Consumers Hard-Pressed to Reform Spending Habits
Weâre learning the hard way to reign in our spending and reduce our debt, and weâre not always responding well, says Gaetano Vaccaro, deputy clinical director of Moonview Sanctuary, a treatment center for emotional and behavioral disorders (âDownturn Spurs âSurvival Panicâ For Some,â Reuters, Dec. 16, 2008).
Weâve gotten so comfortable with our spendthrift ways, charging whatever we want onto our credit cards no matter the cost, that our sudden inability to buy on the fly has hit at the core of our personal identity, spawning feelings of depression and a barrage of irrational behaviors.
âWe donât buy products, we buy feelings. Weâre buying the anticipation of the feeling that we think that product or service is going to give us,â Vaccaro said. âPeople start seeing their economic situation change, and it stimulates a sort of survival panic.â
Because our identities have been tied to our material possessions for so long, some mental health experts are anticipating that we may begin rebelling against these forced lifestyle changes by shopping more or even resorting to theft or violence.
But, Timothy Fong, a psychiatrist at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, says stealing and aggression arenât acceptable or healthy responses, and that this is the perfect opportunity for us to reform our old ways and establish new patterns for defining self happiness.
3 Strategies to Help You Ditch Your Spend-Happy Ways
Although the downturn may be painful, Vaccaro says, it represents a chance for us to become âa more discerning consumerâ and move away from âirrationalâ and âcarelessâ consumerism.
Here are three strategies to help you relearn how to buy only what is necessary:
- Stop and think about every purchase. Step away from an item for a few minutes or even leave the store to avoid making an impulse buy. Taking the time to breathe may help you realize that despite todayâs bargain basement prices on flat-screen TVs, or on a new car, these âstatus symbolsâ may not be necessities.
- Take advantage of storesâ on-hold policies. If you donât think you can stand the anxiety of walking away from an item for fear that it will be snatched up, put the item on hold as long as the store will allow. You may forget about the item altogether, which means you didnât really need it, but if you decide to buy it, the store will have it waiting for you.
- Keep the price tags on and keep a shopping journal. Write down all your purchases and their costs. When buying items that arenât necessities, note how you felt when you bought the item. Check your entry a week later and see if you still feel the same excitement for that item now that you own it. If your feelings have changed and the item has lost its luster, you can return it with the price tag intact.
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