Mindfulness has become mainstream and popular enough that I am now startled when I cannot finding research relating mindfulness to whatever topic strikes my fancy. But it turns out that while there is a scientific questionnaire dedicated to “mindful eating”, its cousin “mindful spending” (or my preferred alliterative “mindful money”) is still in the shadows. An article here or there might mention mindful consumerism or consumption, but most of the mindful personal finance solutions seem to be limited to the popular press, not scientific literature. Don’t get me wrong, the common-sense advice provided by most blogs is often excellent, I’d just like to have some research to back it up.
The first study I did ultimately find was concerned about “compulsive buying”, which turns out to be the scientific term for shopaholicism. It turns out there’s a hot (to researchers) debate about whether compulsive buying is really a compulsion like OCD, or just an impulse-control issues that becomes a problem when we’re in a bad mood (leading to self-prescribed “retail therapy”). Volunteers who answered questions indicating they were compulsive buyers (such as agreeing that “I consider myself an impulse shopper”) scored a full point lower (out of 6 possible points) in the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale than the “healthy” shoppers.
It’s not quite enough to argue that mindfulness training could solve your shopping problems – but it is the first step down that road. It just may take a little more digging – or perhaps my own research program – to put other mindful money suggestions to the test.
Williams, A., & Grisham, J. (2011). Impulsivity, Emotion Regulation, and Mindful Attentional Focus in Compulsive Buying Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36 (5), 451-457 DOI: 10.1007/s10608-011-9384-9