By Mattison Hansen
As the pandemic drags on into its third year, students are increasingly concerned about their physical and mental health.
A survey by TimelyMD reveals that out of 1,700 students, 54% of respondents were experiencing stress and anxiety due to the impact of COVID-19 on the quality of their education and social life, as well as 34% experiencing negative emotions in response to the impact of COVID-19 on their ability to work.
“I feel very stressed because of the responsibilities I face as a student,” said Emily Newton, a student at Flagler College. “To feel better, I like to listen to music and spend time with my friends so that I am not alone.”
“I usually shop online, call or text my friends, watch sports or go to the beach,” said Grace Tumminelli, a freshman at Flagler who experienced stress and fatigue during the spring semester.
The TimelyMD survey also reports that 88% of students say there is a mental health crisis at US colleges and universities. Nearly three in four students (73%) report feeling as much or even more stressed and anxious than in January 2021.
“I was really stressed because it was half term,” said Nicole Fruscella, another Flagler College junior. “Retail therapy is the best way to pass the time and take your mind off school stress.”
For many people, basking in retail therapy is a common form of self-care. Shopping is used to help reduce negative moods like anxiety, as well as boost creativity. With the rise of online shopping, it’s easier than ever to make continuous and unlimited purchases.
One item that the majority of students invest in is coffee, a product used to try to get through early morning classes and late night studies, or just to enjoy it. Last year, however, coffee prices hit a new high when Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, suffered a severe drought. As seen in many products, when demand for an item increases, so does the price.
Coffee isn’t the only expense that’s increased. Gas has increased by 40%, food by around 7% and housing by more than 4%. In the space of 12 months, the most recent data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that prices rose 7.5%, causing annual inflation this year to rise at its fastest pace ever. fast since 1982.
“The price inflation that really affects me is gas prices skyrocketing. I have to use my car to pay the price, but it’s annoying to have to spend like $30-40 and more to refuel,” Fruscella said.
Gas prices have increased by about 20 cents between January 2022 and February 2022, making gas about $3.52 per gallon. For students and other job seekers, this affects the type of jobs they apply for, as they now have to keep in mind the cost of driving to and from work. If the cost is too high, the candidate may have to turn down the position simply because the cost would eat up a significant percentage of the offered salary.
Rising gas prices have also forced some companies to reevaluate their hiring plans, as less spending leads to lower sales, which impacts a company’s ability to hire. What might have been a job opportunity for students before may not exist anymore, and if so, the pay has gone down tremendously.
These high prices can be attributed to the supply chain crisis, as well as global labor shortages. Businesses have also increased their costs to counter rising costs, including labor, transportation of their goods and rising raw material values.
“Price inflation has affected me because I won’t go out to eat as much and buy things unless I have a gift card or it’s something I absolutely need, like food for my dorm and water,” Tumminelli said.
“To save money, I try to be more careful about what I’m buying and whether it’s actually benefiting me or being impulsive,” Newton said.
Pandemics like COVID-19 are rare, resulting in few historical parallels to inform policy makers on how to respond. COVID-19 restrictions have led to a disruption in supply, primarily due to the shutdown of jobs that craft and produce various items. At the same time, the pandemic has completely reversed demand. Suddenly, no one was investing in travel plans or public outings like cinemas or concerts, but rather in a new laptop or items to start new hobbies at home.
Middle school students are already struggling to pay for things as they are, living off a part-time salary or the meager allowance their parents give them. At Flagler College, tuition has increased approximately 5.8% over the past three years. Other expenses that students spend their money on include other necessities like housing and food.
As economies restart, they do so at a pace where supply and transportation cannot keep up. Consumers around the world are seeing rising prices for goods and services, making inflation the next global pandemic.
Signs of compulsive buying
Compulsive buying is characterized by excessive obsession or poor impulse control with purchases and leads to unpleasant consequences, such as financial problems.
A person can often buy things on a whim that they could do without. These types of buyers feel a surge of excitement when they buy, in which this euphoric experience is not due to owning something, but to the act of buying and if they should.
“Most of the time it’s online shopping, so it doesn’t always come out of the basket. But just putting things in the cart is part of the fun,” Fruscella said.
A compulsive shopper may also shop constantly to help ease unpleasant emotions or fill an emotional void, such as loneliness or lack of self-esteem. These types of purchases lead to short-term happiness before turning to remorse, as they feel guilty about irresponsible purchases.
Tips to prevent compulsive buying
In today’s economy, it’s hard for students to afford luxuries that were once an option. With overwhelming negative emotions, like stress, rising throughout the school year, it can be hard to figure out what to do instead of spending money. The most essential thing that could help save money as prices continue to rise is to create a budget.
“I should make a budget, but I know I wouldn’t stick to it, so what’s the point?” Fruscella said.
Budgeting can seem overwhelming, so much so that most individuals shy away from creating and keeping one. However, it is very useful to establish a plan for monitoring your expenses, setting goals and adjusting your habits if necessary.
Some suggestions to help you save money include waiting a few hours or even days before making an immediate purchase. Or, instead of going out, try doing something at home. For example, instead of going to the movies, watch a movie from the comfort of your own couch and use the money you’ve saved on snacks.
It’s also important to find more physical ways to feel better. Going for a walk or taking up a new hobby, such as baking, are good examples.
With recent anxieties that have increased due to the pandemic, self-care activities like lounging in retail therapy aren’t a bad thing. However, one should avoid overpaying or constantly buying products that are not a necessity, especially with the recent price inflation.
The adverse effects of COVID-19 on mental health, the stress students face, and the rising cost of living are all impacting student spending habits in different ways. Going forward, it’s important for students to have access to their financial situation, but know that there’s a healthy balance between impulse buying and indulging in these difficult times.