Retail therapy on credit: A prescription for trouble

Bad day at work? Fight with your spouse? Kids driving you berserk? General stress? Of course you need a little pick me-up! For many people, this pick-me-up might consist of a bubble bath, an after work drink with friends or indulging in a favourite meal.

For numerous people though, the search for that little pick-me-up means taking a beeline right to the mall for some retail therapy. Sometimes it just feels so good to get some new clothes or books or gadgets. It’s called retail therapy for a reason. That rush quickly recedes though if you are funding your emotional shopping with credit. Like all indulgences, a little retail therapy in moderation is ok. It’s when it becomes a habit that goes beyond what your budget permits that it can become a serious burden to your personal finances.

“Emotional spending can be a very dangerous method to accumulate debt.  Making purchases on credit will only provide temporary happiness,” says Jeff Schwartz executive director at the Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

“Shopping for happiness is actually harmful when someone cannot afford it in the first place. They are effectively creating new problems and stress,” says Schwartz. How to break emotional spending habit so you can get your budget back on track? Here are some tips:

Go to the source

Your desire to hit the mall doesn’t just appear. There are triggers present in your life.  In order to change the behaviour,  you’ve got to understand what is driving it.

Do you feel that you need to buy certain things to impress other people? Do you get a real rush out of the instant gratification or the emotional high when you buy something new? Does spending make you feel powerful? If you find out the “why” behind your desire to spend, you can begin to change how you react.

Get your plan in place

Give your emotional spending side a hard reality check by tallying the debt that has accumulated from want-driven extra spending.  Set a goal – for something you want- and set aside money from each pay until you get enough to buy it in cash. You’re still getting new things. You’re just removing the impulse/credit link from that spending.

Commit to cash, to avoiding the mall and to resist online shopping.

Seek alternatives

Instead of shopping to feel good, try exercising or hanging out with loved ones. Learn a new hobby that will keep you busy when you feel tempted.

If you can’t shake the shopping bug, become a deal-seeker instead of an impulse shopper. The rush of scoring a sweet deal that gives you wiggle room in your budget is pretty sweet too.

Get support

While your BFF may be your favourite shopping partner, when you are trying to make a life change, it is essential that you surround yourself with people that will support you as you work towards your goal. That means having someone to count on to bring you back towards your goal when urges arise.

Has your emotional spending created a debt load this is difficult to manage? Are you routinely spending beyond your means? This pattern won’t change until you change your perspective on spending. We can help you with that.  Call one of our trained credit counsellors 1-888-294-3130 or check out our free online debt analysis tool to get started.


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