In the last year I made some not-so-awesome impulse purchases. Was that just me?

Mental Health

A: Stress spending is real, and in the last year, it went way past buying too much toilet paper.

According to one survey, 43% of respondents said they’d made an impulse purchase during the first few months of the pandemic as wine-o-clock internet purchases became an all-day thing for a subset of us. For others, financial challenges meant increased debt and struggles to buy even the essentials. Tell us your stories (on our FB post), and we’ll share a few of ours!

Retail therapy and emotional spending were around before the pandemic, but fear of illness, scarcity and boredom increased online impulsive buying behavior among customers worldwide. The emotionally charged American presidential election spiked online shopping, too. Shoppers spent $2 billion online on Election Day this year, nearly twice as much as they did in 2016.

At the same time, more than 14% of Americans had their emergency savings wiped out, just making ends meet. Many more struggled to pay medical bills, are still struggling financially and will continue to do so for years to come.

Despite the vast economic inequalities, everyone is a consumer in the market economy. And when we shop, we get a boost of self-efficacy – that feeling that we’ve made a decision, and gained some control, research finds. When we engage in emotional shopping, we visualize a better life, a happier time, and that boosts our sense of well-being… temporarily at least.

But then there’s the loneliness loop: When we feel isolated (or *are* isolated) we get more anxious. When you’re anxious, you don’t want to be proactive about relationships, so we may be more likely to seek out that emotional boost from shopping. Over time that can make us lonelier because it’s hard to form relationships with things.

So… did you engage in retail therapy during the last year? And how did it work out for you?

We Nerdy Girls will start the dish session:

☘️ A lot of plants. Like…a LOT! Our living room looks like a rain forest. It was my way of bringing the outside indoors. – Dr. Sandra Albrecht

🔥 A meditation yurt with a wood burner. – Dr. Dena Jennings

🩱 Inflatable hot tub. It’s the most ridiculous purchase of all time, truly. – Dr. Malia Jones

🎲 Gardening, gadgets and games! – Dr. Lauren Hale

🎬 Streaming services. ALL the streaming services. – Dr. Amanda Simanek

🚴‍♀️ A Peloton. – Dr. Lindsey Leininger

🥄 Yogurt spoons. (Seriously. They are a thing. And they are awesome.) – Gretchen Peterson

🍸 A cocktail maker machine (not a good idea) and an indoor hydroponic garden (a great idea). – Dr. Christine Whelan

📬 I joined a pen-pal service I found on Twitter and have been sending snail mail to friends and family on fun stationary, too. – Joanna Dreifus

❤️ A collection of semi-jamas, cozier than athleisure, socially acceptable for most virtual events – Dr. Ashley Ritter, with h/t to Dr. Aparna Kumar

Or maybe overwork, stress or economic insecurity changed your shopping habits – making you focus more on essentials, save more for the future or rethink your consumption in general.

Everyone has a story. Feel free to share your #pandemicpurchases in the comments. (FB only)

With Love,
Those Nerdy Girls

Citations and additional resources:

Pandemic buying trends

Research on impulse spending spike

Election buying

Emergency savings wiped out

Shopping and control

Loneliness loop

Link to original FB post