A lot of factors affect your spending, and if you’ve ever sat down to create a budget, you’ve probably given them some thought. But here’s one factor you probably never thought about in a financial way: your social circle. How your friends think and talk about money can have a big effect on the decisions you make, and it’s time to start giving it some thought.
Social media is especially replete with complications. You want to keep up with your friends on Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, but what if they’re encouraging you to make bad financial decisions, even sub-consciously? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Are Your Friends Good Influences?
This is the first thing you need to think about. And you might not like the answer you come up with, so it’s a good idea to think very carefully and be honest with yourself (it’s worth spending some time journaling about). What do your friends post about on social media? If they talk a lot about the things that they buy or spend money doing, it’s possible that they may have a negative influence on you when it comes to finances.
Goodbye money. Hello new bag! pic.twitter.com/aybjL5PAu6
— Dave Luty (@DaveLuty) June 25, 2016
Take a quick scroll through your social feeds and see how many times your friends mention things that they spent money on, and whether you think they were good, financially sensible purchases. Are they sharing pictures of the new expensive clothes they bought, or excitedly talking about how much they saved by shopping on Craigslist? Are they showing off the fancy meal they had at a restaurant or bragging about how much they’ve saved after refinancing their student debt?
Look at the ways in which your friends talk about money online. Because people generally use social media to share only the best things in their lives, they’re much more likely to share pictures of their brand-new car than they are their credit card bill.
You might not think that this sort of thing affects you, but evidence shows that your friends are hugely influential — and that can be positive or negative. If your friends are talking about the awesome places they went to eat last night, you will want to go out to eat. If they’re showing off their cool new kicks, you’re a lot more likely to go shoe shopping.
Even if you have a lot of self-discipline, you will need to use more willpower when your friends are influencing you to make financial decisions that you know aren’t good for you. And you can only resist so much temptation.
Prune Your Social Feeds
What can you do about friends that might not be helping you meet your financial goals? The best thing to do is to prune your social feeds (you probably have too many Facebook friends anyway). You don’t necessarily need to unfriend people who spend a lot of time talking about what they’ve spent money on, but you can certainly mute them so you don’t see it all the time.
If you still want to see most of someone’s Facebook posts, but want to filter out ones that might not be a great influence, you can use an extension like F.B. Purity that lets you filter your feed by keyword. Get rid of posts that include words like “buy,” “bought,” or “spent” to start, and then look for other words that are often used in posts that might tempt you to spend money.
It’s easy to follow a lot of brands and other accounts on Twitter that encourage to spend, and keeping tabs on a lot of celebrities can have a similar effect. Again, mute or unfollow them. It’s for your own good.
Instagram and Pinterest can be especially bad when it comes to putting ideas of spending into your head; even if you’re using Pinterest to find cheap DIY projects or looking for #frugal or #savemoney hashtags on Instagram, you’re likely going to see a lot of posts that make you want to spend money
Again, go through and see if there are accounts that might be influencing you to spend money. Unfollow or mute them.
Be a Good Influence
In addition to minimizing the bad financial influences on your social feeds, you can strive to be a good influence and start developing a small community around positive financial habits. You don’t need to start a new Facebook group or create a new mastermind group; just post about when you make good financial decisions and encourage others to do so as well.
Follow accounts that give out good financial advice and encourage you to develop positive habits, and share their posts with your friends. In addition to creating a more positive social media experience (or at least one that doesn’t encourage you to ignore your budget), you might also be helping improve someone’s life.
Being a good influence starts a great cycle of people helping each other out. It’s awesome.
Understand Your Financial Psychology
Making good decisions isn’t always easy, but if you understand why it can be hard to stick to your financial goals, you can do a better job. No matter how hard you work to keep your social feeds full of positive financial influences, you’re going to see things that tempt you, whether it’s something cool that your friend bought or a highly targeted ad that tries to take advantage of your particular situation.
Because you’ll always have to resist temptation to some degree, it’s a good idea to learn more about your willpower and what you can do to strengthen it. For example, being aware of how marketers try to trick you into thinking that you need something can help you see through the ads that show up in your feeds (your friends might unintentionally be using these tricks as well).
And if certain types of posts tend to motivate you to spend money more than others, it’s good to notice and think about that. Do food-related posts make you hungry and want to go out to eat? Maybe you should try to have a snack before scrolling through Pinterest. Do pictures of exotic locales make you want to buy an expensive flight around the world? Try having a microadventure close to home instead.
There’s an infinite number of different reasons you might feel compelled to spend money when you’re on social media, and just as many options for curbing the temptation. Spend a few minutes thinking about what gets to you and how you can make good financial decisions anyway.
How Are You Influenced?
Everyone has friends on social media that make them want to spend more money . . . even if you know that they only post the good parts of their lives. Learning to recognize and deal with this temptation is a great step forward in becoming more financially stable.
Do you feel influenced by your friends on social media? What good or bad financial habits do they encourage? How have you tried to create an environment that encourages you to make better financial decisions? Share your thoughts in the comments below!