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Finding a 'bargain' stimulates your brain

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be behind us, but a steady stream of emails and social media posts tell us sales have been extended or new ones have been started. We all like a good bargain, but science shows some of us really need it!

"We're stimulating parts of ourselves that don't get a lot of attention sometimes and if it's not problematic, if it's not spilling over, costing too much, there's nothing wrong with, you know, delighting that part of your brain," explained Cleveland Clinic psychologist Dr. Scott Bea.

He says bargain hunting can be like panning for gold - you have to sift through a lot of items to find the gem. And, when you find that gem, Bea says big alarms go off in the reward center of your brain. He says that delightful brain chemistry makes you more likely to repeat the behavior.

But, while many people enjoy shopping and do it in ways that are healthy with relatively low hazard, some people may develop a slight addiction to bargain hunting and find themselves dealing with a more serious problem, like hoarding.

"I've run into plenty of people who have stacks and stacks of new stuff they've bought because it was a bargain but they've never opened it, they never had a real use for it," said Bea. "So, make sure if you're shopping for a bargain that it's
something you're really going to use."

Bea says it's important to pay attention to what shopping does to your brain and to make sure you're able to shop in healthy and helpful ways that aren't going to lead to trouble financially, or otherwise.