Blog, Mental Health, Self Discovery, Simplicity

Spending to feel better

It’s just about cold enough for porridge today. Even though I’ve pulled on a t-shirt this morning, autumn is pricking at my bare arms and the wind brings that unmistakable scent, the one where summer starts to sigh and draw languidly to a close.
The pan lid tickers away, bubbles escaping from inside and the stovetop kettle waits, preparing itself for a whistle. My eyes flicker over to the countertop, remnants of packaging, colourful, now used, that arrived with yesterday’s post. I know that’s what I want to talk about today – because I’ve been buying things. Lots of things.

I’ve re-written this sentence 4 times now. I just can’t put into words the whirl of feelings that go along with what, to me, is excessive consumer behaviour. The delete key is getting a workout today! I think that I should feel shame, disappointment – but I just can’t quite get there.

I feel a little defiant at feeling that I have to explain myself. Looking out the window and sipping tea, I turn away from the screen and doodle on a pad.

“I shouldn’t have to explain myself” I write.
“Ok” I answer myself, “don’t”.
“Ok”, I write back.

And there, I feel I’ve reached the crux of it. Just because I started as a minimalism blog doesn’t mean I should feel ashamed for buying things. I have evolved, and again there is whole issue of having to be liked rearing its familiar head. “Stuff it” I think. I drink more tea. “Let’s talk about spending”.

I’ve grabbed a handful of knockoff Aldi veggie starmix ( I think they’re called Groovy’s…anyway, they’re great) to aid the thought process. I discover that BBCR6 is having an all day rave, so turn the volume up and chair rave to myself a little while. Do you find music helps you think? I’m on and off… mostly I find dance and metal music helps me get things in order in my brain.

Anyway, as usual, I digress. So. I’ve found as I sank into depression this year, I’ve been seeking out things that give me a buzz, a rush, some sort of feeling. And the thing I’ve seemed to fixate on is buying things, online shopping, that little thrill of a new item, a purchase. I’m sure there are many, many complicated reasons behind it. The way society equates new stuff with happiness? That having a disposable income is seen as a luxury and we should be buying as much as possible to advance forwards? The advertising staple that we deserve to treat ourselves?

Some of these messages play a part in it, I’m sure. But also, just having that small ability to buy a second hand dress on Ebay, or a lipstick on Depop, gives me some small comfort. I don’t think I’ve been spending because I want those new, shiny things. I’ve been spending to feel better.

The problem is, that small comfort lasts for a microsecond. The anticipation, the build up to clicking ‘buy’, that illicit purchasing behaviour that in the moment, makes me feel as if I’m in control… it’s gone in an instant. And in a few days, when the items turn up through the postbox, I feel a little sick, a worry. I’ve done it again. That chase for a thrill inevitable leads to a comedown, every time.

I worked my way through a ‘new’ (second-hand) wardrobe of clothes, and then worked my way through a whole rack of jewellery-making supplies. Following up on this, I worked my way through a cupboard full of new makeup that Nikkie Tutorials would be proud of. Not to mention the ‘reduced plants’ section that I talked about a few days ago. Each time, chasing that tiny buzz, just to feel, well, to feel something.

Long term, it doesn’t make me feel better. The thrill of buying things is always outweighed by a huge comedown. But there is an interesting trend that I’ve noticed, in that my spending is directly linked to my mood in that moment. Feeling down, sad or tired? I tend to find myself in front of EBay, clicking that PayPal button without even thinking. When I’m feeling happier, am focused on a hobby, being social or out and about, buying stuff isn’t even on my radar. Is this the same for anyone else? If you’ve ever experienced mental ill health, does your spending or consumption reflect this? If you haven’t, do you find that your mood can predict your purchasing behaviour?

It is what it is at the moment, though. I know that it’s all a journey, and I think I’m mostly aware of why I’m tending to spend more right now. So I’m letting it be what it is – something that’s a soothing behaviour, a chase of a pinprick of feeling. As I start to recover, I feel more in control of it, and aware that a lifestyle of simplicity was where I was happiest. I know I’ll get back there but am letting myself experience this journey without any guilt.

I’d love to open this discussion – does mood affect your spending habits? How do you feel afterwards? Please share, if you feel able, in the comments, and I’ll look forward to chatting.

(P.S. The image for this post is my idea of heaven though…just surrounded by books. Anyone else?!)

11 thoughts on “Spending to feel better

  1. Does mood affect my spending?? Oh God, yes!!

    Sal, I have been loving your posts, especially these most recent ones. Your vulnerability shines through. I know what it’s like to go through depression. I’ve been there. I know what the spiralggn of thoughts is like. I know the guilt of buying things or that “rush” you describe in this post, and the let down afterward.

    Oh, and the books surrounding you feeling like heaven? That, too! 🙂

    I am so glad you are writing more again. You have such a lovely writing voice. And i imagine as I’m reading it, I hear your Scottish accent. 🙂

    By the way, did you know you cannot always comment on some of your older posts? I think after two weeks, your blog seems to not allow comments on posts.

