My usual shopping spree is some combination of the following: A lavender body scrub, a dress I feel like the best version of myself in, new lingerie and books. Afterward, I feel like I’m tending to my body (by exfoliating), spirit (by smelling the calming lavender), artistic desires (by collecting fashion), sexuality (by acquiring costuming) and brain (by sourcing new reading material) all at once.
And while the stereotype of indulgent, relaxation shopping (i.e., shop therapy) is usually associated with women, research indicates men are more likely to spontaneously purchase big-ticket items than women. For example, men spend more than women while drunk shopping online; a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that men in cities more heavily populated by males were more likely to spend large amounts of money for feelings of “immediate gains”; and in the shadow of Black Friday and on the eve of Cyber Monday, men spend more money than women during the holidays.
Of course, shopping-induced satisfaction can fade by the time you exit your browser or reach your car in the mall parking lot, but sometimes… it doesn’t. Whether it’s at a department store, Home Depot or a car dealer, research shows shopping can make people happy long after their initial purchase. As Fast Company reports:
“Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that things provide more long-lasting happiness than experiences. The researchers kept track of people’s happiness levels after they spent money on a material good (e.g., a speaker) or an experience (e.g., a vacation). What they found: the participants continued to feel frequent bouts of happiness over two weeks after purchasing a material good.”
To give the science a little humanity, I asked a bunch of guys — as well as the partners and children of dudes who love a good shopping spree — about the spontaneous purchases that have boosted their moods.
Gilbert, 32. I went car shopping for something more practical than my old two-seater — something for daily use and something I could own and not lease because somewhere down the line, owning becomes cheaper than leasing. I ended up, though, getting a three-year lease on a sports car that rappers had mentioned in their songs so I could feel like a damn G. I initially wanted to get a Prius because I love nature, but then I wanted to flex a little and thought I should get a Tesla. After test-driving the Tesla, beginning to date a new guy and listening to a lot of Post Malone, I was like, “Uh, okay! New plan!” I got a Maserati.
Spencer, Twentysomething: I bought three expensive bean bag chairs during my last depressive episode.
Alicia, Thirtysomething: My husband and I went through a tough patch where we considered separating. When we hadn’t spoken in 10 days, he got me a new engagement ring that cost more than $100,000. He still wears clothes from high school at 38 because he’s cheap, so this was extremely shocking. We ended up going to counseling and working through it. I never even wear the ring, though, because I’m scared I’m gonna lose it.
Frank, Thirtysomething: I bought a Nintendo Switch and four games when I was heartbroken, and it worked. It distracted me for days.
Dylan, 18: A round-trip plane ticket and a Telfar bag. I suppose I felt the Telfar bag was going to make me appear more accomplished and that it would stand out in the relatively boring town where I live. Thinking about aesthetics and design can make life seem less intense and less catastrophic, which I find comforting. The trip made me feel better as well because I was assured I could escape toxic situations at home and knowing I have something to look forward to diminishes the feeling of stagnation or permanence I feel living where I am now.
Talia, Thirtysomething: My husband bought himself an obscenely expensive watch when he completed his PhD in our 20s. I was pregnant. He wanted it as a reward for himself and as something to pass on to his child. He went into some debt for it, but it’s all paid off now and he has absolutely zero regrets. It’s his most prized possession and watch-o-philes are always fawning over him.
Murray, 29: Drunk Elephant skincare products. Less than two ounces of their moisturizer is $68. It’s partly the idea that it’ll miraculously fix my skin, but at the same time, I know that isn’t true. So I think it’s more the fantasy of living a fancy life of luxury that I can’t afford as a broke, 29-year-old grad student. Yay delusions!
Alex, 31: $65 of Postmates for myself.
Chelsea, Thirtysomething: My ex buys nice cars when he’s in a bad place. Then he completely shuts everyone out and works on them endlessly. My dad is more interesting. He buys really expensive cowboy boots when he’s stressed. He lives in Maine, so it’s not the most common footwear. He just really loves to dance, so he gets them to wear out or throws an unnecessary party randomly. He’s done this since I was a kid.
R.M., 26: Tech stuff like Google Max, computers and a camera. Also, practical gear such as North Face jackets.
Shauna, Thirtysomething: My husband has bought a pair of Jordan’s or a basketball jersey probably once or twice a week for the last year. I have no idea why. It’s ridiculous and not cheap ($120 to $400), and he only can wear them out on the weekends. But he doesn’t, mostly just in the house. He only really got into basketball a year ago. He’s from the U.K. and didn’t even know the rules of basketball until he became friends with an NBA coach. Now he’s all in. Another new development: He just bought courtside tickets to a game today. We are not rich.
Harold, 47: After a recent illness where it was unclear whether or not I was gonna live, I bought myself an obscenely expensive watch to remind myself that time means everything and money means nothing.