Do you engage in retail therapy? Does it work?

We’re doing an episode on WHY retail therapy is a thing, and I’d love to hear your stories of things that you bought to make yourself feel better. And did it work? How long did the feeling better last? Would you do it again?

Even if the story is just “I went online and bought 9 sets of cat pajamas after looking at pictures of my ex’s new girlfriend on facebook”. Or maybe “I was depressed and stressed after I broke my wrist so I ordered hundreds of dollars of clothing from Korea” (not that is a real example cough at all). Or “my family member died so I bought a plane ticket to the other side of the world”

Did you buy something big (like a graduate education or car or a house) as retail therapy? Was it impulsive or long-considered?

BONUS POINTS : We’d love to hear your ACTUAL VOICE - which means you’ll be on real broadcast radio, as well as on the podcast.

If you’re into that, you can send a voice memo you record on your phone to questions@ohmydollar.comor you can leave a voice message at (503) 877-4338 (no one will pick up, don’t worry!)

:sparkles:I’ve created a special edition forum badge for everyone that submits a voice recording (whether or not it makes the show). So submit something. No name required, but your location is helpful!


Ohhh this is fun.

My particular (and weird) form of retail therapy is buying vegetables. I was mildly food insecure in college and fresh veggies were really rare in my life for a few years. I have now learned that my mood completely plummets if I don’t have fresh veggies and fruit in the house. As soon as I re-stock the veggies and fruits, it lifts right back up. So – that’s a really weird and particular form of “dealing with my BS” through buying stuff.

Food is generally my retail therapy. Sometimes when I’m having a shit day/week I’ll purposefully take myself out to a cafe and buy myself a hot chocolate or a cappuccino – it’s a delicious little treat in a lovely atmosphere that I’ve carved out for myself around all the stupid.

Otherwise, I don’t think I do explicit retail therapy. My moods/mental health/where I am in my life definitely affect my purchasing decisions, but not as explicitly and directly like with my hot chocolates.


One specific instance stands out: I had a hard time my last year of grad school, but especially my last month of writing my thesis. I was stressed, burned out, and felt like it had been going on forever and would never end! So, while my document was compiling, or plots were generating, which took a boring minute or two…I started to browse clothes online (mostly ThredUp, an online thrift store). Every week or so, I’d end up with $100 of cute bargains in my cart and I’d check out. In retrospect, I was giving myself something to look forward to, a sort if hope for the future, by doing this. I ended up returning at least half the stuff because it didn’t fit, but the other half I liked too much to let go of :sweat_smile:

I did graduate, and am doing well now. :slight_smile: I’m back to my typical, but unusual retail therapy: sometimes I like to go to a store, browse, and happily buy nothing because there’s nothing I need at the moment!


I did retail therapy shopping two times. The first was a travel bag that took me two years to actually have a use for and the second was a impractical dress (this was only last month and I’m guessing also a year before I have a chance to wear it 🤦). Both times I felt better buying it, but then felt dumb for therapy shopping.


My form of retail therapy is thrift shopping. I don’t particularly enjoy shopping in normal retail stores, especially for clothing, but thrift stores light up all the right reward centers in my brain. I enjoy finding like-new (or occasionally even actually new!) things dirt cheap, and saving things from a landfill while also supporting charities makes me feel good about myself. I typically remember whether I got something new or thrifted, and I usually enjoy my thrifted things more than things that I bought from a retail store.


When I am dealing with a lot in unavoidable life things I get obsessive with various hobbies and plans which often results in buying stuff. Last year it was beads- so many seed beads. It’s been vintage patterns, fabric etc. in the past. I usually get good deals and turn the results into something profitable in the end but the initial purchasing can be very irrational in that it feels like an absolute need when it really isn’t- like at least I can execute this exactly as planned and it works because buying stuff is a very straightforward action.


Not sure if this quite counts, but I really want to go to Target today even though I have nothing to shop for because school supply lists are out. I need school supplies for my kid but he’s in pre-K ESE, that list isn’t out with the rest of them. Last year we got the list of supplies at Meet The Teacher, right before school started.

