Column: How social media makes millennial moms splurge

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Remember those days when one of a mom’s biggest challenges was getting out of a store without buying a toy for a screaming child?

A woman shops with her daughter at a Walmart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas June 6, 2013. The annual shareholders meeting for Walmart takes place on June 7. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

While online shopping may eliminate in-store tears from kids, the Internet is prompting more millennial moms to make expensive online impulse purchases.

According to, 53 percent of moms feel overwhelmed trying to create the perfect life for their children. Almost half of those mothers, some 46 percent, have gone into debt as a result.

Just ask 33-year-old Sarah Caplan, the mother of a 23-month old son in New York City. She actively participates in a Facebook moms’ group.

“If I see a picture of a kid with a scooter, I’m now going to Google the scooter, and see if it’s right for my child,” says Caplan.

As creative director at, a shoe shopping site, Caplan knows a thing or two about online shopping. But she insists the urge to splurge is not about social pressure or envy - instead she is just exposed to so much more stuff to buy.

In her case, the list includes a second foldable stroller at $300, the aforementioned scooter ($110), a $65 swing, a $35 playmat, plus a lot of $25 to $50 purchases of cute clothes she saw kids wearing in posts on social media. The total cost: more than $500.


For 33-year-old Valerie Ramkhelawan, the financial hit after the arrival of her twins - a boy and a girl - has been a shock to the system.

The delivery of large amounts of baby supplies, including more than 300 diapers and 800 baby wipes every month via, is a huge help.

But Ramkhelawan also has access to the spending patterns of other moms, thanks to the Internet. And that can lead to conspicuous consumption.

“You get the baby nurse, the lactation consultant, the sleep trainer because that is what other good moms are doing,” Ramkhelawan says, noting that a baby nurse clocks in at $300 a day.


Also driving spending patterns: the photos celebrity moms such as Gisele Bündchen, Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian are sharing on Instagram and Twitter. financial contributor Andrea Woroch says this hits millennial moms the most, because they are the biggest users of social media.

“People post the best versions of themselves and then others want to keep up with the e-Joneses on social media,” says Woroch.

This results in pressure to take the right vacations as well as elaborate birthday parties and far too many extracurricular activities, experts say.

There is a “fear of missing out” syndrome - and it can drive us to buy more and spend more than we can afford, says Kimberly Palmer, author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom.”

But Palmer also notes that there are benefits to sharing your shopping secrets on social media.

“You might get an idea for a baby product you’ve never seen that actually helps you out,” she says.

That was the experience of Hilary Kiley, a 34-year-old single mom in Charleston, South Carolina. She uses a local Facebook moms’ group to swap clothing and discount codes. She recently spent $25 on a bundle of toys for her five-month-old son which she figures has a retail value of at least $175.

“There is camaraderie among mothers that is helping mothers to save,” says Kiley. In fact, before she starts a new full-time job soon, Kiley was able to get babysitting gigs from the other moms in her Facebook group.

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters)

Editing by Beth Gladstone, Lauren Young and G Crosse