February 9, 2018 / 12:07 PM / 8 months ago

Ways to ease social media's strain on your wallet

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jessica Jones, 26, jokes that when she wants to spend more money, she goes on Instagram.

FILE PHOTO - A visitor takes a picture of the Instagram application logo at the Young Entrepreneurs fair in Paris, France, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Jones, an at-home care provider in California, often gets the urge to buy the same shoes or makeup she sees people wearing when she scrolls through Instagram’s stream of carefully curated images. Last week, she bought a pair of Dolls Kill high heels embroidered with pink roses after seeing them on the app.

Those Instagram-inspired purchases put Jones in good company. A recent study found that 57 percent of U.S. millennials shell out money they had not planned to spend because of what they see on social media.

“Social media can be very aspirational, because people often post things that are an idealized version of what they’re living,” said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “You might get good ideas for a vacation or an outfit or jewelry, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it might not fit into your budget.”

Nearly 90 percent of millennials (ages 20 to 36) surveyed by Allianz Life Insurance Co of North America said social media pushes people to compare their wealth and lifestyle to others’. Only 71 percent of Generation X (ages 37 to 51), and just 54 percent of baby boomers (52 to 70) feel the same way.

Enviable images of other peoples’ lives used to come mostly from glossy magazines and TV, but now we are constantly getting a peek via social media.

“It can be an overwhelming influence on how you see the world,” said Paul Kelash, vice president of consumer insights at Allianz Life. “If you pay too much attention, then you might start making decisions you otherwise wouldn’t in your spending.”

DO I REALLY NEED IT?

To avoid getting into financial trouble, be honest about what is most important to you.

“Ask: Do I really need that, or do I just want it?” Kelash said.

Once that line is clearly differentiated, keep track of your budget and set goals. For the short term, that could be a vacation. A medium-term goal might be a house, while a long-term goal for most of us is retirement, he added.

The temptation to spend is partly why Joanna Zheng, a 24-year-old equity analyst in New York, recently cut back on her social media use.

“Seeing a friend (on Facebook or Instagram) who is particularly well-dressed or has a cute purse makes me wonder how I can enhance my own wardrobe,” Zheng said.

When Zheng shops, however, she rarely regrets it and makes sure to compensate in other ways. Recently, Zheng bought a pair of merino wool Allbirds sneakers for around $100 that a friend recommended after later seeing several ads on Facebook. For the next few weeks, she avoided shopping areas to stem temptation.

Advertising companies understand how powerful social media ads can be. In 2017, Facebook alone brought in $39.9 billion of revenue from ads. Companies will pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have their product mentioned in social media posts by an influencer with a large following.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, recently rolled out Instagram Shopping, which allows people to view product descriptions and pricing without ever leaving the app

Spending is also driven by posts from friends and family. In the Allianz Life survey, more than half of millennials report a “fear or missing out,” also known as FOMO. In fact, 61 percent said they feel inadequate about their own life and what they have because of social media.

To curb impulse purchases, decide ahead of time whether you are going online to shop or if you are just browsing, Palmer advises. Close out other shopping tabs to limit spending.

And rather than buying things immediately, Palmer suggests putting things in your basket to save and then revisit in a day or two. That makes it easier to take a step back and ask if the purchase fits your goals and budget.

An added bonus: Sometimes retailers will send a discount code to entice you to buy.

“It’s about separating that initial impulse to buy,” Palmer said.

(This version of the story corrects spelling of Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America in fifth paragraph.)

Editing by Lauren Young and Leslie Adler

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