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Life > Experiences

Retail Therapy is Real

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

And it’s very bad for my bank account

Do I currently have a job? No. Do I need to save money? Very much. Do I consistently open Amazon and look at the pre-Black Friday deals? Every night. It’s quite an expensive habit, yet I don’t feel guilty, not even a little bit. There’s something about comparing the multiple different types of wide leg pants at three different clothing stores that makes getting my schoolwork done a lot easier. It must be the boost of dopamine from the instant gratification of online window shopping and adding things to my cart that makes 20 minutes of studying a lot more rewarding.

Before having a job and financial independence, I didn’t believe retail therapy was a genuine thing. I thought people were just using it as an excuse to buy new things and make it seem like it was somehow justified. This whole article should probably be prefaced with the fact that I currently work in retail, at a clothing store, so my shopping habits are strongly influenced by my five hour shift surrounded by clothes. Also, my employee discount doesn’t help to slow down my spending sprees, either. I was definitely more aware of the constant pull to buy new things. Consumerism at its finest, I know.

After I had a couple paychecks in my checking account, I realized that I had money; my own sort of disposable income. This was money I could spend on whatever I wanted. I remember my parents telling me that it was a one-way trip once you start spending money, that once you start, you never really stop. I also vividly remember telling myself that I would be different and save far more money than I would spend. This, unfortunately, is not true in the slightest. After my first solo Target trip with my own debit card, knowing that I was in control, and I could splurge on the exclusive lavender colored vinyl and get a new journal that I desperately didn’t need, I had entered that one-way door. There was no going back. *cue slamming door*

Right after buying things, I am always so excited to go home, take the tags off, try it on or set it up, depending on whatever unnecessary things I purchased. My day instantly gets better when I have a growing list of essential items like toothpaste and deodorant because that means I can make it a little event to walk around Target or go to neighboring stores. I also use it as a reward to force myself to be productive, reasoning that I’ll be shopping later so I have to get these tasks done. Although my parents would argue this is unhealthy, it feels right to me.

Shopping in person is one thing though, figuring out how to shop online and use Afterpay to justify bigger purchases meant that I could shop from anywhere. I also always have my phone with me and retail apps are pretty convincing at making me think I’m getting really good sales or finding really good deals. I have definitely fallen victim to many ‘today only’ deals. The ease of accessibility, justification I can come up with and just genuine enjoyment I get from looking at new clothes makes online shopping the obvious option for the next tab to open when I’m procrastinating a research paper. Not to mention how much better my day gets when the ‘package delivered’ notification pops up.

I’ve been told that I’m not a good person to go shopping with because I have a certain ability to convince people to buy things, which are often splurges or very obviously not needed items. Evidence of this is that my roommate had never really shopped online (crazy, I know) before moving into college and she’s admitted that since living with me for a few months she now naturally opens an Etsy or Amazon tab once she finishes an assignment. I can’t explain it scientifically, but retail therapy is infectious and as good as it feels in the moment, it’s the reason I can’t bear to look at my credit card bill this month. So beware, because retail therapy is real, and it’s like an addiction.

Abby Cortichiato

Wisconsin '26

Hi!! My name's Abby and I'm a freshman at the University of Wisconsin Madison. I'm currently an undecided major in the College of Letters and Science. I love traveling, finding new shows to binge, spending way too much time on TikTok, and excessively planning things. Walking to class I'm probably listening to Taylor Swift or Hozier, and if power-napping only has one fan, it's me.