When asked why we like to shop, most of us would agree that buying just makes us feel good. And we’re not far off. According to scientific studies, buying actually activates pleasure centers in the brain, prompting the release of feel good chemicals, including dopamine that elevate mood and make us want to repeat the behavior over and over.
The Science of Shopping
The reward that we hope will be waiting at the end of our shopping experience is the feeling we hold in our mind. According to research published in Psychology Today, we draw pleasure from either “experiencing what we bought”, or from reaching a goal that preceded our purchase.
All sales are not created equal however. It’s much harder to get an emotional payoff when spending money on something we need (such as a colonoscopy) versus something we want (clothes, electronics, entertainment). Still, more frequent small purchases are said to satisfy us more than one major purchase made at the end of a long waiting period, while saving up.
5 Reasons We Shop *CONTINUE USING NAVIGATION BUTTONS BELOW!*
1. We Long for Something New
As our brain adapts to the excitement of a new purchase, another purchase might be just around the corner. After all, today’s expenditure may be tomorrow’s old news as we quickly get used to the item we now own.
2. Semblance of Control
Researchers found that shopping reduces stress and restores our equilibrium when we’re feeling out of sorts. It often helps us gain a sense of control, when we’re going through a difficult time.
3. We Feel Nurtured
We feel special when people recognize our needs and call us by name, so is it any wonder we enjoy buying experiences that involve personal attention. Hair salons, manicurists, massage therapists; even coffee houses know to cater to our human need for individual recognition.
4. Outward Impressions
Many purchases are made in efforts to influence how others view us. Clothing, jewelry, cars and neighborhoods all suggest a certain degree of buying power. Outwardly, we may wish to convey a state of success, which makes us feel good.
5. Deals! Deals! Deals!
Getting a bargain plays to our need for inclusion. We don’t want to be left out, or feel we’ve missed an opportunity that might not come again for a while. Some of us actually purchase items we neither want nor need, just because goods are on sale.
Buying Feels Good—But at what cost?
While most of us would probably agree that rewarding ourselves for hard won cash is a healthy thing, we have to remember to keep it all in balance. After all, what good is a fancy new car if we’re riding around trying to avoid repossession, right?
Just because you can afford a purchase doesn’t always mean you should. Psychologists and sociologists who study human behavior know that people shop for a number of reasons, and don’t always make wise buying decisions or consider all the consequences of a purchase.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy
1. Am I making this purchase to avoid feeling something negative?
All of us deal with sadness, anger, disappointment, boredom or loneliness at times in our lives. These are real emotions we all experience and sometimes “retail therapy” really does make us feel a little better. It’s important to remember however, that satisfying an immediate need may not align with our future financial plans, leaving us with buyers remorse.
2. Am I buying this just because it’s the latest version on the market?
This applies to purchases involving technology, among other things. While it makes sense to want an updated model of a gadget we already own, if important features haven’t really changed and service hasn’t been upgraded, is it really the wisest purchase at this time? Tech corporations tap into our desire not to be left out when they release newer, sleeker versions of the same product without really changing much.
3. Will I still want this next year?
While some purchases like clothing and shoes may follow consumer trends that change with the seasons, other items such as furniture, appliances, and entertainment are meant to stay with us for a while and involve more of a financial commitment.
4. Can I borrow this or rent it for less?
Sometimes the very thing we’re thinking of buying is used so seldom, or can be borrowed or rented for a fraction of the cost. These types of purchases might include specialized tools, medical equipment, or recreational gear. Temporary needs go away, while payments may live on.
5. Do I already have something similar at home?
While we’re drawn to certain goods and products in stores, the reason for this may be because we’ve already purchased something similar in the past. Our tastes may change a bit over time, but sometimes the “new and improved” article is too similar to one we already own and doesn’t warrant a new purchase at this time.
Bottom line, we’re all consumers who make decisions daily about what we will and won’t spend money on. We just need to make sure purchases don’t put us at risk for overextending ourselves financially or threaten a long-range goal or plan for the future.