking a friend along on your shopping adventures. But when you’re emotional and in a fragile state of mind, you’re likely to buy up any and every thing you see. You don’t need someone egging you on and encouraging overspending.
Retail therapy gets a bad rap. But in moderation, it’s a healthy way to cope with a bad day. But it’s only healthy if you’re buying within your means.
What are other healthy approaches to retail therapy?