They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. But on social media, a picture is worth 1,000 dollars — at least, that’s what it seemed like for my bank account.
All it took was a post about someone’s new home, fancy car, dreamy vacation or haul from a Nordstrom sale, and suddenly I felt like what I had wasn’t enough.
I wasn’t even close to owning a home and my husband and I considered a weekend “staycation” our summer getaway. As the envy spiral continued, I’d wonder if I was behind in life, and if I’d be happier in someone else’s (nicer) shoes.
So I'd buy into it — literally. If someone posted about a sale or a “must-have” item, I’d immediately want it and usually get it. While the instant gratification was fun, the long-term consequences were not.
After months of not hitting my savings goals, I took a hard look at my spending.
Just a few of my social media-fueled purchases: $21.91 for two hair elastics; $25.50 on a plain black J.Crew shirt, simply because it was 40 percent off; and $43.95 on two undershirts an influencer had called “life-changing.” I did not need these things, and the purchases were adding up fast.
Trying to “keep up” was not only unfulfilling, it was also killing my finances. But those feelings didn’t just go away overnight. Here are three ways I hit the brakes on my social media-fueled impulse shopping.
REMEMBER THE CONTEXT
Social media shows a highlight reel, not reality. Behind those edited and filtered shots could be a very different story.
While I enjoy social media to connect with friends, I unfollowed bloggers and influencers. I constantly remind myself to look at the bigger life picture, instead of the one on my phone screen. And while I may not have the “it” bag of the season, I know my finances are in a better place.
FORGET THE "SHOULD" MINDSET
When I’d see an acquaintance celebrating their new home or milestone, I’d start worrying that something was wrong with me because I wasn’t there yet. But there is no standard timeline of what you “should” be doing by any given age. Your life’s timeline is unique to you.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the mindset of “shoulds” — we “should” have this or we “should” be doing that. But everyone has different values and goals. Once I got rid of that thinking, the emotional relief I felt actually helped curb my spending.
DEFINE YOUR GOALS
The posts I so often compared myself to always conveyed a sense of “having it all.” By extension, not having what everyone else had made me feel like I was missing something. But when I took the time to define my own goals, I recognized that family, friends, health and home meant much more than shoes and purses.
My long-term financial goals include buying a home, paying for my husband’s schooling and having a baby. My mindless spending was making it harder for me to reach these. Since my social media reset, I’m enjoying where I am — and what I have — right now.