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The power of mindful spending

May 25, 2021
Empower Insights

How to ensure retail therapy leads to fulfillment

Regrets — we’ve all had a few. Some may be hanging in your closet or gathering dust on a shelf in the garage right now, in fact. Retail therapy may feel good in the moment, but the happiness it offers often doesn’t last long.

Not all purchases offer only a sugar high, though. Some purchases can lead to fulfillment. Alice Kornhauser, of Portland, Maine, has developed a way to satisfy her desire to shop without creating stress on her budget and savings goals. The key isn’t to avoid emotional spending — it’s being mindful about your purchases.

Separating personal value from monetary value

Feeling anxious about your financial situation can affect your emotional and physical well-being, as Personal Capital financial hero Deepak Chopra points out. His keys to financial confidence include knowing your financial values, setting a plan and seeing that plan through.

Kornhauser wound up finding her way through essentially the same steps. In 2014, she took a one-year “radical sabbatical” during which she narrowed her daily needs down to the minimum necessary for her to be happy. “My to-do list had five things on it,” she says. “Take vitamins, make something, read something, exercise and make time for introspection.”

Even though she loves shopping, it wasn’t on the list. So she began thinking about the activity differently by asking what she was looking to gain during the process. And she found that she genuinely enjoys the act of going to a store and meditatively looking through racks of clothes, imagining herself wearing them. She also discovered that it was less important to her to actually buy the garments she was browsing.

The realization that she could separate the experience of shopping from the need to actually make a purchase led Kornhauser to change her approach. “I recognized that the temptation to shop often came from feeling bored or unappreciated, like I needed a reward,” she says. So she borrowed a plan from the Marie Kondo playbook and decided she would try to surround herself solely with things that sparked joy and gave her genuine pleasure.

Becoming mindful about spending

Chopra recommends taking these steps before spending money to ensure you’re doing so mindfully:

  • Have a joyful, energetic body.
  • Maintain a loving, compassionate heart.
  • Develop a clear, reflective mind.
  • Feel lightness of being.

Kornhauser seeks out a more direct route between buying something and feeling fulfilled: “I ask if a purchase genuinely makes me feel really, really good — does it give me the giggles?”

Answering that question can mean spending weeks visualizing the ideal bed skirt before she starts looking for one to buy. And that process has sometimes led her to the conclusion that less is more. “If you’re bored and just need to make a change, sometimes giving things away to Goodwill and clearing out space can be more revelatory and beneficial than buying something new,” she says.

A man trying on hats at a store

More importantly, she’s found that if she truly wants something, there’s no hurry to pull the trigger on a purchase. “If you really want something now, you’ll want it tomorrow — and two weeks from now,” she says.

While the positive feelings that retail therapy bring may last a short time, making thoughtful decisions about your purchases and savings can bring a lasting sense of accomplishment.

Work toward your spending and saving goals with an Empower Investment Account

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