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    4 Ways Social Media Normalizes Unhealthy Spending And How To Break Out Of The Cycle

    "Let's talk about the way TikTok has skewed our idea of what normal and average consumption habits look like."

    I'd like to think that what I see on my social media feeds doesn't really have that much influence over the way I live my life. But I have to admit, sometimes a casual scroll through Instagram or TikTok can be a slippery slope to an impulse-shopping spending spree — especially when I'm not feeling my best.

    Recently, spending coach and host of The Money Love podcast Paige Pritchard (@overcoming_overspending) shared a TikTok highlighting the four themes she sees on TikTok and other social platforms that encourage us to spend, spend, spend, and she really nailed it.

    Paige starts the video, saying, "Let's talk about the way that TikTok has skewed our view of what normal and average consumption habits look like." Then, she gets into four major themes on TikTok and other platforms that can make viewers feel the need to overspend:

    1. First, Paige talks about how social media often emphasizes finding the best, newest, biggest, and shiniest version of the thing you want — but chasing after "holy grail" products can lead to overspending, clutter, and not really using or enjoying what you already have.

    a phone showing a five star review next to phone showing a three star review

    2. Next, she calls out how social media tends to place more importance on instant gratification than on thinking about the longterm.

    3. Another big theme she's noticed is the idea of completeness being the best way to buy. Think: when influencers buy an entire skincare line, a whole new wardrobe for spring, or completely decorate their new place immediately after moving in.

    beauty blogger showing make up products to the camera

    4. Finally, she says that one of social media's most dangerous messages around shopping is the idea that more is more, and having more will always make us happier.

    woman buried in a pile of clothes

    Watch the whole video:

    In the comments, people are calling out some of the specific ways they see these themes in action, such as people buying a whole book series before even reading the first volume.

    the completeness thing seems to be a big issue on booktok

    Or, getting the same item in every color just to have the whole set.

    it used to be normal to enjoy one nice little luxury but now you have to buy it in every color

    People also shared some strategies that have helped them stop overspending, like unfollowing accounts that make them feel like they need to buy, buy, buy.

    number two has definitely been the hardest for me following the right accounts and unfollowing ones that don't serve me has totally helped

    Or, adding the things they want to lists that allow them to prioritize and budget for their purchases.

    I've started writing lists need want dream then I have a budget each month where I can spend as much as is on the account or save up

    According to Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, certified financial therapist (CFT-I) and partner to MetLife’s financial wellness app, Upwise, social media has been having a growing influence on the way we spend. And its bright and shiny world of influencers and filtered images often leads us to engage in something called "aspirational spending."

    Lindsay explains, "Aspirational spending is buying something, hoping that the item purchased will lead to a behavior change. Think, 'If I buy that Stanley tumbler, I’ll be a person who stays hydrated all day,' or 'if I get a knitting kit, I’ll be the type of person who knits my own winter gear.' Instead, try doing that thing — e.g., drinking water or knitting — for a period, and then if you still have the financial means and desire to purchase the item, go for it!"

    woman drinking a glass of water

    Lindsay also pointed out that the shopping haul videos we see on TikTok may not be telling us the whole story. "It can be helpful to remember that many TikTok users claiming to be able to furnish entire rooms are doing it for the app. They might buy everything, film, and head right back to the store to return those items. Or, they could be putting it on a high-interest credit card! We really don’t know!"

    iceberg with the top labeled doing it for the gram and the underwater part labeled secret credit card debt

    And she shared one way she helps her clients when they start comparing their lives to what they see on social media. "I like to use the phrase, 'curate your critics,' when this type of ‘comparisonitis’ kicks in. I encourage my clients to ask themselves whether the random TikToker deserves to be in their minds critiquing them about their wardrobe or apartment styling. The answer generally is 'no.'"

    person holding a phone that shows a blocked social media profile

    She also suggests looking for different ways to fulfill our needs besides spending. "If we take a pause to recognize what it is we’re spending for, nine times out of 10, we can find an option (other than spending) to address that objective or emotion." Like, for me, sometimes I get the urge to splurge and just go to the library instead. I get to take new books home and don't have to spend money, so it's a win/win.

    As for Paige, she told BuzzFeed that her own experiences as a recovered overspender inspired her to become a spending coach. "In 2011, when I graduated from college, I started working my first corporate job making $60,000 a year. My intention that year was to save and pay off a big portion of my $40,000 of student loans, but I ended up impulse shopping my way through that salary."

    "After barely being able to afford to move out of my parents’ house at the end of that year, I reached my breaking point and realized my spending habits were not healthy or sustainable. I started tracking my spending and living on a budget, and by being dedicated to developing a healthier relationship with money and forming healthier spending habits, I was able to pay off my student loans, cash flow an MBA, buy a home, and build a multiple six figure investment portfolio by age 29."

    woman looking at her investment portfolio on her phone at a coffeeshop

    Paige also shared that overspending can hurt way more than just our wallets. It often has an unseen impact on our emotions as well. "Overspending and overconsumption have a tremendous impact on our emotional well-being. Ultimately, when we search for solutions to our internal problems with external products and services, we will always fall short. Consumer culture sells us the lie that 'more is better,' so many of us positively correlate how much we spend and accumulate to how happy we will be."

    And she offered some tips for anyone who wants to curb their spending. First, she suggests taking note of the situations that spur you to shop and then making new rules for yourself, giving this as an example: "I used to do a lot of shopping on my phone after having some wine, so I put a boundary around my shopping that I don’t buy anything on my phone and no purchases if I’ve consumed any alcohol."

    woman holding her phone and a credit card

    Paige also loves the idea of putting items you want to buy on a list. "This list is effective because A) it gives you a dopamine hit by adding the item to the list because dopamine gets released in the anticipation of a purchase. And B) it gives your brain time to 'cool off' and gives you time to evaluate if you really want something."

    note pad with shopping list written at the top of the page

    She also recommends using a timer to wait out those moments when you get hit with the urge to splurge. "When you get a strong urge to spend money and go shopping, that urge will last on average seven to 10 minutes. Set a 10-minute timer on your phone and breathe through the urge."

    sand going through an hourglass timer

    Finally, she suggests redirecting your mental energy into something creative or fulfilling instead of shopping. "Create a list of what I call 'Creation Activities' that will provide you with a dopamine hit that are not shopping. They could be things like going on a walk, catching up with a friend, listening to a podcast, journaling, decluttering an area of your home, etc. All of these activities provide you with a dopamine hit that you were seeking from shopping, but will create a net positive result in your life."

    So, no, you don't have to delete your apps and go live in the forest to shake off these unhelpful money messages. Like any change in habits, it will take time, but you just might find that being more thoughtful about your spending can make a big difference in the way you feel overall.

    Do you feel like social media makes you overspend, or do you have a great tip that's helped you shop less? Let's talk about it in the comments! I'll go first: Lately, when I get that feeling like I want to get myself a little treat, I transfer $5 into the vacation bucket in my savings account and think about Italy.