Buyer's remorse, feeling regret after making a purchase, is a common experience. This post-purchase anxiety most frequently follows the decision to buy an expensive item such as a car or a house, but can occur after any purchase. With the recent economic downturn, people are experiencing buyer's remorse in greater numbers.
Psychologists categorize buyer’s remorse as a form of cognitive dissonance. The term “cognitive dissonance” refers to the tension resulting from inconsistency between attitudes, or between a behavior and an attitude. In the case of buyer’s remorse, this tension occurs after initial positive feelings about a purchase. At the time of purchase a person may have completely positive feelings about their choice. After the purchase, however, the consumer may become more aware that those positive feelings about their choice are at least partially in conflict with other facts or beliefs. Imagine buying a cell phone after researching a variety of models. After initially feeling pleased with your choice, later you may find yourself dwelling on the fact that another phone has better features. Alternatively, you may make an expensive purchase only to later doubt that your finances can handle the payments. A house may have seemed wonderful when you signed the purchase papers, but upon moving in you find yourself focusing on its imperfections.
When economic conditions are poor, families with less money to spend are more careful about purchases and more likely to struggle with buyer’s remorse. This anxiety can take a toll not only on the individual making the purchase, but on other members of the family as well. Studies have shown that financial stress can negatively affect marriages, creating strain between partners that in turn increases stress levels. Stress can have health effects such as increased risk of depression, fatigue and heart disease. Children of families under stress tend to become ill more often and experience anxiety themselves.
Below are some tips for coping with buyer’s remorse:
-Use positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you researched the pros and cons of the purchase, and made the best choice you could.
-Stop comparing the price or features of your purchase to comparable items and move on. The more you question your decision, the worse you will feel.
-Wash your hands. A recent study showed that washing hands after making a choice relieved people of the urge to justify that choice, though how long the effect lasts is unknown. Such washing may be symbolic of freeing oneself from the past, helping people to mentally “start fresh.”
-Engage in activities known to relieve stress. Maintain a regular exercise routine, talk to a friend, and set aside time each day to relax and have fun.