TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY.  A woman looks on a clothing store window in Hawaii.  A psychology professor says shopping could be a form of reward, and a way to reduce stress and anxiety. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Talingdan

MANILA – Have you ever asked yourself if you are already splurging, or are just treating yourself after years of hard work? Is splurging a bad habit?

As online shopping is booming, for sure e-commerce platforms would tempt many to "add to cart", especially as payday approaches. How can one differentiate "splurging" from "rewarding" oneself?

"People buy stuff because they want to feel rewarded and be happy. When they are sad, anxious, or at times when they want to cope with stress, one of the ways to alleviate that is by means of buying," psychology professor James Philip Ray Pinggolio told the Philippine News Agency in an interview.

He also said that people get attracted when they see many are buying in a store, and whenever they see lots of products displayed. This makes them want to hoard, he said.

The professor acknowledged that it is normal to shop and to reward oneself for a job well done, as well as to shop to reduce stress and anxiety. However, once this becomes too much, it could lead to compulsive buying.

"We can't officially say that (compulsive buying) is a psychological disorder, but this could be a form (of) impulse (control) disorder," Pinggolio pointed out.

Finding it hard to resist buying unnecessary items; having financial difficulties due to uncontrolled shopping; and spending much time researching unnecessary products are among the characteristics of compulsive buying, according to Pinggolio.

Some of the compulsive buyers, he said, want to brag to get recognition or approval as they want to improve their image.

"Those emotions drive people to spend on products. According to Psychological Science Journal, when people are sad, they are willing to spend 30 percent more money on products, compared to those on a neutral mood."

Pinggolio said that in the field of social psychology, there is what they call the "licensing effect" or "self-licensing". This occurs when someone has done good or has earned something, and would have a tendency to buy something very pricey. He or she would justify that purchase by saying he or she did something good, Pinggolio explained.

How to resist?

E-commerce platform Shopee Philippines has introduced celebrity Alex Gonzaga as its "payday shopping buddy".

In a virtual presser, Gonzaga shared that one needs to ensure that he or she is spending less than what he or she earns.

"Also, don't spend something you haven't earned yet, or the money that is not on your hands yet," she added.

Gonzaga shared she finds shopping therapeutic. "It feels good when you see you have the things that you want. It's a way to reward yourself," she remarked.

The Youtuber actress shared she usually splurge on food, but also noted the importance of investing one's money.

As for Pinggolio, he said there is a need to assess the product, whether it is essential or not.

Second is budgeting. "Check if you are able to pay for it. Use of credit cards can be tempting, but that would incur interest charges," he said.

"If they cannot control themselves, seeking a mental health professional's help would be a better option," Pinggolio said. (PNA