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Here’s How to Stop Stress Shopping (and Save Money)

Some people hate shopping. For others, “retail therapy” is how they celebrate good news, forget bad news or relieve boredom. And they’re not imagining the good feeling they get from shopping. Beyond getting something new, shopping temporarily alters the brain chemistry by boosting dopamine, the chemical in the brain that controls the reward and pleasure centers. In other words, shopping just feels good! Unfortunately, however, shopping to relieve stress or boredom can have downsides, such as high credit card bills and spending money that should instead be set aside for emergency savings or retirement. Here are several tricks that can help break the stress-shopping habit.   

Minimize Temptation — Shopping has become almost too easy. With just a few taps on your phone or computer keyboard, the latest must-have item can be on its way to you. If online shopping is your weakness, make it harder for yourself to shop online. Unsubscribe from promotional emails, text messages and push notifications. Delete those shopping apps from your phone screen. Also delete your payment information so that when you do decide to buy something, you have to re-enter your credit card number each time. That will give you extra time to decide if you really want to make the purchase.

Stay Out of Stores — If you’re more of a browse-and-buy person, don’t put yourself in situations where you’ll be tempted to shop. Instead of walking around the mall or roaming the aisles at Target to banish boredom, head to a museum or an art gallery where you can get that same feeling of discovery — but without the opportunity to take something home with you.

Shop Your Closet — A frequent shopping habit means you probably have things in your closet you forgot where were even there. Instead of going shopping for more new things you’ll quickly forget about, shop your own closet for what you already have. You’re sure to find some forgotten favorites. Once you’ve gone through everything, check out Pinterest for some outfit inspiration on new ways to wear what you already own.

Increase Dopamine Naturally — Remember that magical dopamine we talked about earlier? Shopping isn’t the only way to help your brain produce more of it. Try some of these other ways to get your levels up and keep you feeling good:

  • Get regular, moderate exercise
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Make something with your hands
  • Meditate
  • Make to-do lists and check off tasks as you complete them

Participate in a Savings Challenge — Many people shy away from saving money because it seems boring or restrictive. A savings challenge can make it fun and engaging. Rather than just saying “I’d like to save some money,” a savings challenge gives you specific short- and long-term goals to shoot for and helps you shift your mindset from spending money to saving it. Here’s a list of several ideas for savings challenges to get you started.

If a shopping habit has left you with unmanageable credit card debt, we can help. Start by taking our free, confidential online financial assessment.