The Effect of Stress on Saving and Spending


This holiday season, as shoppers flock to retail stores, one interesting question has been raised: How does stress affect the buying and saving habits of consumers?

The answer is found in a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research last month. Researchers at the University of Miami have found that stress leads consumers to save money in general but spend strategically on products they believe are essential.

The body reacts to stressful challenges with an increase in the hormone cortisol, which leads us to focus our attention toward the threat so that we can attempt to overcome it or alleviate it. Essentially, people lock down and enter survival mode and protect resources as a means to ensure survival.

The roots of the stress matter. For example, the study found people who said they were stressed about a current job situation, were less likely to spend money on clothes, while others stressed about starting a new job were more likely to spend money on new clothes because they perceived the purchases as helping alleviate new-job stress. Having some control versus no control seems to affect the buying decisions people make when they are stressed.