Is Retail Really Therapy?

I know I said I’d talk about Balanced Portfolios in my previous post, but something happened yesterday that made me wonder – why do I shop when I am stressed?

So I Had A Bad Day

Ok, so remember my no-buy? I’d actually been doing pretty well. I haven’t bought myself any item of fashion or makeup ever since I decided on it. I skipped the Black Friday sales and even the holiday sales that are going on right now haven’t tempted me into buying anything. All that amazing progress, however, nearly came to a grinding halt yesterday. So I had had a terrible morning and a completely unproductive and generally crap day at work. As I made my way out of office, my first instinct was to deal with a bad day at work the way I always have before – by going to a mall and buying something new and shiny for myself.

personal finance, shopping, stress, why do I shop when I am stressed

Is Retail Really Therapy?

I didn’t go to the mall. Instead, I sat back at my desk and wondered why I always bought stuff when I was unhappy. It didn’t take me long to realize that the reason I shop when I am stressed is that I’d didn’t want to take my problems head-on or find a solution for them. Instead, I focused my energies elsewhere, for a temporary high. What makes this habit worse is that when I stress-buy, I usually purchase stuff that’s either completely impractical or useless. Once I bought a pair of very expensive and very high heels. I haven’t even worn them once. This other time, I bought a slinky black dress. It’s still hanging in my wardrobe and I’ve only worn it once. I don’t even want to talk about these giant (but gorgeous) earrings that I bought at the end of a long day. It lies in my jewellery box, unused because it is entirely capable of tearing my ears from my face.

Buying This Won’t Make Me Happy

I ended up stopping for Bhel Puri on my way back home, but stress-eating isn’t something that I want to do, either. So I need to learn how to manage stress in a way that’s effective and doesn’t involve hedonism. All of this sounds like, crazy idealistic, but I’ve realized that the sentiment of ‘buy this and you’ll be happy’ is so deeply ingrained in me and I need to change that. I’ve bought a crap ton of stuff when I’ve been stressed or have felt insecure or just had low self-esteem. All these years I’ve attached my self-worth to the stuff I own and I know it’s taken me forever to realize how wrong that is, but I am here now.

Best Practices

I have no intentions of becoming like a monk and renouncing the world or whatever but I do want to change my buying patterns. Going forward I only want to buy things that I really want and avoid all spur-of-the-moment and oh-but-it-was-on-sale buys. Anyway, enough about me. Have you ever considered yourself to be an emotional shopper? Did you manage to get out of it? I would really appreciate some advice!


  1. Simple. You are your child’s biggest role model – don’t do anything you wouldn’t want him to do – like consume just because one can – with no thought to the effect of such consumption

  2. I have gone ahead and shopped many times whenever stress has taken over .
    I started to believe that retail therapy exists.
    and the end result:
    i end up cleaning ,managing,organising my stuff almost for hours just to put it in place or maintain it.
    so much stuff has consumed hours which i would have put to productive use.
    one thing i would like to gift my son will surely be a ‘minimalistic’life approach.
    imagine the no.of hours i would get in exchange just to be with him..rather than shopping stuff.

  3. I have this horrible habit too. I did a year of no online buying and I still cannot stop. I’m a stationery addict. I end up buying note books and I never run out of them. I have so many note books now. I’d like advice too!

  4. I stick to online shopping . Add everything I don’t need but want to into the cart and keep my phone away. Its not exactly fun but it has helped a bit..

  5. I know this is not what you are looking for but shop for your kiddo! He needs clothes every 3-6 months Bcos he is growing right ;–p I split up the buying, sometimes books, actually even putting interesting library books on hold helps as ‘shopping’ for books.
    But stress eating is my real problem. How do you manage that?

  6. Fantastic post as always !!! But eagerly waiting for your balanced portfolio post !!!

  7. Maybe, volunteer/donate/spend time at an orphanage or at an under-privileged school? Or since you blog, you have the writing habit. So write – maybe an essay or a story or just another blog post in a different section (or an entirely different blog just for the sake!). Or take a stroll in a park. Explore the loads of options available and find your ideal let-out. Good luck exploring!

  8. Hello Lavanya ,

    It is very good post .. I used this stress shopping especially online .. Nothing improved in the quality of my living instead having all the junks .. I followed your “NO Buy ” concept , it really helping me not buying for 2 months .. instead spend on developing our skills .

  9. Hi Lavanya,
    Myself Vaishnavi 🙂 Been following you (and your blogs) recently.

    I so do this. But I don’t like shopping online. It’s mostly brick and mortar. So “don’t go to the mall” is essentially “don’t buy anything”. Because to not buy after seeing all those shiny things is asking for too much 🙂

  10. Can soo relate to this!! But when i stress shop, i mostly buy sarees for amma/ MIL or soft toys or pretty scarfs or chains with lockets. And then put them into a separate “gift rack” that i have. And when i have sudden guests or kids coming over, they make pretty gifts! This way i dont feel guilty about my stress shopping.

  11. Hey Lavanya! try reading this book : The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing! I did not get through the whole thing but it made me conscious of how cluttered my life is with unnecessary things. Now it is easier for me to think 2-3 times before I buy something. Really helped me cut down unnecessary purchases!

  12. Ive missed all your updates since Ive been off Instagram, so Im just catching up.
    Such huge, huge respect for your honesty and vulnerability!

  13. Hi Lavanya,

    I follow your blog and am loving all the posts 🙂

    I hear you and can totally relate to you. The high I get when I buy something is very temporary and I get back the urge to shop in no time. I live in the states so, thanks to Amazon, Nordstorm etc

    Lately, I’ve been trying to buy a fewer expensive items of high quality instead of buying multiple random items and surprisingly it works! as I keep reminding myself of how expensive those things are, and how I’m not left with any more shopping budget. I have let gone my urge to wear cheap fashion jewelry and donated a whole bunch of unused/barely used earrings and necklaces I bought several years ago.

    Also, I’ve been trying to keep a count of items I own in each category and decided to splurge only on one particular type of item ex – I love experimenting with clothes and I know would use them, so I only try and use my budget on those items ( within limits of course) instead of spending on a bright lipstick or extra bottle of foundation that i’m never going to use!

    I really appreciate your honesty and love your writing style 🙂

  14. Hello Lavanya,

    I am in the budding stage of my career and now I having trouble understanding the tax process with my payslip.

    Can you write about the process of taxing and period of the process in a fiscal year. 1. Declaration 2. IPSF submission 3. Claiming the deducted amount

    Also can you also throw some light on tax saving schemes for women.

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