Why shopping feels good

Emotions often play unnoticed role in shopping

By Kersten Chelgren

Talon staff writer

For most people, shopping means new clothes or a new video game or new sports equipment, sometimes even things around the house. For other people, shopping takes a totally different meaning. It can become as destructive as any other addiction and usually ends up resulting in a financial nightmare. For most people though, shopping is a comfort felt in times of disappointment. Some people shop excessively to make them feel better about themselves, or to feel in control of their often complicated life.

For most shoppers, whether their buying becomes addictive or not, emotions play an important and often unnoticed role. It even has a chemical connection to our brains.

Dopamine, a chemical messenger in our bodies, plays a role in our emotions and our abilities to feel pleasure and pain. Research shows that when we shop and look at new and exciting things we enjoy, the dopamine levels in our brain become elevated and can give us a sort of “high.” This certain, “shopping high,” could explain why some people become addicted to shopping and spending money, to keep feeling that “shopping high” again and again.

The media also plays a big role in how often customers shop, and how they choose to spend their money. For example, magazines with pages full of displays of popular celebrities with glamorous lifestyles, TV commercials/shows with humor, fear and catchy music are likely to get people’s attention. The media promotes the idea that you could look like this, live like this, so you would benefit from this product.

“Advertisers are aware that consumer spending is wholly based on people’s emotions, so they try to play our emotions as much as possible to sell their products and services,” says Minnehaha’s Psychology teacher, Julie Johnson.

According to the Federal Reserve’s May 2010 report on consumer credit, the average credit card debt in households with credit card deficits is almost $16000.

Credit card debt is mostly caused by people who spend beyond their economic budget. This is becoming a big problem because shoppers are spending freely without rationalizing that their personal economic situation can’t support their level of spending.

You may be asking yourself how to stop overspending or how to prioritize your spending.

First off, don’t buy into bargains! Businesses love to give you coupons and ‘good deals’ telling you, ‘it’s alright, you pay forty, you’ll get ten dollars back!’, but in reality, you’re overspending without even realizing it. They make you think you’re saving money, yet you’re still giving them satisfaction by spending your money.

Secondly, carry cash, not credit cards. A good way to manage your money and prevent over spending is to not use a credit card when you go shopping. When you pay for something in cash, you can see your wallet getting thinner.

However, when you use your credit card, your spending is abstract. Using cash is the number one antidote to overspending, according to experts.

Thirdly, rationing your energy will help you think clearly before you spend an outrageous amount of money on something you may not need.

“After engaging in activities that require willpower (such as shopping), you won’t have as much energy left for other challenges,” says Kathleen Vohs, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota.

Lastly, a bad mood can cost you. Negative emotions in particular drive people to seek other solutions such as spending. The urge to spend more may also be a way to make you feel better about yourself. In reality, the happiness that comes from getting the newest clothes, accessories, or video games, is nothing compared to the true joy that comes through friends, family and Jesus Christ.


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