07/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Yes, We're Still Shopping. It's called Retail Therapy.

2009-06-21-Retail thearapy-pennypurseimage.jpg

Recently, a study in the UK confirmed something that I have known in my heart for some time. That is, when under stress, depressed or even broke, women will still shop. As Jane Austen, might have said that women will continue to shop regardless of economic circumstances is a "truth universally acknowledged." Recessions and Depressions will come and go, but shopping will go on. Psychology professor Karen Pine, from the University of Hertfordshire has been doing a number of studies about how various factors (including the time of the month) influence women's spending habits. I have been reading her studies and I must admit, I find them extremely interesting and affirming. Why affirming you say? Well, because I myself am still spending. I know myself. If I have a bad day I am likely to go shopping. Even if it's just for sport (i.e. window shopping, not actual buying.) It's retail therapy, and sometimes it takes my mind off things. With my current shopping, I am just trying to do it as wisely as possible. That's why I started my blog on finding ways to save on shopping, dining out and entertaining.

Here are some of the findings from Dr. Pine's studies on women and spending:

  • 79% of women say that going on a spending spree cheers them up. This indicates that some women use shopping as an emotion regulator to numb themselves to negative feelings or dissatisfaction with life.
  • Research also revealed that an intense emotional state, high or low, is often responsible for sending women to the stores.
  • Hormonal fluctuations, psychologists say, may lead to women spending more than they can afford, buying unwanted goods or feeling out of control with money.

Dr. Pine likens the use of shopping to regulate emotions to the use of drugs or alcohol. "If shopping is an emotional habit for women they may feel the need to keep spending despite the economic downturn," she said. "Or, perhaps worse still, if they can't spend we might see an increase in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression."

My take on this is that people still need to treat themselves to some rewards. I've been calling these The Recessionista's rewards. This is why I am still tracking the sales, going to Loehmann's, checking out the shopping clubs and getting excited that Norma Kamali is now at Walmart and I can buy a great dress for $20.00. I've also been seeking out contests I can enter to get free stuff. Some of my friends are amazed by my dedication to the task. But ladies, and men too, we need our treats, our rewards. Something to give us a lift. Like some of the people in Dr. Pine's study, I believe "pretty things" will ultimately uplift me. I think Celia Birtwell was the one who said that if given the choice, she would choose the "pretty." Especially, if those pretty things don't break my budget.


Pictured: Depression Wear: Hoisery in the Midst of the Great Depression

Did you know that in the great depression sales of women's stockings soared? And in this recession, that trend continues. Overall hosiery sales rose 2.3% this year, with Spanx seeing a 77% increase in sales compared to last year. Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estée Lauder, has also observed that when the economy is in the tank, sales of lipstick are up. We still want that $10.00 tube of lipstick or gloss to make us feel better.

This is where planning becomes the key. I think the real problem here is impulse shopping and overspending when you feel down. Take a minute and think about that price tag. And if you can't resist, and you get it home, only to discover it's not all that, then take it back! Yes, you can exercise your power of the purse by doing returns.

Beyond shopping, remember to take a periodic inventory of your finances and your budget. Like any other relationship in life, in order for it to be a success, a good relationship with money requires constant communication. I'm saying this as I prepare to communicate with my bills, my checking account and my investments (lately I hate to look but I have to do it.) If you're looking a resource for some free tips on investing and managing your money, check out Citi's Woman & Co. webpage. They also have some great newsletters and fact sheets there for your reference.

Yes, we have our emotional shopping habits, but we don't have to be ruled by them. Not in The Recessionista's Regime!