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Top 3 Reasons People Rely on Online Retail Therapy

I’ve had several conversations in the past week about spending. Not just spending money in terms of paying bills or going out to eat but specifically spending through online shopping. Here are some of the surface reasons that people turn to retail therapy.


1. Finding the “perfect” thing to buy online is satisfying.

2. Buying online is EASY.

3. Anticipating and receiving the arrival of the item is exciting.


Here is what is really happening. One retired man told me that his partner goes to the door 7-8 times a day in anticipation of receiving the items that she’d ordered. In this case, it’s my assertion that it comes from not having enough when the buyer was younger. There is a constant need to get and have stuff. It is filling a void.


One retired woman told me that she’d worked hard all her life and she deserved to have name-brand items from Macy’s, even though some of the things, she would never actually use or wear. She retired just before the pandemic started. She lives alone and experienced some health issues shortly thereafter. She admits that her online ordering started with food delivery, then groceries, and now items from Amazon and Macy’s. When you’re on your own and trying to care for yourself some of these services are crucial. When I asked her what online shopping does for her now, she responded sincerely. When she was younger, she made a comment about not ever getting personal mail. At that time, her uncle decided to send her personal mail on a regular basis. So now these online orders are filling a void for her.

An older distant relative of mine passed away a few years ago. She lived alone and was constantly ordering things from Amazon. When family went into her home to clean it out, they found hundreds of unopened boxes of brand-new items that she had ordered to fill some need. I can only guess what void this was filling for her.


I struggle with buying things online. At some point, it becomes a burden to me. From tracking the purchase date and expected date of arrival, to opening the package, making sure it fits or is the right item, returning it if it isn’t, managing the return, getting rid of the packaging and on and on…


These are not uncommon occurrences and yet this need to buy can literally consume us and our money. The real reasons people abuse online retail therapy:


1. They are lonely.

2. They are struggling to identify or reframe their purpose.

3. They are bored.


Which one of these stories can you relate to, or have you experienced with a family or friend? How is it impacting their ability to live financially responsible lives?


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