Does Retail Therapy Actually Work?

Cheryl Lock

retail therapyI’m not proud to admit that there have been days when I’ve needed to ask my husband to hide my credit card from me.

That’s because I’ve been known to purchase the occasional pair of shoes (or dress or skirt or blouse … you get the picture) when I’m feeling down.

Turns out, the “happy” feeling I get from clicking the purchase button on my computer isn’t all in my head. In fact, new research out of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business discovered that when subjects were shown a video that involved bullying, and were then given an option of buying snacks, those who actually did buy the snack admitted to feeling better than those who decided not to.

The study didn’t end there, though. In a second test, subjects were shown another depressing clip and then divided into two different shopping scenarios—one where they had an opportunity to choose the products they wanted and one where they did not. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the group whose participants had an opportunity to pick which products they wanted admitted to being happier than those who did not.

Of course we wouldn’t be a personal finance site if we simply suggested that you buy things to help curb sadness. In fact, results from the second study seemed to suggest that the “purchases” that elicit these feelings of happiness don’t even necessarily need to be real items—just the option of purchasing something they wanted was enough to make the test subjects happy.

We don’t know about you, but to us that news seems pretty promising. Who knows—maybe the next time I have a bad day and feel the urge to purchase something pretty I can try just putting the item into my virtual basket, and not going through with the process of actually purchasing it.

I’m sure that’ll make my husband happy – I think he’s running out of places to hide my credit card.

  • Tasmanian Minimalist

    Shopping was the undoing of my life, and stopping shopping was the remaking of my life. Don’t do it unless it’s a NEED.
    Check out the damage at and

  • no more shopping

    I was hoping this article would offer alternatives to shopping because it is just too dangerous to even be on a website where I could buy something!