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Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with emotions and don’t know how to handle them? It happens to the best of us.

What do we do when we’re sad? Shopping. I feel bad for my bank account.

Let’s dissect this topic: Retail therapy.

I’m not afraid to admit that I shop a lot, whether it’s for myself or for others. I love that I get to go out to find cute things for cheap. I find things all the time that are functional, fashionable and for a good price.

I told my therapist that when I’m sad, I like to shop. To an extent, he said that was okay as long there is no substantial harm. Probably also known as not going bankrupt for it. So, therefore, I shop. However, it struck me when I saw this TikTok saying that if you had parents who bought you things instead of being emotionally supported, you will now buy things to be emotionally validated. I almost had an existential crisis when I read that. Now, I don’t want to self-diagnose from seeing something on social media, but the dots connected!

Emotional spending is real. If done right and in moderation, it can be a helpful mood booster. 


Woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Ways I make sure retail therapy isn’t hurting me or others:

  1. I make sure I can afford it. I will not go into debt for these items or experiences. 

  2. It’s something I’ve been wanting for a while and/or will eventually get it.

  3. I love it!

Besides spending, window shopping is an excuse to get out of the house! When you’re in that sad funk, seeing new things and being surrounded by people can be uplifting. Retail therapy gets a negative reputation, but it doesn’t have to. However, if you’re spending money you don’t have and going into debt, it may be time to reflect on what’s happening deeper. Retail therapy is fun until the aftermath becomes a burden and chore. By then, a financial advisor or therapist may be more helpful.

Tracy Huynh

CU Boulder '23

Tracy is a sophomore at the Leeds School of Business. In her free time, she enjoys binge-watching Netflix and going shopping. If she is not studying, she can be found with a fuzzy blanket and fuzzy socks in bed or in the home decor section of any store daydreaming.
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