Recently, I was at one of the big malls here in San Diego. Like all malls, it’s an ocean of retail therapy.
And, as I was walking through and taking it all in, I couldn’t help noticing a jewelry store with a big sign that read….
You Will Be Approved
And when I saw that sign- I intellectually knew what it meant.
It said basically “Hey- if you come in here and fill out a credit application, you’ll be approved for a certain dollar amount- it might be a couple thousand dollars or it could only be a couple hundred dollars- but you’ll be approved for something”.
However, in an instant, like a crack of lightning, I was also struck with a spiritual resonance around that sign.
A resonance that said in essence “Hey- if you come in here and buy a new watch, ring, or necklace, you’ll surely be admired by your friends.
A Person of Style and Taste
Oh yes, even strangers will look at you differently. People will clearly see you as a person of style and taste.
Oh yes, you’ll appear more attractive in every way. Yes, my friend, you’ll be approved!”
“Oh, and by the way, if you don’t have the money- we can easily help you finance your new image…..”
Consumerism, Human Nature, and Retail Therapy
It’s part of our human nature to crave relationship, community, and approval.
In the tribal age of the hunter gatherer, if a person was deemed to be “unapproved of”, they would be ostracized from the group and, left on their own, meet a quick and lonely death.
But in our ever increasingly consumeristic society, I see a lot of folks making questionable purchases.
spending money they don’t have…
to buy things they don’t need….
to impress people they don’t know.
Truth is, the people who really matter don’t care what brand your jeans are.
Nor do they care what cute logo is on your purse.
I think Dr. Seuss said it best: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”
Three Tips To Move You Forward
Here are three action items that will help you become more aware of what’s really happening in your mind and how to make a better choice.
1. Ask A Question
The next time you’re feeling the magnetic pull towards an emotional purchase, ask yourself- is this a need, or simply a want?
Additionally- and this is a big one- am I making this purchase based on the items Utility (its ability to do the intended job)
or the items Vanity (its ability to impress those around me*)?
Please read that again- it’s important.
For example, watches tell time and purses carry stuff. Are you more concerned about what the item can do, or what it you hope it says about you?
The answer to the latter part will really tell you if it’s your ego that’s driving this behavior. If so, it’s time to step away and get clear about the real need.
2. Call A Friend
Get to the center!
Have a real heart-to-heart conversation about your emotions.
Ask them for support and encouragement.
3. Get Plastic Surgery. Wait- What??!!
When you’re about to go on an emotional spending binge, it’s unlikely you’ll use cash. Yes, my friends, retail therapy often precedes the dreaded “debt hangover”.
My advice- take your credit cards and shred them! Just let ’em go.
Now, here’s a caveat.
Do not close the accounts- just get rid of the cards. There’s a difference.
Here’s why. At some point in the future, you’ll need a good credit rating.
And unless you’re a self-made millionaire and you can just whip out a loaded checkbook and buy whatever you want- you’re going to need good credit.
Here’s why I recommend shredding the cards but not closing the account.
If you shred the cards, you can always contact your credit card company and request new cards. No muss no fuss. And your credit rating will remain unfazed.
However, if you shred the cards and then cancel the accounts, your credit will take an immediate hit. Why, you ask? Well it has to do with a credit rating metric called Account History…..
Account history- not just how well you’ve performed with on-time payments- but how long (think in terms of years) the account has been open, plays a heavy role in determining your credit score.
I Had To Learn This The Hard Way
As you might have guessed I learned this the hard way when I gleefully shredded my cards and then called all my creditors and cancelled the accounts. Later, I discovered that by actually canceling the accounts entirely, I had to start completely over again when I wanted a new card.
That meant a fresh inquiry on my credit and a new account that was only one day old. My advice: don’t start completely over unless you have to (for example, in the case when you have joint accounts with your spouse)
So, what about you? Do you have an interesting story about retail therapy? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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