Being in quarantine for months because of the pandemic has disrupted each and everyone's routine and blurred the lines between work and personal life. Because of this "new normal," people have turned to different hobbies and vices to cope, including online shopping. While it has been around since the early 90s, the rise of e-commerce is still evident. According to Mintel's January 2021 consumer behavior tracker, about 53% of adults are shopping more online today than at the start of the pandemic.
From food delivery to clothes, everyone seems to become more and more dependent on online shopping because of its convenience. Being stuck at home, it's no surprise that people would turn to this hobby to satisfy their needs, or in most cases, wants. From choosing where to shop, what to buy, and sometimes even the day we want our purchases to be delivered, it does feel good to finally have something to look forward to after a stressful day at work.
But how much is too much? At what point does it become unhealthy? If you find yourself in a vicious cycle of ordering stuff online—most of which are non-essentials—and waiting for their arrival at your doorstep, then you might be under the spell that is emotional spending.
Emotional spending is buying something for the sole purpose of easing your emotions and instant gratification. These emotions could vary from sadness, stress, happiness, and jealousy. More often than not, most of these purchases are out of impulse. Think of all the times you went to a store or online shops and ended up buying things not included on your list or sometimes even way out of your budget.
If you identify with the description, there's no need for panic. Turns out, almost half of the consumers have disclosed that they buy products to elevate their mood, and it's even more unsurprising this pandemic. After all, it's the perfect distraction. After a day of work and with so much free time on our hands, it's nice to have a little package just for you—waiting to be opened.
Apart from emotional turmoil, one of the main causes of emotional spending is none other than boredom. Hitting "check out" and anticipating its arrival can be thrilling. And people who are stuck at home find it easy to fall into this habit if only to break up the monotony of yet another day. Another cause? Our heightened online presence during the pandemic.
Emotional spending can be triggered by five main emotions: jealousy, guilt, fear, sadness, or achievement. If your initial response to these emotions is to add items to your cart and hit "check out", then it's time to reassess and regain self-control instead of being a slave to how you feel at a certain moment.
The thing about emotional shoppers is that most of them don't think about their purchases in a meaningful way. The reason why it's a thrilling experience for most is because of its spontaneity and the lack of thought-process put into the purchase.
And you're not the only one to blame. Shopping, online shopping to be specific, is fueled by social media. You'd be surprised at how much of our emotional spending is influenced by the internet. From fast and easy-to-access credit to targeted ads, it's a black hole that's easy to get sucked into.
The reason why it's so convenient to buy on e-commerce or online shopping sites isn't mainly to make your experience easier, but for people to spend more. It's designed to reduce load times and the number of clicks to purchase, therefore lessening the number of times consumers have to think. Saving your card details? It might be a trap.
If you're tired of this and want to break the unhealthy cycle, here are helpful ways to regulate your emotional triggers and develop healthier spending habits.
The first step in changing an unhealthy habit is to identify what causes you to do it. So, the next time you find yourself happy-clicking on your favorite online shops, ask yourself why you're shopping again. Is it stress from work? Did you receive great or bad news? Do you recognize a pattern? Once you've identified these emotional triggers, it's easier to stop the next time you find yourself doing some emotional spending.
Probably the easiest way to avoid emotional spending: update your notification and email settings. No more tempting sale announcements and deals! Take control of what you see by turning off notifications from your shopping apps and unsubscribing to newsletters.
Tip: If you still want to receive emails from your favorite online stores, try labeling your emails! Gmail has a "Move to" feature, which sends emails to specific folders so they don't go straight to your main inbox.
You can also lessen the targeted ads by clearing the cookies on your browsers and using a more secure search engine like DuckDuckGo.
Change your unhealthy distractions to healthier ones! Instead of scrolling endlessly on your phone to find your next big purchase, how about starting a new hobby? There are plenty of options to choose from such as knitting, baking and cooking, pottery making, and painting. Not only will this keep your hands away from your phone, but it can also be a great avenue to bond (yes, even if it's via video call) more with your friends, family, or special someone.
If you're not big on hobbies, find ways to reward yourself without having to spend money. Stressed? Try pampering yourself with what you already have at home instead of buying an expensive bath product you'll probably never use.
Track your weekly and monthly expenses and become more mindful of where you spend your money! Once you've assessed how much of your savings are put on emotional spending, determine your monthly budget and start creating a list according to your needs first, then allocate a fair amount of money for your wants. Make sure to stick with your budget.
Tip: Here's one of the oldest tricks in the book: practice delayed gratification. That's right. Sleep on it for at least a day (or a week if it's really just a "want" more than a "need") because more often than not, most people find themselves no longer wanting the item the following day/week.
Remember that the goal here isn't to stop you from buying things that you want, but to find the right balance to avoid wasting your hard-earned money. At the end of the day, treating yourself and your loved ones are still one of the best motivations to get up and go to work. Better spending habits mean better control of your funds, and better control of your funds means lesser guilt of emotional spending.
Ready for a better and more responsible online shopping experience? Start creating your budget lists and turn off those tempting notifications today with efficient and reliable broadband!
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