We’re over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced most Americans to stay at home for the past twelve months or so – and often in our sweatpants (or athleisure in my case).
And after that long time spent in oversized vacation tees and Nike leggings so I can switch from work to training, I’m not sure my style anymore. But that didn’t stop me from continuing to order new clothes that could be worn to the bar or to a party despite my lack of plans – and in a small studio with a closet filled to the brim, I certainly don’t. . need more options.
But the problem goes beyond the purchase. I shop endlessly – mostly online – aimlessly filling my online shopping carts with items from Nordstrom, Tory Burch, and Free People that I know I’m not likely to buy unless I decide to shop around. follies.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t a shopper or “shopper” before, but during the pandemic I hit a new level.
So why am I continuing? Is it because adding sale items to my Urban Outfitters online cart once a week could really help me find a good deal? Or that I dream of post-pandemic activities that I can dress for? Or is it because a trip to Marshalls now feels like an adventure?
I asked an expert to help me fix the problem.
Did your shopping habits change during the pandemic? We would love to hear from you.
Carrie Rattle, Founder and CEO of Behavioral Cents LLC and Stopping Overshopping, explained that there are many reasons for over-shopping.
“I’m seeing more and more people over-shopping during COVID,” she said, noting that this could be happening for a number of emotional reasons.
One is simply boredom – which certainly could have sparked my desire, you know, for a certain turquoise jelly handbag.
But some of the emotional reasons for compulsive shopping run deeper.
“Impulse buying is what most of us would do,” said Rattle, nodding at that random, split-second buy that people make and can’t. -be not afford. “Compulsive shopping – it’s an emotion some people just can’t handle.”
People become compulsive shoppers when they use shopping as a coping mechanism for distraction.
“Usually at some point in their lives shopping was a positive thing,” Rattle said, adding that this kind of memory makes it a pleasant coping mechanism.
Over time, if people continue to shop to cope, it becomes a habit. So, if people buy more to deal with the emotions of the pandemic, they will not necessarily stop when the pandemic ends.
“If you think about COVID and all that people are going through – for some it can be a simple fear and an ongoing need for survival – they may be running out of finances, and yet they are still shopping,” Rattle said. “Sometimes it’s an emotion where they’re just trying to take control of something, anything.”
Refueling a certain product can give someone a sense of control, for example.
Fear is not the only source of inspiration for shopping. Stress can also cause it. Instead of shopping to gain control, people can shop to escape their daily life.
“It’s like stepping out of real (life) into a fantasy world,” Rattle said.
Another reason people tend to start shopping more is a loss or lack of self-esteem.
So, people will shop around to try and regain their self-esteem. They may fantasize about how a certain suit, dress, or pair of shoes would one day look like at work.
And anxiety and depression can also be a trigger for more shopping. Shopping can provide a sort of dopamine rush high that a person facing this sort of difficulty might seek.
“There are a lot of reasons people will look to go shopping to help with an emotion they’re absolutely uncomfortable with,” Rattle said.
Rattle also noted that not all compulsive shoppers actually buy the items they are looking for; instead, they can browse endlessly.
Compulsive shopping can be damaging in several ways, according to Rattle.
“As overshoot becomes more of a coping mechanism, finances begin a downward spiral,” she said. “Only the minimums are paid on the credit cards, more credit cards are opened, and then a house is refinanced to pay off the cards, only to charge for purchases again.”
Even people who have enough wealth to pay for their expenses can erode future opportunities by compulsive shopping.
But it goes beyond finances, according to Rattle.
“As this same survivor seeks solace in their purchases, they slowly lose touch with their friends, break up or damage relationships, and may lose both self-respect and respect for others,” she said. “Their lives are shrinking as healthy alternatives are put aside.”
Online shopping for these items is cheaper than shopping in-store
According to JP Morgan research, I am not the only one who has increased my online shopping. In the second quarter of 2020, e-commerce grew 31.8% quarter-over-quarter, JP Morgan said, citing the US Census Bureau.
That said, this increase could also be related to people choosing to shop online to avoid entering stores during a global pandemic. According to JP Morgan, the “panic buying” linked to COVID-19 has also led to an increase in purchases of certain items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, among other personal care items.
“In the data… you might see steady growth followed by a huge spike – double digit growth. It’s very rare for this industry and it was totally motivated by the lockdown and the fact that people couldn’t get out, ”said Celine Pannuti, Head of European Commodities and Beverages Research at JP Morgan , in the November report.
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Pannuti added that panic buying has been normalized given the uncertainty.
Rattle said she has seen an increase in compulsive shopping overall as more patients enter her practice. Typically, 50% of its customers are compulsive shoppers. But Rattle sees buyers asking for help more than ever.
If you feel like you’re over-shopping online (er, self-gestures), there are some methods Rattle recommends for slowing down during your checkout run.
“First of all, to start off, do what I call the ‘PC pushback’ – it’s like pushing off the table; you don’t have seconds,” Rattle said. “When you start to see yourself going to that tab (store), … the more you pause between your need and your action, the more you’re going to break the cycle of this habit.”
Rattle gives its customers a series of questions to ask themselves when making compulsive purchases.
- Why am I here?
- How do I feel?
- Do i need this?
- What if I wait?
- How am I going to pay it?
- Where am I going to put it?
Many of the responses to overbought habits are introspective, Rattle said. “What is your emotional need and what are your alternatives?”
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If I take a step back and really think about my own needs, no, I don’t want to buy this dress on sale from Zara for party projects that I don’t have, especially when I have a closet full of clothes. who wait patiently. to wear last year. And maybe when I experience boredom or an emotion that might prompt me to shop, I can go for a walk instead.
But that doesn’t mean that I give up my love of clothes and accessories; I just focus on it when it’s really a need.
Thinking about what Rattle explained, I realized that most of my purchases were aimless. I really open the websites of my favorite stores to check sales when I’m bored or watching TV. And it doesn’t stop there – even when I’m scrolling through Instagram, I save posts with outfits I love or other material goods, such as furniture.
But, since my conversation with Rattle, I’ve wondered what she was asking, and often the answer is “no, I don’t need that”, and sometimes it’s “no, I don’t have either. the money or the space for that. ”The questions forced me to reconsider and, in many cases, quit the browser or put my computer away entirely to enjoy whatever was happening in the moment.