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Shopper 246Shopper Stopper 

From a post by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

In summer 2016, launching a campaign called InControl, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) research revealed six different ways our mental health affects our spending:

  • Manic spending during a high or period of mania
  • Nihilistic spending where the transaction, or life itself, is considered meaningless
  • Comfort spending to boost low mood
  • Social value spending to boost status or self-worth by giving money or gifts to others
  • Impulsive spending where we can’t attribute any purpose to the transaction
  • Addictive spending to feed an addiction, like alcohol or gambling

They found that:

  • 93% of people with mental health problems spend more when they’re unwell
  • 88% said they were at least two months behind in paying bills
  • 80% said online shopping was particularly hard to resist and
  • 40% found buying goods on installments from mail order catalogues the most compelling form of credit (40%) by far the most popular option – with over half of respondents (53%) saying that they have bought goods on installment, hire purchase or credit sale agreement in the last twelve months alone.

“The relationship between money and mental health is toxic. Every day I hear from people who struggle to control their spending in periods of poor mental health. While there is general demand from consumers for everything to get faster and easier – including shopping and accessing credit, for those with mental health conditions that make them prone to crisis spending this can be dangerous.  Money and Mental Health is looking at policy solutions to add ‘friction’ to the system – to try and help impulse control." Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of MMHPI

Several initiatives are in process but in January 2017, a online browser plug-in called 'Shopper Stopper' was launched in beta. It aims to give people control over the shops that never close. 

Thousands of people make purchases they regret, feel unable to navigate returns processes and end up in financial difficulty. This issue is even worse for people with mental health problems. MMHPI  found that nearly two thirds (63%) of people who had made purchases they later regretted did so because of sales, and nearly one in ten (9%) said that they always or often regretted purchases made online. This is a particular issue for those who are already living with mental health problems. Around half of this group said they make purchases they regret when they are alone (48%) or feeling low (52%) and nearly a third say they do it when shopping in the night (31%). These figures are all nearly double those for people without mental health problems (24%, 22% and 16% respectively).

Three quarters (75%) of people say they did not return their last regretted online purchase. Nearly half (45%) of this group said that this was because postage was too expensive and nearly a third (31%) just wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened or said that it was too difficult to get somewhere to post it (30%). For people with mental health problems these figures are even higher, with around four in ten either wanting to pretend the purchase never happened (40%) or struggling to get somewhere to post it (39%). More than a quarter of people with mental health problems (28%) didn’t return their last regretted online purchase because they were too ashamed.

Members of MMHPI's research community said they often particularly struggle to control their spending online at night – when their defences are down due to lack of sleep and they are alone. Nearly a third of those with mental health problems surveyed said they buy things they regret after 10pm (31%).

The ‘Shopper Stopper’ is a browser plugin that allows shoppers to set the opening hours of online stores, enabling them to block access at times they find purchases particularly hard to resist, such as the middle of the night. The tool, which is in beta, closes online stores and prompts users with a personal message when they try to shop outside their pre-set ‘opening hours’.

Why not encourage your contacts to join the trial by downloading the Shopper Stopper at
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Geoff Knott, 28/02/2017

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