What better day to talk about impulsive buying and consumerism than on 7/11 day and Prime Day!

Sometimes I get so wildly intimidated by deals it reaches a point where I put myself at risk of impulsive buying decisions.

Let’s take today, for example. I actually went on Amazon with the hope of finding a new brand of food for my cat when in big shiny letters on the home screen read Prime Day (click at your own risk). My family shares our Amazon Prime subscription and after a quick click of the Prime globe icon, I was in a realm of flashing timers, (“Lightning Deals”), price banners, and departments letting anxious consumers like myself know there are only minutes left to purchase x at a discount. Needless to say, I went trigger-happy and purchased two items, albeit practical, in what I deem my fastest transaction to date. The nerves I felt to checkout within the discount window perplexed me. I had a scheduled call in fifteen minutes from when I selected the items and fourteen minutes to finalize the purchases. My virtual shopping cart is accustomed to hoarding items for days, weeks, even months, in a “window shopping” fashion. However, today my cart felt more like a ticking bomb as the discount period started closing in. Usually, I feel a sort of gratifying high when I am online shopping at a leisurely pace. The painless nature of not having to speak with nosy salespeople and avoid running into familiar faces (I am a hermit) makes virtually browsing worthwhile. However, when buying on the fly requires but a few clicks on the keyboard or taps on a smartphone screen, one can easily fall prey to hasty decisions. This does not make me as a consumer feel good to feel rushed into a decision. In fact, it makes me question how impressionable I am to prices that in some strange way convey an item’s worth and general necessity. Certain questions sit with me now. Do I really feel happy, minutes after making my purchases, that I will soon be the owner of a wireless earbuds and a laptop case? Should I feel like a winner for “scoring a deal”? Is happiness that easily accessible? 

My friend and I have a joke whenever we use the word “need.” If the next word that follows is a material item, “need” is then reiterated again and laughs almost always ensue. The origin of this joke came about from our shared love for Target stores. There is something quaint about the fluorescent lights, ruby red shopping carts, and niche items on every corner; I digress… No matter what excuse my friend and I use to enter a Target store, I can say without uncertainty I leave feeling better than when I walked in. Was it the items in my cart that had a medicinal affect to my mood, or the camaraderie between my friend and I as we shared a shopping experience together? If it was the first option, should I then study retail therapy in graduate school instead of clinical psychology? Kidding, of course. However, I would like now more than ever to understand the origin of my own fascination and desire for items.

I remember when I was younger, one of my favorite things to do was go to Walgreens store and spend money on small items (with my parent’s approval, naturally). My dad was nice enough to take me there on days my self-esteem was on the rocks. To be honest, most of my youth was spent obsessing over my looks and weight, so almost if not all purchases involved an item from the beauty department. There was something gratifying about this experience that allowed me to take my mind off of the racing thoughts that I was “stuck” in the body given to me. Each product was an opportunity at a new look, and consequently, a chance to be happy. I think it does not take a rocket scientist to see where the relationship between beauty products, or products in general, and happiness solidified with me at this very naive age.

“How much we see our things as an extension of ourselves may depend in part in how confident we feel about who we are.”

If the relationship between you and your iPad, for example, intrigues you, I recommend reading Dr. Christian Jarrett’s post found here titled “The Psychology of Stuff and Things.”  Jarrett is a psychologist and author of many great books, including The Rough Guide to Psychology. He explains in this article that our relationship with objects start young and continues onward into our adulthood. Objects can give a sense of identity, and the more we buy, the stronger this tie becomes. I am not writing this blog post to discourage someone from enjoying a free slurpee from 7/11 or a fabulous gift on Amazon. I simply think we should ask ourselves why we act on certain impulses; all the while, attempt to stay present, mindful, and accountable for our decisions.

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