The mood boost you get at the mall isn't only from savoring a grown-up break. Research suggests that when you think about making a purchase, your brain releases dopamine, the chemical that triggers feelings of happiness. (Hence the desire to cuddle up with those green suede heels.) The effect "is really about anticipation," says Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns, so you can get the same rush from the process as the purchase. (And that saves you from buyer's remorse!) But if window-shopping just won't cut it, here are ways to be smart about your splurge, from Michelle Hayes, a personal shopper in New York City:
Know before you go. To prevent impulse buys, jot down the specific items you want before you leave the house.
Don't wander. If it's sandals you need, visit only stores that sell them.
Make it personal. Get to know salespeople at your favorite shops, who can tell you about upcoming sales and discounts.
Sweat the small stuff. Fabulous earrings can give you the same buzz as hot jeans -- for a fraction of the cost.
Use the buddy system. A good friend is someone who says, "You already have a pair of green suede heels."