We know all the moves to the happy-shopping dance. They're not the same for everyone, but the essential choreography is the uncontrollable shake, twist, and jump that let everyone know that you just scored something good. And while we're big fans of the HSD, it's important to recognize when a bit of "retail therapy" isn't feel-good or dance-inducing—and instead is impulsive, emotional shopping that leaves your bank account empty and your closet overstuffed. Read on to learn five times you should never go shopping and how to conquer the urge…or at least control your spending:
When You're Bored
It's a slow Sunday night (OK, fine, Friday night), you're suffering from Netflix indecision, and your usual going-out group is nowhere to be found. So you fall into that Internet black hole of e-commerce sites and add a few items to every digital cart. Before you know it, you've placed so many orders that you've spent your entire week's paycheck.
As psychotherapist Peggy Wynne points out, the convenience of online shopping is a huge part of why we shop when we're bored. With the accessibility at our fingertips, "we get too much sensory overload and are triggered instantly," she explains. "It's sort of like online gambling or porn." You don't need to go anywhere and barely need to do anything to make a purchase—and you get instant satisfaction.
The solution: Conquer boredom-triggered shopping sprees by slowing things down. Take a walk or look away from the screen before you place your order, suggests Wynne. Practice mindfulness, don't just pull the trigger.
An alternative? Turn bored shopping into bored looking. We, too, have found ourselves totally submerged in a sea of e-tail tabs. So use your wandering eye to your advantage. This is your chance to perfect your eBay search terms, keep tabs on an auction item you've placed a bid on, track down those hard-to-come-by products, or, you know, read up on the top trends and pieces that are actually worth your hard-earned dinero.
When You're Bummed Out
You just got dumped. Your friend screwed you over. Your boss gave you the boot. All you want are Kleenex, a bottle of wine, and all the shoes you can find. You've been jilted, and you deserve it…right?
As it happens, retail therapy actually can lift the spirits, according to a 2013 study conducted by Scott Rick, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Michigan. "Sadness, more than any other negative emotion, is associated with a sense that external forces (e.g., disease, weather) control the important outcomes in one's life," says Rick. "Shopping is all about choice, and we find that making shopping choices helps to restore a sense of personal control over one's environment, and thus helps to alleviate sadness."
While making a purchase might temporarily alleviate sadness, Rick also found that the blues can increase your willingness to spend money. Meaning? Your decision-making skills may not be the sharpest when you feel down, which can lead you down a dangerous and habit-forming path of spending beyond your means.
The solution: Call us suckers for a silver lining, but we're all about Rick's suggestion that purchasing can give you back a little power in your life. The key is to make a purchase that will steer your future in a brighter direction. For instance, you might buy a dress for a job interview that could help you escape your awful job. You've got this.
When You're Far From Home
You're on vacation, and you've stumbled upon a local boutique. OK, make that several boutiques. Problem is, you're traveling on a budget, and you don't even really need anything—nor do you have tons of space in your suitcase. Of course, there are only two options: buy now, or face shopping FOMO when you get home.
"Restlessness, fatigue, fear, and irritability can often create anxious shopping," says Wynne. After all, if you've just traveled halfway around the globe, the last thing you want to do is return home with a big, old carry-on of regret.
The solution: While we'll admit that this quandary is a difficult one (and yes, we've come home from trips with overstuffed suitcases in the past), the best solution is to do your research and avoid shopping for anything that you can get at home for less. When you wander into shops, look for brands that either aren't available elsewhere or cost much less than the same item sold at home. Shopping in Paris? Stock on up drugstore labels that cost three times as much in the states. Hitting up Tokyo? Keep your eyes peeled for Comme des Garçons, Sacai, and other Japanese brands that may be less expensive overseas. Know your market, know your conversion rates, and know when to say no.