December 1, 2023


Taking The Lead For Fashion Quality

How burnout can affect your shopping habits

How burnout can affect your shopping habits

Bernadette Joy, host of the Crush Your Money Goals podcast, and her partner paid off $300,000 in debt in four years by living a “minimalist lifestyle.” Now as a money coach, she uses what’s she’s learned to help others reach their financial milestones.

Still, Joy says, she is not a stranger to overspending. And at the end of an “exhausting” day she loves to shop. “It’s almost like shopping is an energy booster or a dopamine hit,” she says.

This trigger is not uncommon.

Chris Browning, founder of the podcast Popcorn Finance, says his most thoughtless purchases happen when he is tired, too.

“When it’s late at night or I’ve had a long day and I’m just burnt out, I find that what would normally be a purchase I agonize over, because I’m too nervous or conflicted about spending the money, can become a quick impulsive decision,” he says.

You’ve probably experienced this, too.

This tendency to overspend when you’re tired can be explained by a psychological theory named cognitive depletion.

What is cognitive depletion?

When you wake up every morning, you have a limited amount of cognitive energy, or brain space, to help you make decisions, says Ross Steinman, a professor of psychology at Widener University who studies consumer behavior.

You can increase your cognitive energy by getting a restful night’s sleep, scheduling in some physical activity, or meditating.

However, throughout the day you make thousands of little and big decisions — what to wear to work, what to have for lunch, how to phrase that email — so by the evening, your cognitive energy might be totally spent.

If you browse a store or start shopping around online at the point in your day when your cognitive energy is at its lowest, you’re less able to make a rational decision than you might have been at the start.

It’s almost like shopping is an energy booster or a dopamine hit.

Bernadette Joy

found of Crush Your Money Goals

“Let’s say somebody is buying mouthwash or toothpaste,” Steinman says. “What they might do if they are operating at an optimal level in terms of sleep and decision-making is evaluate prices or search for coupons, but when they are sleep-deprived or tired they are going to do very little of that because they don’t have those cognitive resources to allocate.”

Instead of researching the differences between toothpaste brands, for example, they might just choose Crest regardless of price or whether it’s worth the extra money simply because it’s familiar.

If you’ve had an especially challenging day, you might also feel like you “deserve” an easy decision, Steinman says. This usually comes into play with bigger or unnecessary purchases rather than your everyday necessities.

“Basically what is happening is people are giving themselves permission to splurge,” he says.

To avoid overspending when tired try a ‘cooling down period’