You’ve had a hard week and a glass of wine at home just isn’t going to cut it. So you opt to head over to your favorite department store and do a little damage on your credit card. While retail therapy is indeed “a thing,” the psychology behind it may shock you. Your need to spend may have something to do with the weather.
If you’re familiar with the term seasonal depression, you’re aware that gloomy weather can severely affect the psyche. It’s because, biologically, we have a natural desire to connect to the outdoors (hence, our physical need for vitamin D).
When inclement weather stifles that, our mood is negatively affected. Conversely, sunshine means that there is more access to activities outside and therefore elevates the mood.
So you’re probably wondering how this relates to spending. Well, the truth is, consumers are going to spend money regardless of the weather because shopping is not limited to the confines of our home any longer. However, the method of shopping (online or in person), product type, and amount of money spent, largely depends on what is happening outside.
The Big Summer & Winter Splurge
While psychology does play a role in consumer behavior, trends in spending are causal. In other words, it just makes sense that consumers would rather spend online during inclement weather. Similarly, in the months leading up to and during warmer seasons, purchases like swimwear, beach chairs, patio furniture, and sports equipment are more common.
In the months leading up to and during colder seasons, purchases like outerwear, snow tires, Christmas decor, and trips to warmer climates are trending. And, because marketers are aware of the spending habits of consumers, they market according to weather and generally, the demographics of the people who typically buy their products.
For example, if you live in an area that gets snow in the winter, snow signifies the beginning of the holiday season. The onset of cold weather causes consumers to spend more on comfort foods to make up for a downturn in mood. Also, the onset of the holiday season causes consumers to spend more on items for holiday parties and gifts.
Marketers capitalize on that behavior by offering online-only and in-store-only sales to drive traffic toward either of those channels of purchasing. In fact, one significant aspect of merchandising in-store is the lighting that is used in stores. It is meant to mimic that of a sunny day, which improves mood and the likelihood that that will lead to more spending.
Accounting for Seasonal Temptations
So, while marketers specialize in getting you to open your wallet, recognizing your own spending habits can help you to keep it closed. One way to create balance in your spending is by thinking “big picture”.
At the start of the year (or even right now) create a budget based on your income and a guesstimate of expenses. Break down those expenses by month, rather than seasons. This will keep you from having a deficit in a single month when big purchases come up. Also, begin saving for holiday gifts early on.
Start as early as January and as late as July. Creating smarter spending habits will eliminate some of that holiday stress (which is often combined with a gloomy mood) and keep you from opening a last-minute credit card when your income doesn’t quite cut it.