Understanding and Avoiding the Comfort Buying Phenomenon

Comfort buying (also known as stress shopping) is a relatively new behavior, indicated by a marked increase in nonessential shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you upgraded your TV, splurged on that lighting fixture you’ve had your eye on, or simply relied on food delivery services in lieu of the homemade meals you used to enjoy? You’re not alone. In fact, a Credit Karma study found that more than one-third of Americans are making impulse purchases and almost 20 percent have exceeded their preshelter-in-place spending. With numbers this high, it’s vital we understand comfort spending better.  

Why do people comfort spend?

For most, comfort spending provides a welcome relief from the uncertainty, anxiety, and yes, even boredom, society as a whole is facing. The exhilaration of making a purchase and the anticipation of waiting for its arrival fills a void many people are experiencing as they’re unable to enjoy things like dining out, spending time with friends, traveling and more. 

Why is it dangerous?

In an economy riddled with layoffs, furloughs, and record unemployment, many simply can’t afford the luxury of comfort buying. For those who can afford it, the risks are less practical and more mental. People using comfort buying as a means of control during a time in which they have so little may find they need to spend more and more to maintain the emotional “runner’s high” they used to achieve with smaller purchases. This can quickly turn into a slippery financial–and emotional–slope.    

How can you avoid it?

Create a household budget and stick to it. If you’re already experiencing financial strain, this is integral to your way of life. If your spending doesn’t affect your core expenses like rent, food, utilities, insurance, and car payments, examine where this surplus income went before the pandemic: Were you contributing to a savings or retirement account, college fund, or charitable donation? Determine how your comfort spending is affecting these goals. Next time you want to splurge, take a moment to decide whether that item is worth one week’s grocery bill or a future college textbook before completing the purchase. Now that you understand the motivations behind comfort buying and how it can negatively affect your finances and emotional well-being, you need a partner who understands the current economic climate and offers the products and services you need to achieve financial well-being and meet your savings goals: FirstCapital Bank of Texas.