Nancy Phillips

Ever gone shopping when you’re feeling down, or up? In today’s world we’re encouraged to shop whether we’re exhausted and need a “pick me up,” or we’re celebrating something big and everything in between. Yes, we’ve been programmed to buy emotionally, but at what cost to our bank accounts and our environment? Oh, and why do we do it when we know we shouldn’t? Can you remember an item you were absolutely driven to buy? You “had” to have it. How do you feel about that item now? Do you still love it and appreciate it every time you use it? Maybe it was a good buy for you. But if you never use it, and it’s sitting on a shelf or it’s been given away, it’s your wasted money and energy gone – again.

Why and how do we unconsciously make spending decisions we later regret?

Well, it turns out our brains are really what gets us to the cash register, and the power of consumer desire can impact anyone in our modern world. When we see something we desire, the motivation center in our brain gets hit with dopamine, serotonin oxytocin (the love drug) and these “motivator” chemicals really things. We feel like we have to have the item and that we’ll die without it, after all, we “love” it. Our brains haven’t caught up to our modern world, and in ancient times when we saw potential food or a threat, we had to act fast. Not so now when we’re shopping for shoes or really anything else today, most things are easily accessible in comparison to our ancient ancestor’s lives. The urgency is now created through marketing, to get our brain juices flowing and our thoughts then create the feeling we have to buy now or lose out.

So you desperately want this amazing item, you feel. You crave it and the outcome you think the item will create in your life, the awesome pleasure you’ll enjoy it. This stimulation creates a strong motivation to take action, to buy the product. This is why companies spend millions of dollars on marketing each year, to ensure you feel these desires for their product, whether you “need” it or not. An interesting side: whether or not you have long lasting joy from the item is a whole other ball because the feeling of pleasure is created in a different part of the brain. Hmmmmm, that explains a lot it?

How do you control this strong internal motivation to buy and instead direct your cash flow to benefit your ideal future, instead of the vendors?

There are 5 major ways you can help yourself be more aware and make better decisions when faced with this common challenge.

  1. Pause before purchase: Give your brain a chance to let the excitement chemicals calm down so you can make a more logical and less emotional decision. The old adage “sleep on it” is actually very good advice for our caveman/woman brains.
  2. Distract yourself: Purposefully look to re-direct your thoughts to something else so you get out of the emotional hook you’re in, so your emotions don’t cost you.
  3. Choose consciously: Don’t live on auto-pilot! Practice being consciously aware of this physiological response you’re feeling and when you shop BEFORE you pick up the item, ask yourself if the action of buying the item will benefit you or hurt your future financial self. Is purchasing the item in line with your personal values and goals? Picking up the item or trying it on will only increase the feelings of desire and ownership, and you’ll feel a pang of loss when you put it back down.
  4. Break the habit: Don’t go shopping as a recreational habit or when you’re feeling emotional. Think about when you have made bad buying decisions in the past. What was your “Why’? Was it because you were tired, hurt, or feeling you had to “keep up”? More and more people are becoming minimalists now because it’s less stressful personally and better for the environment. It also makes investing for your future much easier when all your income is not getting spent on material goods. Focus on what really matters to YOU and makes you happy. Research shows over and over that the top ways to feel great are free such as being in nature, exercising and being with great people.
  5. Forgive yourself for past financial mistakes: We’ve all made them because we’re human – and there are very strong messages motivating us to buy or invest in certain products. What matters is what you do from this day forward. Become an observer of your own actions. Use this information to make more conscious decisions that will help you create the life you really want, not end up with endless items you don’t need.

It’s Your Choice, It’s Up to You!

While we didn’t learn anything about managing our financial lives in school, there is now amazing information available about our brains, and how we make decisions. This knowledge, when applied, can significantly enhance the actions we take and thus the outcomes we experience.

Protect your financial future, don’t let wasting your hard-earned money on things you don’t need become your norm. You deserve to be happy, and this habit won’t get you there.

I hope you find this information valuable,


Stay Informed