I think I mostly remember what we need - basics like paper towels, hand sanitizer, white paper plates, sleeping mat, etc. and none of it is too crazy or hard to get. But I want to get it NOW so I can have it checked off my list. It’s bothering me in the meantime. It’s been bothering me for a month. I’m very tempted to just go and get what I can remember off hand or just get stuff off the kindergarten list (someone will use it, I’m sure). That makes no sense, though, because a) it would be better for me to wait and b) last year I donated to a local school supply drive at a needy school and I plan on doing that again this year too.

But hey, at least next year he’ll be in Kindergarten and I’ll have a list. :stuck_out_tongue:

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I don’t retail therapize myself a lot… Often the desire to do so is to fix something. Last week I was going to buy a magazine and girly stuff to clear a funk. But I bought a new bra, and it turned out that 90% of my misery was not owning a bra that fit.

Today I’m trying to bribe myself to go to the doctor with the promise of bubble tea.


Oh. Oh =\ I came into this thread being like, “I don’t do any of that!” I abso-fuckin-lutely do. When I’m anxious, I tend to buy a lot of ‘backups’. Can’t run out of ketchup, make sure we have a spare! Luckily this doesn’t get too out of control, as long as I keep track of stuff appropriately, and honestly it’s nice to never run out. But yeah. I definitely purchase mental security through food storage!


Oh! I do back ups too… Canned beans, shampoo, conditioner. Then everything will be okay


Yep. Apparently my brain thinks my safety is directly correlated to how many backup tubes of toothpaste and cans of diced tomatoes I have :woman_shrugging:


I went to see a person when I was in 3rd year university to talk about the fact that I was crying on the streetcar when nothing bad was actually happening in my life. After the session I went to the university bookstore and bought a hardcover Terry Pratchett book, which was definitely not in the budget.

I went back the next week and the therapist asked me how I had felt after session 1, I said that I bought a book and then I had felt better. And based on that he said I probably wasn’t ready for therapy right now, and since I wasn’t failing any classes, it wouldn’t be covered.

I hope, if he continued to practice, that he became a better therapist after that. And I am lucky that nobody ever asked to look at my academic transcript afterwards, because those grades were not ones to be proud of.

My current retail therapy is almost opposite therapy. I only buy new socks when I’m feeling quite flush with cash. I have many socks that have been darned on 4 or 5 separate occasions.


Yes, I definitely engage in retail therapy. When I am in areas of transition, my response is to buy things so that I feel like I have control over whatever is happening in my life. This has happened before I went to college, before I went to graduate school, before I left graduate school, etc. etc. It does not usually help, if I’m being honest, but I often tell myself, “well at least I’ll look perfect when I move to X.” I will say it has worked one time, which is when I broke up with a longtime boyfriend, and got a new wardrobe. I felt way more confident and cute after that.


Relevant funny picture:


I don’t do retail therapy, but I love to shop! When I’m feeling really bad the prospect of shopping just seems like more work to me. More decision making, spending, choosing, etc. I actually go into saver mode more when I’m unhappy/stressed, and get a thrill out of checking my accounts and watching my net worth go up. I find that calms me, whereas shopping just seems like another thing to think about.


I’m planning to engage in retail therapy (major work on my piano and getting another banjo) to deal with the possibility of losing my ability to read and also so that I feel like I’m wrapping up some loose ends before I quit my job next year. It was all spending that was in the plan, but more like 5 years out. But now I just want to spend all the money, even though it’s probably not the wisest idea since we’re in the process of a huge and expensive renovation at the moment. I think it’ll make me happy?


I am like tardis and buy things for my hobbies when my world goes to shit. My current major hobby is gardening and fixing up my house so it’s somewhat constructive, and I get the actual benefits from physical exertion once I’ve bought the things/plants. It can help me clear my head to work through stuff, but it can also make me tired and grumpier. I’ve found its most effective when I’m buying things off my wishlist that I’ve wanted for months but needed a push to get, because then it feels like achieving a to-do item, fills a gap I knew I had and gives me a new toy to play with while I let my brain sort out the bad stuff in the background.


That’s a great idea. That way your impulse purchases are well thought out and probably high quality since you didn’t bite the bullet sooner.

Yes and yes, but it’s restricted to grocery and thrift stores.