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Retail Therapy: 5 Easy Tips to Curb Emotional Spending

If you have not already noticed, Labour Day Sales are here and as a recovering emotional shopper, it kind of feels like the photo below:
shark shopping retail therapy money

My Breakup with Retail Therapy

For years, I have been what you call a ‘materialistic girl’. I truly love the hobby of shopping and I can’t help but feel giddy as heck when a package arrives, pretending as if I don’t already know what is in the box. During Covid, I even came to love the smell of the disinfectant my mom used to spray on any of our mail…… am I a Pavlov’s experiment?…. 😶

But with my newfound passion in sustainability & climate change, I was forced to face my unsustainable shopping habits.

Once the rose-coloured glasses came off, I saw everything quite differently. Now when I sense the clutter, I feel anxious, claustrophobic and even sick to my stomach. These feelings became even more prominent when I moved out of my parents place and into my new apartment. The amount of junk I had to sort through was astonishing and shameful.

But I took a deep breathe, put my hair in a bun, and turned on Marie Kondo.

5 Easy Tips For The Recovering Therapy Shopper

As fall is right around the corner & sales will only get more persuading as we head in to the holidays, this is the perfect time to share the ways I self-soothe when I catch myself in the midst of an impulse buy.

#1 Unsubscribe

If you don’t even know about the sales, then you can’t shop the sales right?!

Years of subscribing to welcome emails, discounts, contests, sales, etc. can have your inbox flooded with emails that have been carefully constructed to persuade us spend money. They also see and hear EVERYTHING. Ever wonder when speaking about a brand with your friend, almost immediately you see an Ad from that exact same brand on your social media? YUP.

Spend an hour while watching a few Netflix episodes to unsubscribe from any emails that you don’t see important for your day to day life. Yes, even unsubscribe from the brand that is your absolute favourite. This allows you to organically check the website on a later date when you actually do need something!

#2 Window Shop

window shopping retail therapy three girls

Sometimes the act of shopping is what we truly crave. I personally love going to a store or website and sifting through new styles to figure out what I like and what is going to be trending. Although most days I am in Lululemon pants and a tee, imaging myself in these outfits is SO FUN. It is basically a creative expression of myself!

When window shopping, we are able to feel that sense of excitement shopping provides without actually spending any money.

#3 Make A List

wants need shopping retail therapy

Now when you are window shopping, there are going to be times where you feel this intense need to buy an item. When we see an item we really like, we tend to imagine all the amazing ways this object will make our lives better.

Maybe it will make us feel cool, sexy, catch the eye of that sweet hunk of a man, but our mind tends to overestimate. You decided to buy the item and maybe a few weeks later you realize the item is not what you expected or really needed.

Maybe it feels scratchy.

Is that a thread coming unraveled?

How come after one wash or use, the item feels worn down?

Then the credit card bill comes in, in which our good friend ‘Buyers Regret’ comes for a visit. As an ex-retail therapy shopper/ sustainable activist, one of the ways I mitigate this intense buying urge is by making a list!

This is what I do:

1.Open up a blank document and create two columns. One column is Wants and the other is Needs.

2. As you are window shopping online or in-store, add the items you really want/ think you need to your columns.

3. By writing it down, this helps you take back your power and challenges the need for instant gratification. Since you have it documented, you don’t have to worry about forgetting what the item was and you can refer back to it in a few days.

Each time I do this, I come back to my list a few days or weeks later to realized that a lot of the items I listed are now kinda ‘meh’ and I don’t actually want them anymore. It makes me feel very adult & responsible and it also really makes that credit card bill a lot less scary.

If you find there is an item on your needs/want list that you continue to think about after a few weeks, then buy it!! Clearly this is something you love and you will enjoy for many years to come 🙂 ****but make sure it is good quality!!

#4 Be Skeptical Of The Sale

But wait Christine, what if the item I really want is on sale???

When shopping comes with a time constraint, things get a bit more tricky for our impulsive brains. Say you go window shopping and you see an item you LOVE that is also on sale. If you go and put this on your wants/needs list, in a few weeks the sale will be over. That seems silly right?

The thing is sales are EVERYWHERE. What used to be a semi-annual or annual occasion, has now turned into a daily part of marketing. And these sales are not as cost-saving as you would think.

For a couple years I worked in retail for Aldo. Being in this environment gave me a less sparkly view of how the retail world works. Instead of sales helping you save money, they tend to push you to spend more than you ever intended. You probably are no stranger to “Buy One Get One Half Off”, or “Buy 3 items and get the 4th FREE”.

It may feel like you are getting a deal, but really the brand is persuading you to buy more than you actually need. Sure it might be a deal to get a few of the same items if it is a staple in your daily life, but often the surplus will sit in your closet or drawers for years until they are forgotten Once spring cleaning comes along, it is easier to just put all the excess junk in the trash.


No matter how amazing the sale may seem, do a double take. By being patient and only buying as much as you need, this saves a good chunk of money while also reducing toxic waste levels on our beautiful planet.

#5 Figure Out Your Void

Don’t @ me but therapy shopping is a way to cope with something you want to avoid or feel you lack in your life. It is a means of distraction. In order to truly combat the practice of unsustainable retail therapy, we have to dive deep into who we are. And that is uncomfortable.

When I started therapy, I figured out that shopping was my way to feel a sense of belonging. I believed that if I had the coolest, newest, stylish, most expensive things, then everyone would have to like me. My fear of abandonment made me shop till I dropped.

This will be the most rewarding and most challenging thing you do. Because once you open the doors, there is no going back. It is pretty rad though once you come out the other side. If you are unsure where to start, start a journal and write down how you feel when you have any desire to shop. This is great way to increase self awareness and understand any underlying beliefs that need to come to the surface.

What are some ways you try to slow down your shopping? Comment below!

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