Retail therapy: A quick fix that can lead to long-term problems
Getting in the habit of spending to cheer up or make up for the lack of social life or company is a bad route. (File photo)
Stressed out? Go shopping. Tired or busy to cook? Order food. Home is so dull? Remodel the kitchen. For many of our lifestyle problems, money seems to bring a quick fix. But for many who use purchases to lighten up, fill a vacuum or bring much-needed change, this behaviour can be addictive and almost never sufficiently fulfilling.
Similar to children’s excitement over new toys, the purchases quickly tend to lose their lustre. You may find yourself constantly seeking a new thrill with a higher price tag. Many people even may begin to lose sight of how far these lifestyle-driven expenses are unnecessary or misplaced. They may become so accustomed to them that they don’t have actual alternatives that can reduce their stress, bring positive change to their lives or fit within their limited budgets.
Even for those who can somehow afford splurging on impulse purchases, getting in the habit of spending to cheer up or make up for the lack of social life or company is a bad route. Instead, people should look closely at what’s driving their spending and try to alleviate the stress in order to control the urge to acquire things as a way of coping.
Here are a couple of red flags that you should look for if you think your spending is getting out of control.
What you buy
Your wish list may be running a mile long, but you find yourself buying things on a whim that were not even included on that list. A new outfit, an extra television set, new bath mats? Whatever it is that you picked up unnecessarily on your last shopping spree hoping that it will add a splash of colour to your life may be a thing that you simply didn’t need or afford. In many cases, these purchases are driven by boredom or stress.
Being conscious of what items that never made it to your shopping list but you still were tempted to buy is a good way to recognise your impulse purchases. Again, these can be things as small as collecting Dh5 items from IKEA to remodelling the entire kitchen or changing your car. If you didn’t plan it, your spending is probably driven by something other than an actual need.
Do you often regret your purchases? These unplanned items probably are stretching your budget thin. On a certain level, you’re aware that you don’t really need them. And you often even may be trying to return them later, if possible.
If you find yourself in this place frequently, try to stop and think before you buy. Have a 24-hour rule on purchases — especially big ones — that were not planned. If you still want it a day later, you probably have thought about it enough and figured out its place in your budget and house.
Many salespeople try to get your commitment on the spot, especially for large projects or major purchases. Remember a good offer is likely to be there the next day — or even the next month. If you feel pressured at any time to make a decision immediately, you probably should not.
Be conscious of your spending patterns. For example, do you tend to spend more every time you have a problem at work? Do you and your spouse sort out problems by spending on gifts, getaways, dining, etc.? If you notice that your spending goes up with some life or work events that should not necessarily cost money, you need to plan how much you’re comfortable stretching out your budget to accommodate these tough times.
If you’re in the midst of a personal problem, you probably don’t want to complicate matters even further by planting the seeds for a financial issue down the road. Track your spending patterns and try to change them if they seem to spike around particular events or problems.
By Rania Oteify