Don't Let Buyer's Remorse Get You Down

I know I’m not alone in experiencing the guilt that comes along after making an impulse buy. That sensation in the pit of your stomach, known as buyer’s remorse, and the psychology behind the phenomenon shows that it’s about more than just regretting having made a purchase, there’s actually a psychological thing happening here. And the science behind it really is fascinating.

Who What Wear spoke with Art Markman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Smart Change: Five Tools to Create New and Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others to find out more information about this post-shopping sensation. Markman explained that there are two motivational systems at work when shopping and later experiencing remorse: the avoidance motivational system and the approach system.

“Emotions like regret and guilt, which you experience with buyer’s remorse, reflect the engagement of the avoidance motivational system,” he told Who What Wear. “When you shop, you’re often overwhelmed by the approach system. A new pair of shoes, a great dress, or a fantastic top make you think about how much you would like to own them. When you’re governed by approach motivation, your avoidance concerns play little role in the decision-making process.”

So according to him, too much of the approach system will result in increased shopping, which is great for your closet, but not always for your wallet, which is why the remorse kicks in. Now that you know a little bit more about what can cause buyer’s remorse, here are five more things you never knew about that “Oh no, what have I done?” moment.

1. It’s Not Just About The Small Purchases

While you may think this only happens when shopping for clothes or other tiny purchases, according to CNBC, there are also some rather large purchases that can induce a feeling of guilt, such as, shopping for cars, vacations, electronics and real estate.

2. Budgeting Can Help

Markman suggests in his interview with Who What Wear, "generate a budget for what you can spend before you start shopping. Every time you’re tempted to make a purchase that is not on the list, remind yourself of the impact it will have on your budget. It’s not a foolproof system, but it will minimize the number of times you make purchases that you will later regret."

3. Thinking About Long Term As Well As Short Term Is Important

According to a paper published in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research co-authored by Kelly Kiyeon Lee, "Consumers prefer high-functionality in the long term and convenient products in the short term." So, she recommends thinking about long term use before ever making a purchase.

4. Saving Up For Something You Really Want Is A Good Technique

I'm no expert in this area, but I know that for me it helps to have one large purchase that I'd like to make. I set a goal of saving up enough money to purchase that item, and every time I want to buy something I think "do I want this now or would I rather save it towards X item?" Then, I put the money I would have spent into my savings. At the end, I feel rewarded with my costly purchase especially because I got what I wanted without making a ton of impulse buys along the way.

5. Most Importantly, Think Things Through

Real Simple developed a checklist and set of questions for you to go through before buying something. Taking the time to fill this out will definitely help you slow your roll when it comes to impulse buys!

Kick regretfulness to the curb now that you've got the low down on buyer's remorse. Enjoy your smart shopping!