    1. Yes! Surrounded by books is the best feeling. I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts – I’m enjoying being a bit more open with writing them… It’s a little scary wondering how they’ll go down but it’s just cathartic writing them really!
      Thanks for letting me know about the posts, I’ll take the comment limit off (if I can find the button!)
      I’ve really been enjoyig your blog posts too, so glad to see you back – and loving the blog style. The pictures are great.
      (P.S Accent is kind of a mix of Manchester/Cheshire/Yorkshire – not quite Scottish but a bit of a mix of places! 😉 Generally I just go with ‘northern’ hehe)

  2. Ah, depression….my invisible companion for as far back as I can remember. I call it my Black Dog. Sometimes the Black Dog is right on my heels, breathing loudly in my ear and slavering and drooling down my neck. Sometimes he gets distracted and I think I’ve managed to lose him….but he always sniffs me out again. I guess he’s part bloodhound. At any rate, the Black Dog has a definite influence on my spending though not nearly as much as he used to when I was working and miserable in my job. I rarely shop online so that isn’t a temptation for me. I shop and run errands in town once a week and have learned to avoid the places where the Black Dog steals my willpower when he’s dogging my steps. I still buy things that I wouldn’t if I weren’t swimming in a sea of depression
    but, at this point in time at least, it tends to be food items or a shirt or something from Costco. The food gets eaten or frozen if I’ve bought too much. Other things remain unworn or in their packaging until I have a more….lucid moment?… think about whether I really like it/want it/need it. Usually I end up returning it. Years ago, when I was working at a job in a toxic (mentally/emotionally) environment that made me miserable, I did a lot of shopping. It was more of a self soothing, self comforting thing however than looking for a feel good jolt. Can’t say it worked well as it was always followed by guilt over what I’d spent. Now, more often than not, I do a spot of decluttering when I feel the urge to go out and buy something to make me “feel better”. I can usually find a couple of things to add to the “Go away” box and, oddly enough, it seems to help a little with lightning the depression a bit. Or treating myself to a box or package of really good cookies….something that I normally don’t buy. If I don’t finish them, someone else will, lol!

    Blessings to you in your journey and, please, keep on writing!

    1. I really identify with this – especially the part about working a job in a miserable environment. I felt the same and used to just buy, buy, buy to comfort myself. I think spending tends to appear when something is lacking – it’s a big hint that something needs to change. Reaching for some form of comfort, if only for a split second.
      Changing, though is hard! Especially when in the depression fog. It’s hard just to put one foot in front of the other, never mind re-evaluate life at that point in time. The lucid moments are when realisation kicks in! 🙂
      I really appreciate your words. It helps to find shared experience! 🙂

  3. Yes! 100% yes! I sent you an email that detailed my current issues as I’m not quite ready to put it all out there, but in my tough moments I have most definitely been spending more than I should. When I was recovering from flu the kids thought it was hilarious that we’d walk into the supermarket and they’d say things like ‘oooh! Look! There’s new M&M’s chocolate blocks out!’ and it would be followed up by ‘throw one in the trolley’. And I’ve spent rather a lot on Harry Potter Lego Minifigures…but I would have done that anyway, what with our LEGO and Harry Potter obsessions! It does give me a little boost, and with the fatigue I’m feeling (especially this week, having come down with another flu-type virus! Half my daughter’s class is away from school today!) I think I have been using purchases to give me a little extra fuel. It’s so easy to do, and I know I need to be more mindful of it! I don’t feel great when I know I’ve overspent, because I know I have to justify it in the accounts at some point!

    1. Hi Clare – yes I got your email! Reply is in progress 😉 I agree…we crave that little hit of excitement/joy from buying something, especially when feeling a bit under the weather, tired, down… I wonder where this purchase exhileration comes from.. Is it just a human thing? That having something ‘new’ gives us that excitement? Or is it a conditioned response, from thousands of adverts, etc? I wonder… * will probably write about it! All curious now*
      The feeling after though, I am just the same. Regret, and yes, trying to justify it… it’s hard.

  4. What an open and honest post. You’re right about what the spending does for you; you’re getting a little bit of dopamine to give you the boost you’re looking for. My own spending has reduced to barely nothing, but there are still occasions when I’ll go after something I *think* I need (check out my fear-induced spending on my most recent post). Being self-aware is key. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Fear induced spending! Yes! I just read Notes on a Nervous Planet too, and Matt Haig is spot on. That creation of ‘lack’ by advertisers, and then the push of a product to remedy that lack. It makes me feel a bit sick to think about it, really, that it’s normal to break people down, create false ‘problems’… and then create a purchasing habit to make people feel, well, what society deems as normal.
      Your post really hits the spot. (It’s here for those who want to read!) The list of ‘fears’ is raw, in a way. I think all of them are true for myself, and I could probably add many more to the list. It’s a sad way to live. I think realising it is a step in the right direction, though…

  5. Thank you for your honest posts! They speak truth and this is a conversation that needs to be had. I’m definitely an emotional shopper – sad, anxious, bored, tired, down. I don’t like confronting negative emotions and shopping distracts me. Since minimalism and environmentalism I’m much better at not converting the online shopping/research into buying but I still buy things I don’t need. But my biggest beef with it is that I distract myself but don’t really live. I’m trying to do things that feed me instead. My first focus is a proper mediation habit to create the mental space I need.

  6. “I distract myself but don’t really live” this really hit home with me! I’m trying to figure out the whole living part so that I don’t need as much distraction. It’s a journey! I’ve just started meditating/mindfulness, it’s really helping. Just a few moments away from the whirl of thoughts… 🙂

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