Psychologies works with selected partners who pay to promote their products and services. Learn More

Retail therapy or buyer remorse?

Impulse buying is pretty common. We are a living in a culture of consumable products, new technology, expert advertising and peer pressure. With so much temptation around it is really easy to buy something without considering the consequences of the purchase. Written by Ollie Coach, Belinda Wells.

Whilst ruminating at home a few weeks ago, a lazy day, I had a hankering to do something new in my free time, so I started looking at ideas for a new hobby. I knew that I would like to be able to do something different, but I also know from experience that I have often bought things that perhaps I shouldn’t have.

I have often bought clothes which I intended to wear yet have never worn. By which I really mean perhaps they never left the bag I bought them in. Or if they are some of the luckier items they may have made it onto a hanger in my wardrobe, and they have never since seen the light of day. An impulse buy.

In the past I have bought things I was sure, at the time of purchase, that I would use. Maybe a gadget I thought I just really couldn’t do without. ‘Why has no one ever thought about inventing that before?’ Only to find that actually I don’t use it and it is obvious why no one had invented it sooner as it is something completely superfluous to anyone’s requirements and which most people could and have managed without quite admirably.

Except me, seemingly!

And I will often justify my desire to buy something as it is a bargain! Wow! I just couldn’t leave it there at that price…

Why on earth would I be trying to justify buying something I didn’t need in the first place, based on the bargain price?

Or perhaps I will tell myself “I deserve it.”

Sometimes it will be something I buy for someone else. I might never even get around to giving it to them. Or if I do, they may not want it anyway!

I have even on occasions bought something I had forgotten I already owned!

Am I a shopaholic?

And if I am, when did that happen – and why?

But it has been lockdown and I have done everything I can think of to keep myself amused at home over the last 16 weeks, so I would like something else to do.

I remember though, that I have bought things to do before with the best of intentions and have never got around to doing them. At Christmas I bought myself some beautiful rainbow coloured wool and a crochet hook as I thought I would like to learn to crochet over the holiday period.

In fact, as I stood in the queue at the checkout, balls of wool, crochet hooks and beginners guide magazine in hand, I decided it would be a great idea if I bought some for each of my daughters too. Great Christmas presents. Then an idea hit me! My youngest daughter was expecting her first child, my first grandchild, so I would buy wool and crochet hooks for us all and we could make a blanket for the baby. And it was a great idea.

The baby was due in June. In May, when I couldn’t find my wool and crochet hook to begin my contribution to the effort, I had to order some more. I did get some squares done, so did my mum and also my other daughter, so it turned out to be a gift handmade for the new baby – handcrafted by three generations of the family! So that was, in the end, a success, even though to this day I do not know where I put that original bag of wool.

I am however guilty of ‘two step shopping’, as my family call it!

Step one is where I buy something, probably swayed by some emotional impulse or a sudden urge to have it, perhaps to make me feel better on a not so good day. Maybe I have been swayed by a really good advertising campaign. Whatever I buy, it will most likely not have been on my shopping list, probably not even on my distant wish list. And almost certainly not something I need!

There are times when, having the newest acquisition for a short while does serve a purpose and I may enjoy the thought that I have it. But more often than not it will have been poorly thought through and when I get the item home, it is not really what I wanted at all.

Hence step two.  I return the item.

I wonder if buying something gives us instant gratification?

If so, is it because we are missing something in our lives?

Scientists tell us that people impulse buy things that make them feel good or things that have some emotional value and that when we do this it helps us feel better about ourselves. Tt can even dampen our unhappy thoughts or help compensate for feelings of self-doubt.

My mother has a brilliant saying – “I’m just admiring – not acquiring!”

And she is very good at it.

She will admire, but not desire the item and it will be favourably remarked upon, then it will go back on the shelf. She is happy to have seen it, held it and put it back.

So, my shopping habits are not hereditary then, nor are they learned behaviour – at least not learned from my mum.

I have been known to sneak back to something my Mother has ‘admired but not acquired’, when we have been out browsing together and I have bought it for her as a gift! After all she is very difficult to buy for. Christmas, Birthdays and Mother’s Day are all such a trial, as there is never anything she wants. So, if I spot something she really likes, then I will get it without her knowledge.

This sometimes works, but sometimes it backfires! But worth the risk I always feel at the time. After all, I can keep the receipt and return it if necessary!

There I go, two step shopping rears its head again.

I know impulse buying is a common behaviour today.  We are a living in a culture of consumable products, new technology, expert advertising and peer pressure. With so much temptation around it is, as I know first-hand, really easy to buy something without considering the consequences of the purchase.

So, is that a bad thing?

Well yes, I believe it can be.

Impulse buying can be related to anxiety or unhappiness. In my case I think it is probably a relaxing release, something I do in my ‘me time’ as I do have a busy life, fostering children.

I have to admit though that since I became an Ollie Coach, I have not really felt the need to impulse buy anywhere near as much. I think I am now finding my fulfilment from helping children and families with their emotions.  And any frustrations I may have felt for the looked after children in my care, who needed yet often couldn’t access emotional support, have now gone, as I am able to offer this support to them myself through the Ollie Techniques.

On reflection, I think controlling impulse buying can help improve your Emotional Wellbeing. But to be able to control something, firstly it’s very important to understand why you do it. So we should ask ourselves some questions.  

“What motivates me to impulse buy?”

“What is it that I am gaining from it?” and

“What would I miss if I didn’t do it?”

There will be a reason!

In fact, there may be more than one answer to those questions, if you are like me.

Knowing the answers will help you understand the underlying causes, which you can then address. This will allow you to make much better decisions the next time you’re shopping or the next time you just catch yourself wanting to buy something.

It has for me. I no longer have the need to impulse buy, followed by the feelings of ‘Buyer’s Remorse’ and the inevitable trip back to ask for the refund.

It has saved me time and money.

And I’m a much happier person now too. 

I have also decided on a new hobby.

It was not an impulse buy, but a well-considered decision, I hope!

I have bought a greenhouse.

I have already started using it. It prompted us as a family to re-plan and revamp the garden. We have all been busy and I know this will keep me occupied in my spare time for years to come. It will be great and very therapeutic for the children. And for me too.

No need to shop. I already have everything I need. Except, of course, more plants!

Belinda Wells, Ollie Coach

Belinda is an Ollie Coach and Foster Carer. Previously a Primary School Teacher, she now has over 20 years’ experience working with children. Her interests are psychology, how we think and why we behave as we do, and she loves learning and writing.  Belinda enjoys seeing the difference her work as an Ollie Coach can make to the children and families she works with.

To get in contact with Belinda email

To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to

Caroline Chipper

Caroline Chipper


Co founder of Subconquest Ltd, that trades as Ollie and his Super Powers. My many years of commercial experience is being put to good use managing the business side of Ollie, including working with our Ollie Coaches, and managing our contracts. In everything we do its about making a difference to those we work with. To find out more go to

Enable referrer and click cookie to search for eefc48a8bf715c1b ad9bf81e74a9d264 [] 2.7.22