The ubiquity of social media is clear – Millennials have been using it since their preteen years, and Gen Z was born right into it. Instagram, Facebook and other platforms are interactive realms where people share everything – and everyone sees everything. Fashion, technology, vacations and more are posted in abundance. It’s not surprising to hear the extent of social media’s impact on finances, particularly millennials. If consumers aren’t mindful of their purchases though, they can start living above their means, which isn’t a sustainable lifestyle. Your bills get trickier to manage, which affects your budget, and could lead to consumer credit problems later on down the road.
A Slippery Slope to Debt
Social media can be a source of comparison, and we might feel self-conscious that our lives don’t look like others’. Or we wish that we had more exciting things to do. Social media can even make us want things we didn’t want before logging in. This can lead to “aspirational wealth.” It’s not necessarily bad to be inspired or to like nice things. If you can afford something that you’ll actually use, go for it. That’s responsibly enjoying your “fun money” as part of a sensible budget.
But before you pull the trigger, consider how “affordable” something really is. For example, perhaps you’ve been thinking about buying a car. By now, it’s so normal to see people post photos of their flashy cars, and the idea sticks in your head. To really seal the deal, the salesperson offers you a seemingly manageable monthly payment plan. Even if the car costs more than your salary, this seems like a good way to buy the car of your dreams. But in a way, you’re just spending more than what you can afford. If you don’t think the financing plan through – or if you suddenly incur debts from an emergency – you could find yourself in a difficult credit situation.
Another way to mitigate social media’s impact on finances is to think about what you enjoy, rather than what you think will impress others. Instagram influencer Lisette Calveiro, for example, doesn’t really listen to country music, but she took a trip to Nashville for the colorful wall photo op. While appreciating a place’s beauty and taking photos certainly isn’t a crime, it’s wiser money spent (or saved if you don’t go anywhere at all) on trips to places that actually mean something to you. It never hurts to think it over.
Overcoming Bad Feelings
While 82% of social media users share their latest purchases with people, true friends don’t care whether you have flashy things or not. They’ll enjoy just being with you. If you’re ever feeling bad, remember your own goals, and that you’re living life for you. There’s still a lot of fun to be had, too. If going to a beach house for the weekend isn’t in the cards, ask friends to go mini-golfing with you, or hike up a mountain (some of them are free of charge) and have lunch in the fresh air. Other ideas? Try a new recipe, get into a new workout, or find another inexpensive hobby. The little things can add a lot to your life.
Remember your budget, and consider curating your feed as well. Seeing more positive posts (like about hobbies and interests) will improve your relationship with social media, and more importantly, help you feel better.
We’re all for having fun and experiences. If not carefully budgeted though, the financial aftermath can be disastrous. As prevalent as social media’s impact on finances are, they don’t have to negatively affect you. Being mindful of your finances and having attainable fun is the best way to live your offline life. If you’re looking for more support, ACCC is here to answer questions!
If you’re struggling with debt, ACCC may be able to help. Schedule a free credit counseling with us today.