Is Facebook ruining your finances?
Could Social Media Be Causing You to Overspend?
by Shaunna Privratsky
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Social media has exploded. It is a multi-million dollar industry with ordinary people becoming overnight sensations and companies cashing in on people's apparently insatiable need to constantly be connected. It is a vital connection to loved ones serving overseas and to keep in touch with family and friends.
The many different platforms have enhanced our lives by making us feel connected and that our opinion matters. Yet what if all this sharing has a dark side? Could social media be causing you to overspend?
Overspending is a big problem in many households. With sky rocketing prices at the store and gas going steadily up and more people getting behind on their credit card and loan payments, sticking to a budget has become an almost impossible task. There never seems to be enough money left at the end of the month, and it seems a paycheck just disappears.
If you want to rein in your spending, first you have to determine where the money is going. Once all the necessities are paid like mortgage, rent, bills and food, do you spend too much on trying to keep up with the Jones'?
How to Tell if Social Media Is Causing You to Overspend
Here are some questions to determine if your overspending is caused by social media.
- Do you constantly check to see what your friends bought?
- Are you spending more time than usual on social media?
- Do you feel anxious, jealous or dissatisfied with life after checking social media?
It used to be just your neighbors and co-workers you tried to keep up with or outdo. Now it's everyone in your circles, posting about their latest luxury cruise "just because" or posting beautiful pictures of their latest $100,000 kitchen remodel on Pinterest. It might not even be people you "know," just people you envy online.
This might not even be a conscious choice; you might be overspending just to keep up appearances. You might splurge on a $2,000 sofa because you saw one online, even though it's way out of your budget. You think it is okay because of the special financing, but you can quickly get in trouble if you miss even one payment, because the interest instantly gets added on from the day of purchase. Suddenly that $2,000 sofa balloons into $3,000, and you are still paying on it for months or years after you bought it.
Resentment could be another byproduct of social media. You see all the seemingly perfect people online and you wonder why your life isn't like that. You feel like it's not fair, so you spend the $600 you managed to save for the emergency fund on one wild shopping spree. Then when a true emergency occurs, you have nothing left besides a few cool posts on Facebook and some new clothes or furnishings.
The truth is that you don't know everything behind the photos and posts. The couple with the gorgeous beach house, two perfect kids, and adorable puppy? Their finances could be in worse shape than yours or they could be having health problems. You only get to see the surface or mask that they choose to post. Basing your own desires on what you perceive is like falling for the Wizard of Oz's tricks.
How to Stay Connected and Still Avoid Overspending
How do you turn it around? First, decide what your goals are. What do you want your life to look like? Do you want to be debt-free? Do you want your house to look like a spread in House Beautiful? Do you want a brand-new car or flashy clothes? Once you pinpoint your priorities, you can concentrate on mini-goals to reach them.
Take control of your spending by keeping track of every penny. For every purchase, ask yourself four questions:
- Is this something I really need?
- Do I already have something I can use?
- Can I find it cheaper somewhere else?
- How will this enhance my life or goal?
After a while, the questions will become automatic and you will find yourself letting go of the constant need to spend, and instead become more content with what you have.
Unplug for a while, at least until you get on track with your spending. There are so many ways to connect that it can become addicting. Like any addiction, sometimes going cold-turkey will break the spell it holds over you. Just try it for a week and see how you feel. Better yet, see how your finances are doing.
Social media isn't going away. It has become a part of our lives, for better or worse. How you choose to engage could be the difference between failing finances and a healthy budget. Once you master your overspending, social media can be fun again!
Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.
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