Impulse Shopping Habits Could Actually Be Sign of Burnout — These Practices Will Help Save Your Money

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Retail therapy is a very real thing. According to WebMD, researchers found that 62% of people surveyed stated they bought something simply to cheer themselves up.

See: Majority of Americans Stressed About Runaway Inflation, Cost of Living
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With stress levels reaching maximum peaks, this phenomenon has only become more rampant in the past few years (some have even equated purchases made with stimulus checks to influencing inflation), leading to more interest in the topic. A new article from CNBC sheds light on how current burnout might actually be affecting shopping habits.

According to CNBC’s expert Ross Steinman, a professor of psychology at Widener University focusing on consumer habits, cognitive depletion works like this: When you wake up, your brain bank is full of energy and helps you make decisions throughout the day such as which route to take to work or what to make for dinner. However, by end of day, your brain will be more tired, which leads to more irrational decisions — where impulsive shopping thrives.

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Steinman provided an example using toothpaste as a potential purchase. “What [a consumer] might do if they are operating at an optimal level in terms of sleep and decision-making is evaluate prices or search for coupons, but when they are sleep-deprived or tired they are going to do very little of that because they don’t have those cognitive resources to allocate,” he shared, adding that this equates to essentially allowing themselves to splurge.

Or, as Crush Your Money Goals podcast host Bernadette Joy termed it, an impulse purchase can act as an “energy booster or a dopamine hit.”

This may also explain why so many took to online shopping during the pandemic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Retail Trade Survey, e-commerce hit an all-time high in 2020, increasing by $244.2 billion to a whopping $815.4 billion in sales, or 43% year-over-year as compared to 2019.

And with triggers such as the environment, a possible recession, upcoming elections and health outbreaks only looking to ramp up in the months and years ahead, burnout shopping may become the norm.

Still, there are ways to combat impulse buys and protect your bank account. Steinman recommended a “cooling off period” where you leave an item in your virtual shopping cart for 24 hours to decide if you truly want or need it. And, of course, getting more restful sleep and participating in meditation could help increase your brain power to avoid reaching the state of cognitive depletion.

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Explore: 34 Dollar Store Secrets You Need To Know Before You Shop
Find: 37 Mistakes We Make When Shopping at Costco, Amazon, Target and Walmart

As GOBankingRates explored, there are several key ways to cut back on online spending, including unsubscribing from retailer emails, deleting shopping apps and removing virtual saved credit card info.

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
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