(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK, April 3Honesty time: What is your most
embarrassing drunk purchase?
When Reuters canvassed social media on this very question
recently, we got some cringeworthy responses.
A wrist tattoo of a shooting star. $400 worth of orange
Agent Provocateur lingerie. 14 separate Snuggies, in blue. A
lava lamp. Bright pink jeans.
Perhaps most horrifically, a copy of the Nicolas Cage
stinkbomb movie, "Left Behind" (rated 2 percent on Rotten
You get the picture.
A third of Americans admit to having shopped while under the
influence, according to a new survey by the financial comparison
website Finder.com. Among those who regularly drink alcohol,
that figure rises to almost half.
The damage was not minimal, either. The average price tag of
those drunk shopping sprees was a whopping $206.
"What is interesting is that people are not just buying
something small, like a pizza slice or a pack of cigarettes,"
says Michelle Hutchison, Finder.com's money expert. "These are
significant things people are buying."
The most common spending while under the influence? Clothes
and shoes, bought by 39 percent of drunk shoppers. That is tied
with gambling, also at 39 percent, followed closely by
cigarettes at 38 percent.
And who exactly is doing the drunk shopping? Millennials,
apparently, 39 percent of whom cop to the practice. They are
followed by Gen X at 36 percent, and then by more restrained
baby boomers, at 18 percent.
Retailers know all too well that drinking and spending money
do not play nicely together, at least for the spender. You may
have noticed an increasing number of "Sip and Shop" special
events; bars being installed at high-end retailers and shopping
malls; and extended shopping hours around high-alcohol holidays
"The folks who are out with me on Black Friday in the stores
at 5 a.m. are not ladies who had gotten up at 4:30 and headed
out, but rather, people who have been up all night - and usually
drinking," says Kathryn Hauer, a financial planner in Aiken,
So, what's the overarching reason why drunk shopping has
become so prevalent these days? Online retailing. If you do not
have to drive anywhere, or lug any huge boxes, but just have to
click a few buttons or even one button, hey presto, you have a
veritable army of tipsy shoppers.
Here are some pointers, then, on how you can build up your
defenses against a litany of regrettable, booze-soaked
* Leave the credit cards at home.
Stick to cash for a night out, and a predetermined budget,
and you automatically limit any potential damage. Even better,
leave your credit cards with a roommate or partner, who can
serve as another line of defense against overspending.
* Delete shopping apps.
The era of "1-click" shopping makes spending binges just too
tempting. So delete your Amazon app from your phone - not
forever, just for the course of your boozy night out. Re-install
it the next day when you are nursing that hangover and are less
likely to splurge.
* Tie your own hands.
If you really distrust your own ability to resist drunk
shopping, consider deploying tech tools to help you out. The
"Freedom" app, or the Chrome extension called "StayFocusd," can
help block or limit your own access to tempting websites -
either altogether, or during certain timeframes.
* Know your return policies.
If you only shop at retailers that have relatively liberal
return policies, you can save yourself a lot of future grief.
Even if you do get refunded, though, remember that you may have
to cover fees for shipping or restocking.
"One of my clients goes shopping every Black Friday after a
few Bloody Marys with her partner," says Atlanta financial
planner Niv Persaud. "They have a blast. Then, over the weekend,
they return a lot of items."
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Bernadette Baum)