I grew up in a family that liked to shop. Maybe because my parents were depression-era children who experienced low supply and high demand for virtually every commodity, being able to finally have access and affordability to goods was a rewarding life achievement. Their ability to provide more for their family was an important value; one which, however, required both of them to be employed during critical times in the lives of my brother and me. Providing a bounty meant we had to spend countless hours on our own. Many of the things we received went unappreciated in their absence.
I preferred shopping with my dad. He often let me take a day off school to spend with him and we always included a trip to the mall. He was less hurried than my mother and more apt to indulge my desires. One indicator of his approach to purchasing was his need to “stock up”. Our hall closet housed a year’s supply of toothpaste, mouthwash and soap. The garage had at least one pallet of bathroom tissue at all times. Things such as coffee, sugar and cereal were stored in greater quantities than some super market shelves. I understood the impact of childhood on their spending habits.
How we shop reveals great insight into human nature. Our tendencies to over or under-buy can greatly influence our children and their future attitudes toward purchasing. Over-researching versus impulse buying and quality over quantity decisions, as well as the pursuit of trends and fashion are all indicators of the shopper’s experience and personality.
When does routine shopping become over-the-top purchasing or out of control spending that can damage relationships and devastate family finances? The amount of money can differ according to family resources; however, if the practice includes hiding purchases, buying and returning goods, maxing-out credit cards and family arguments, there is a good chance that compulsive shopping is part of the diagnosis.
Studies have shown that immediate psychological rewards such as increased self-esteem, adrenaline rush and anticipation of unlikely events are quickly replaced with the opposite effects of regret and self-loathing when spending limits have been exceeded.
Creating and adhering to a set budget or spending ceiling is the first step toward preventing impulse- buying. Being accountable to another person for spending may also prove helpful. Holidays are particularly enticing with discounts and deals in every store. The media contributes vastly by bombarding our senses with advertisements and invitations to limited supplies and time-sensitive offerings. Those of us who are prone to showing our love and affection with gifts as well as those who go to extremes to compete with the gift-giving of others, are particularly vulnerable to advertising.
Keeping our expectations, requirements and expenditures at a reasonable and affordable level will benefit the giver. He or she is challenged to find a meaningful, personal item that defines the value of the relationship without a grandiose presentation. Often, hugely expensive gifts can indicate that more money than thought was expended. With the right planning and resolve, buyer’s remorse is a preventable condition.