Do Sad People Spend More?


Retail therapy is defined as shopping for the purpose of improving one’s mood and/or perspective on the world around them. Or in other words, people go shopping believing that they will feel better after purchasing some new material items. However, a study shows that going shopping while in a depressed mood may actually be a very bad idea. Sad people may actually spend more, or overpay for the items they buy.

Science says Sad People Spend More

In a study by Cynthia Cryder, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, subjects were divided into two groups and shown short movie clips. One group was shown a depressing clip, and the other an emotionally neutral one. After viewing the movie clips the subjects were paid $10 for their time and said they could use part of their payment to buy a water bottle. They were then queried how much they’d be willing to pay for the water bottle.

The results were very surprising. The group that were shown the emotionally neutral clip stated they would pay an average of 56 cents, where as the group shown the tear jerker would pay $2.11. The assertion is that sad people would pay more for the same item than those that were were in a more positive state of mind.

The outcome of this study suggests that the average person shopping while sad or depressed may be more focused on the actual act of purchasing something than getting the best price. This could result in a sad person overspending, and some short term financial challenges.

With that in mind, it is a good idea to be in a good mood with a positive attitude before going shopping. It will help you focus on getting the best value for your money. Some things you can do to help improve your mood are:


Watch a funny movie, video, or listen to a recording of your favorite comedian. Having some good laughs will greatly improve your mood and help recenter your mind.


Hit the gym, go for a walk or do something to get your body moving and your heart rate up. Exercising relieves stress and releases hormones into your system that will greatly improve your mood.

Talk With A Friend

You might vent to a friend all the negative things on your mind, or simply talk about whatever is going on that day. Talking to a friendly and familiar voice will help you get your mind off of the negative things that were bringing you down.

Retail therapy is often joked about, but it could have a substantial negative effect on your finances. The next time you think about grabbing the checkbook and heading to the mall, make sure your mind and your mood are in the right place.

Brought to you courtesy of Brock


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Brock Kernin


  • I enjoyed reading this post. The study by Cynthia Cryder is interesting. I certainly expected people who experienced a recent tear jerking experience to spend more than those who did not, but spending $2.11 instead of $0.56 is larger than I would have thought. Tough to control your spending when your feeling down, but trying to talk it out with someone as you stated would definitely be a way to stop yourself from spending unnecessary cash.

  • I absolutely believe this. I know that I spend more money when I’m feeling emotion. Retail therapy is real. Glad to know that the studies prove it. Now I need to keep it in mind the next time I want to go on a spending binge. (Which, to be fair, means grabbing a $5 fast food meal for me. haha)

  • Very interesting study. Like David Chen, I was surprised by the difference in price that the two groups were willing to pay. I’m willing to bet that sad people are also more likely to buy things they don’t need (or sometimes even want), so that would be a double whammy in spending. It’s definitely worth it to try some of the activities you mentioned before doing any “retail therapy”.

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