By Jessica Wee

Having worked in the financial industry in my 20s, the year-end/performance bonuses are indeed what you have heard – in multiple months or years. When one’s salary is small, it is easy to translate that to a year or so;) What a beautiful relief to get a performance bonus which really motivated me to do better for my clients to produce better results. As with many of my friends in the financial industry, we find ways to reward ourselves for the year’s hard work. This includes buying a new designer watch, a handbag, a car and being a Malaysian, splurging on an expensive meal for the entire family. It is not an unusual sight to see luxury car salesmen handing out pamphlets at our office lobby the week of our bonus payout – a little birdie must have tipped them off! My former client in HK was even more extravagant, buying a Patek Phillipe watch and rare whiskeys every year with his bonus payout. 

I think we should reward ourselves once in a while and once a year is reasonable in my books to keep us pushing forward in our careers. If I could have a do-over in my shopping selection, I would have bought LVMH shares instead of a new LV bag and a pre-owned car instead of a new car to save on the depreciation later on. Let’s look at LVMH share price 5 years ago at EUR150 and today, it is trading at EUR643! My handbag has provided me some ‘joy’ in using it but the satisfaction has declined over the years and I am far from feeling 4x the joy of seeing my money being quadrupled!

As for my former HK client who bought the rare watches and whiskey, it would have been a great investment if he can bring himself to sell it at a few hundred % profit! So I’d say it’s great if you have done your research to buy into collectibles and you will have no sentimental attachment issues to part from it when the price is right! 

As for the rest of us mere mortals who resonate with retail therapy, do lookout for signs of overspending before your credit card is maxed out especially on late-night online shopping! How do you know you’re having a shopping problem? Here are the 5 tips:

  1. Negative experience sparks an urge to shop – Lying to family and friends about the actual amount of money you spend.
  2. Feeling guilt/remorse after shopping – Not being able to distinguish between necessity, wants and investment. 
  3. You quickly forget your purchases – Believing that you are saving money by taking advantage of deals for items you do not need – this is the start of being a hoarder, check yourself again!
  4. Concealing your shopping habits – Remember that scene where Astrid hid her shopping from her insecure husband (Crazy Rich Asians)?
  5. Unable to reach your financial goals – you end up juggling bank accounts and credit cards to accommodate your spending pattern, this includes taking out a loan to pay for your shopping expenses.

Most causes of impulse purchase are psychological. People who engage in compulsive spending tend to use it as a coping mechanism. When faced with uncomfortable feelings like anxiety and depression they will feel the need to go shopping. In this case, spending money provides a brief reprieve from negative emotions. Being aware of this emotion is the first step to overcome it – with a friend or professional help.

Next time, take a step back and breathe, or give it a day to think over each non-essential purchase before handing over your credit card.


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