Sadness and spending

We’ve all heard of retail therapy as a way to improve mood, but a 2008 report created by scientists from four universities confirms that shopping when sad can easily decrease financial stability.

In addition to the risk of spending money they didn’t plan to spend at all, sad shoppers are inclined to pay more for those unplanned expenses than other shoppers. Specifically, the researchers found that sad, self-focused people were willing to spend almost 300 percent more money for an item than people who were feeling more neutral.

Here is an explanation of the experiment:

In the experiment, participants viewed either a sad video clip or one devoid of human emotion. Afterward, participants could purchase an ordinary commodity, such as a water bottle, at various prices. Participants randomly assigned to the sad condition offered almost 300% more money to buy the product than “neutral” participants. Notably, participants in the sadness condition typically insist, incorrectly, that the emotional content of the film clip did not carry over to affect their spending.

If you are feeling blue and have money to spend, trying spending it on an experience instead of an object. A 2008 study by Psychologist Miriam Tatzel of Empire State College found that people who spend money on experiences (called “experiencers”) are happier than people who spend money on objects. Even better, opt for a free experience that can benefit your mental and financial health such as taking a walk or reconnecting with a friend.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.