An average American typically spends about $1,600 on clothing annually. This does not include gifts or other items that we impulsively buy. There is something most of us love about shopping whether we are searching for a gift for a friend’s birthday, a secret Santa present for the annual family exchange, or simply something for ourselves. There is something soothing about window shopping or browsing online stores to find the perfect outfit or gift. This feeling is often called “retail therapy”. According to the Urban Dictionary, “retail therapy is the act of shopping as an outlet for frustration and a reliever of stress.”
Perhaps one of the most common use of retail therapy is escapism. Shopping is a relatively mindless activity, and it is so easy to focus on shopping and zone out from troubles that may be happening in the background. Shopping could also be seen as a form of ‘me time’ or a time you spend with family or friends. This social relaxation may contribute to therapeutic shopping experience. In addition, shopping for outfits or clothing is a way to express individuality and creativity, similar to artwork, which is also associated with therapeutic qualities. All of these attributes of shopping can make it both soothing and addictive during stressful times.
Although shopping in moderation is a good way to relieve stress or to have ‘me time,’ it is important to be mindful of your spending habits. Shopping should never be the primary coping mechanism to de-stress from situations. If your shopping habits result in credit card debt or the feeling of secretiveness, guilt, or shame, there may be an overarching problem other than a fun way to relieve stress. If you feel that your shopping is getting out of control, talk to a trusted adult or counselor. With holiday sales coming around, it is the perfect time for shopping but at the end of the day, there are many other ways to relieve stress that don’t involve spending money. What really matters is if you feel confident about yourself.