Ok. Hands up, if you’ve bought something online in the last six weeks that you probably didn’t need? Yeah, us too.

With the whole country in lockdown with the exception of keyworkers, many of us are confined to our homes with little contact from the outside world. For many this has resulted in a loss of social contact, reduction of normal hobbies and activities and more time to spare.

More time on our hands (and more time on our phones) means some of us are turning to retail therapy and online gambling sites for entertainment.

Did you ever wonder why spending money on new things or having gambling success can make you feel good, and combat feelings of sadness, loneliness, frustration or boredom?

Well, it’s because both activities release dopamine, a feel-good hormone that is triggered by a sense of being rewarded. It is similar to the feel-good hormone released when you exercise, endorphin.

But the effects of dopamine are only short-term. And if we’re not careful, constantly seeking it out through shopping or gambling can have a drastic, long-term impact on our budget and sense of wellbeing.

With our bank accounts linked to our smart phones, it’s all too easy to spend without even noticing. But stop and think before checking out, be a bit more mindful about your spending.

Ask yourself why you’re making this purchase and what purpose it will serve in your life. Do you really need it? An excellent tip to curb your lockdown online spending is to leave something in your basket for 24 hours, then see how you feel about it when you come back to it. Do you still want it? And more importantly, can you afford it?

Being in control of our budgets and finances is especially important at a time when so many of our incomes have been impacted or reduced. So it’s important to find alternate forms of entertainment and resist the temptation to overspend.

There are many things we can do to alleviate the pressures, worries and boredom of staying at home by finding other forms of entertainment.Here are some things you could do instead of spending money online.

Exercise: Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to make yourself feel better, and achieves the same sense of feeling good as spending money. If you’ve got room at home, join us for our physical exercise classes, or if not, head outside and go for a walk.

Meditate: When was the last time you put your phone down, switched off the TV and just enjoyed some peace with your thoughts? We’ve got some guided relaxations you can follow (all you need to do is listen) or you can find plenty of mindfulness tutorials on YouTube.

Enjoy some outdoor space: If you’ve got a garden, head outside and see if there’s any jobs you can do (check out our article on why gardening is so good for your mental and physical wellbeing). If you don’t, go for a walk (while adhering to government guidelines)

Pick up the phone: Reaching out and talking to someone you love can have just as positive impact on your brain as spending money and with none of the guilt.

Have a sort out: If you want to buy new things, surely you’re going to need space for them. So have a clear out, and surprise yourself by rediscovering some long-forgotten gems. And while you’re at it, put aside your unwanted clothing to donate to one of our textiles recycling banks.

Take up writing in a journal: we can almost guarantee, you’ll never see something like this again in your lifetime, so you might as well document it.

We’re here to help

if you have overspent or are worrying about your finances, we’re here to help you. Our Welfare caseworkers can help in a number of ways, and may be able to support you with any of the following:

  • Advice and signposting information
  • Onward referral to help with debt management
  • Hardship payments to support household (but we can’t pay your debts for you)
  • Maximising income through Welfare benefits advice

To find out how we can support you, ring our Support Line on 0800 369 8820 to speak to a member of the Welfare team, or complete an enquiry online.

We know talking privately while continuing to be confined to your home isn’t easy, but picking up the phone and giving us a ring is such an important first step in seeking support. If you’re worried about being overheard, combine ringing us with going for your daily walk, and enjoy the soothing effects of being outdoors at the same time.

Other organisations that can help

National Debt Line

Step Change

Citizen’s Advice

The Debt Support Trust

Pay Plan

GamCare

The NHS

BeGambleAware