Thoughts on Emotional Shopping

I've been really edgy lately, for a number of reasons, and thus much more likely to "buy to try" - i.e. order things that I'm not certain about to see if they work. I even get a weird enjoyment out of returning the things that didn't work, which isn't always the case.

Now, shopping is my favorite thing, and clothes are my hobby of choice, so I get the usual enjoyment just based on that. But it seems like browsing, inspecting, deciding, rejecting... all these things make me feel extra calm, active, and in control when I'm otherwise a mess. I hate limbo, and I suppose this gives me the illusion of progress when I need it.

The question is: is emotional shopping necessarily a bad thing? I would say yes if I was buying everything just because, but the *decision* to keep or return is an integral part of the process. On one hand, it is a waste of time - "spinning the wheels" a bit. But on the other hand, it's a big comfort when I have to be patient and time other things correctly rather than doing what I want now now now. In that respect, it's not a waste of time but more of a theraputic process.

What do you think? Is emotional shopping always bad? Does it have its place? How is it different from other hobbies like... whittling or... boating... that others use to relieve stress?

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • goldenpig replied 9 years ago

    It's bad if it blows your budget or overstuffs your closet or wastes time that you need to spend on other things. If not, then great if it makes you feel good and relieves stress. It's just like emotional eating. It's a problem if it makes you start packing on the pounds or leads to other negative actions (like people who binge and purge). It's great to enjoy what we like doing as long as it isn't causing other problems. Does that make sense?

  • christieanne replied 9 years ago

    I think it's bad when:
    Someone spends more than they can afford too or negatively impacts other needs in life.
    Buying things that are never used or become symbols of guilt/remorse/shame.
    Hoarding. See above.
    Just like any activity, if the problem it is supplanting is not addressed then it becomes a replacement for dealing with root issues/people.
    Making impulsive choices can lead to bad decisions (or bad fashion!).

    I don't think YOU have any of those issues, I am just listing what I think the danger signs of emotional shopping are. Nothing groundbreaking but as someone who has had close contact with many addicts (to various substances/patterns), I can see emotional shopping being fairly hard to break and easy to justify for some folks.

    When you are someone who loves fashion, it is sometimes hard to know if you are on right or wrong track. I think that is why setting a budget and sticking to it and ensuring there are other activities in life you also enjoy are important.

  • biscuitsmom replied 9 years ago

    I agree with both ladies.. and I am guilty of it. It's just way too easy with online shopping :( Im MUCH better if I go into a store and try the stuff on- I buy maybe 10% of what I try. But I often dont feel well enough to do with a few clicks, its possible to spend too much before you count it up :(

  • rae replied 9 years ago

    Natalie - I find myself nodding along with everything about "problems" being the things that get in the way of your other goals. That means goals for saving, spending time doing other thigns, maintaining body weight, whatever...

    Christieanne - I could see myself getting addicted, which is one reason why I asked this question. I am a hopeless caffeine addict; even though I no longer drink it regularly, I still reach for it when I feel down. At those times I don't care about the headaches, mood swings, sweats, or jitters.

    BM, so true! I wish more stores carried the stuff I want... which is unfortunately multiple-years-old, heavily discounted, off season stuff on Amazon and Ebay!

  • krishnidoux replied 9 years ago

    It's a tough one.

    A priori, it's bad. Because it makes you spend more, and it easily makes you spend more than you can afford, or simply make you spend there and not somewhere else.

    But I do see the therapeutic process in trying, returning, carefully choosing what is good for you, what is not. It's spending time for and on yourself, which we often forget to do.

  • krishnidoux replied 9 years ago

    BTW I used to be a die hard caffeholic. Suddenly last September, on a whim, I decided to try drinking green tea instead ( from whole leaves). Just to see. Well. I never went back to coffee! Couldn't (still can't) believe it!

  • celia replied 9 years ago

    I would describe emotional shopping more in terms of going out and buy whatever than actually going trough the process of browsing, selecting,returning.
    Sometimes I look compulsively for what might be the next best item to add to my wardrobe and although this doesn't result necessarily in buying items and spending money it is something that makes me feel bad because I recognize it as a compulsion and a way to be in control of my world and my emotions when there are situations around me that I cannot control and I don't like.
    In my own experience trying to be moderate in those moments it's no use so what I do is turn that very focused time to other things like starting a new exercise, cleaning and organizing the house, things that allow me to 'tidy up my world' but that are good for me.
    I have seen emotional buying at it worst and it is not such a focused process, it's more finding the satisfaction when buying and most of the time on actually spending the money .

  • replied 9 years ago

    I didn't reply to this thread before now because I wanted to think it through. I think emotional shopping is impulsive and doesn't involve any thought or planning. It's like you're just shopping by your first reaction to something (i.e., "I love it and have to have it") without thinking if you need it, if it will work with items you already have, if you can really afford to buy it, etc. Shop like this too often and it turns into a compulsive behavior that's not healthy. It's an irrational way to shop.

    I don't think that going through the process of thinking about what you need or want, looking for it by browsing the internet or going to a brick-and-mortar store, etc. is the same thing. If it is, then I'm guilty! How else are you going to have a workable wardrobe that you actually enjoy wearing if you don't spend the time and effort it takes to shop and obtain the pieces you need or want? Having a functional wardrobe takes work. The items you need or want to buy in order to complete an outfit, etc. are not always available when you look for them, especially if you wear a specialty size like I do. So, in a nutshell, I think it's smart to browse and shop more frequently, as long as it doesn't become an obsession that overtakes your life and snuffs out other activities such as work, family life and social activities and as long as it's not taking a toll on your budget. We all need to be financially responsible, live within our means, and establish priorities so we have the $ to pay for basic living expenses, necessities, and any emergencies that arise.

  • Janet replied 9 years ago

    I can relate to Celia's remarks especially. I'm the child of an emotional shopper who definitely indulged in retail therapy, and I was a very good student apparently. It's never been a financial problem, but there is a hunting/gathering/hoarding mentality I have to be vigilant about. If I find I'm spending too much time in the stores, I have to look at what it is I'm avoiding. Shopping (along with cleaning/organizing) is one of my favorite forms of procrastination. It feels "productive" and there is an element of creativity and stimulation, and even a social aspect that I often crave since much of my work is done in solitude.

    I find B&M stores more dangerous than online shopping. I end up with a bunch of items in an online shopping cart, only to never hit the "checkout" button, but in stores, there's more opportunity to see lots of things at once, try on, buy, and then return, which puts you back in the store where you can easily repeat the process all over again!

  • Sona replied 9 years ago

    Rae: we really were thinking similar thoughts on the same day. I don't think its a bad thing the way you describe your 'emotional shopping' at all. I know as someone that works in banking you always have your checkbook balanced mentally atleast. Enjoy. I know for me the boxes arriving on my doorstep at this particular time are fabulous therapy!

  • replied 9 years ago

    I think it is only a bad thing if it has a negative impact, be it financial, stress, or time. I quite enjoy online window shopping when I am stressed, I find the process of figuring out what I need and then going on a hunt and finding something to be really soothing and in some way it makes me feel like I have accomplished something, even when in the rest of my life I feel like I may be spinning wheels in some way.

    I do find I need to let things sit in my shopping cart though --- it can be amusing to come back later and look at the things I found....sometimes I can't believe I wanted it in the first place!

You need to be logged in to comment