Friending and Spending Social Media and Money

By Mike Peterson
In April 1, 2016

There’s more to social sharing sites than witty status updates, silly memes, and cat photos. Social media can influence our behavior in all kinds of ways, including our spending habits. This makes sense, if you think about it: There’s the friend whose Instagram feed is an endless stream of perfectly filtered shots of gourmet meals. And the cousin whose Facebook feed seems to be completely composed of pricy home improvement projects. And, of course, there are all of the retailers you’ve liked or followed, each offering special promotions, handpicked deals, and flash sales.

There’s nothing wrong with trying out a recipe you find on Pinterest. There’s also nothing wrong with making the occasional Facebook-inspired purchase. But if you find yourself making endless impulse buys or routinely overspending to keep up with your friends and family on social media, it might be time come up with some strategies to fight temptation.

Here are a few ways to avoid getting caught in a never-ending cycle of social media-fueled spending:

  1. Unfollow the Joneses. Have a financial frenemy or two who uses Facebook to show off their crazy-extravagant spending habits? You know, the friend whose newly remodeled kitchen or brand-spanking-new car make you feel a little out of date? You don’t have to unfriend these folks, but you might want to edit them out of your news feed for a while – especially if you find yourself constantly comparing their stuff to yours.
  1. Unfollow your favorite retailers, too. Following a favorite store on a site like Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter will keep you up to date on all the latest deals, exclusive offers, and members-only flash sales . . . and that’s not necessarily a good thing. You’re much more likely to spend money if you’re constantly bombarded with ads and deals for things you don’t need.
  1. Steer clear of group-buying sites. Sites like Groupon or LivingSocial give you deep discounts on things like restaurant meals or event tickets, and they typically reward you for sharing details about your purchases via social media. The problem with these sites is that by nature they encourage you to make impulse purchases that may not be in your budget. And because these sites typically want you to spread the word to friends and family, they are just one more vehicle for online advertising – and who wants more of that?
  1. Know how to say “no” to crowdfunding requests. Websites like GoFundMe or KickStarter make it possible for folks to follow their dreams – but if your circle of friends includes lots of would-be entrepreneurs, you might find that you are inundated with requests for funding. Now, there’s nothing wrong with chipping in a few bucks if you sincerely think your friend has a great idea. But at the same time, you can’t let yourself be guilt-tripped into funding everyone’s latest startup. If you have a hard time saying no, come up with a polite, ready-made response, such as: “I’m sorry, but I don’t have the extra cash right now. But I wish you luck!”
  1. Use Pinterest with caution. Pinterest is especially popular with DIY-ers, and with good reason: Want a clever idea for your niece’s birthday cake? Done. Looking for a recipe for restaurant-style kung pao tofu? You’ll find hundreds of recipes, with mouth-watering photos to boot. Want advice about hairstyles, home repair, or decorating? Craft projects? Fashion? Done and done. But here’s the problem: All of these great ideas cost money to execute. Make sure that you don’t let your creative side outpace your finances.
  1. Be aware and realistic. Remember that social media is not reality. Every social sharing site – from Pinterest to Twitter to Facebook – contains heavily edited content. Companies share photos and sales information that they’ve carefully crafted to entice you to spend money. Typically, our Facebook feeds are curated to present the best aspects of our lives: We tend to share the high notes, like fancy meals, fun events, or cool new gadgets – and that can create unrealistic expectations and fuel peer pressure, competition, and unnecessary spending.

Social media has done amazing things for us: We can share ideas, connect with friends and family, and communicate with folks who share our interests – from anywhere in the world. And, as long as you are responsible, aware, and realistic, social medial doesn’t have to affect your budget.

Need more advice about debt, budgeting, or responsible credit card use?  We’re here for you. Contact the Debt Guru team today for a free debt consultation.

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

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