We've all been there: you're looking at an Instagram of someone's new bag and wondering, "hm, I could use one..." or watching a story of a friend's trip to Paris and thinking, "I've been wanting to go there, too!" and, before you know it, you're getting out your credit card and going on Amazon or Skyscanner. According to a recent survey by LendingClub among 5,006 adults 18 and older, one in four millennials say social media posts cause them to spend money they weren’t planning to spend. Clearly, this is common behavior — but why do we do it?
Anuj Nayar, financial health officer at LendingClub, says it all comes down to what he calls "YOLO spending," i.e. feeling that it's worth buying more than you otherwise would — or something you wouldn't normally even want — because others are doing the same. "Social media, especially Instagram, has become a constant bombardment of everything — vacations, styles, tech, etc. — you don’t have, and it can be hard to avoid overspending when you’re watching others live expensive aspirational lifestyles," explains Nayar over email.
He terms this behavior BUI (browsing under the influence), and notes that it can have real consequences. “At the end of the day, buying flashy — but pricey — items won’t really have a positive impact on your life, and it can end up damaging your overall financial situation and your financial goals a few months, a year or even decades down the line,” says Nayar.
Want to avoid YOLO spending induced by other people's social media posts? Here are Nayar's best tips.
1. Create a budget — and stick to it
If you don't follow a budget, you're not alone. LendingClub found that 43 percent of millennials think creating and maintaining one is too much work. Yet "one of the biggest financial mistakes anyone can make is not having a budget at all,” says Nayar.
Budgets don't have to be complicated, he explains, noting that they can be "as simple and realistic as you need them to be in order to work for your more immediate financial goals (like rent) or dream purchases (like saving for a vacation or a new car), as well as your long-term goals (like paying down debt or saving for retirement).”
Creating a budget will also help you stop from buying too much due to pressures from your Instagram feed. A shopping budget "will keep you happy and satisfied that you’re still able to shop, but will also help you avoid overspending,” says Nayar.
2. Delay your (shopping) gratification
Although making impulse purchases can be fun for you, they’re not fun for your bank balance. Nayar suggests that before you click to buy something, take a deep breath and remind yourself of your priorities and goals. “Put the item in your cart online and wait — ideally, at least 72 hours,” he advises. “You will, most likely, change your mind about making the purchase, realize you don’t love the item as much as you did a few days before or forget about it altogether.”
And, Nayar adds, if you decide you do indeed want the item after a period of waiting, it's possible that the retailer might send you a money-saving offer to entice you to complete your purchase.
3. Find a savings buddy
While making changes to your financial habits on your own can be challenging, it’s easier if you enlist a savings buddy so you hold each other accountable. “Find a friend — or even a few — to rally together and encourage each other to make smart money choices, hit savings goals and crush debt,” says Nayar.
Creating a group text about money or having budget-friendly celebrations for financial milestones can be great motivation, as can finding "cheap or free activities in your local area instead of hitting the local hot nightspot or trendy restaurant,” says Nayar.
4. Hit “delete” on your shopping apps
Nayar says that an effective way to rein in your extraneous spending is by deleting shopping apps from your phone, as well as any other apps that have your credit card information or Apple Pay saved. “Consider it a ‘cleanse’ by eliminating the temptation and ease of one-click shopping,” he says. “Also, remember to turn off shopping on all your smart speakers — Alexa, Google and Siri will not help you keep your impulse shopping in line.”
This way, if you decide you really want something, and it fits in your budget, you can do it in a way that requires more time and thought: by pulling out your debit or credit card and punching in the numbers.
5. Reframe your YOLO thinking
Reframing your thinking can save you money when it comes to making social-media-inspired purchases. “It’s true, you only live once — so why not turn that idea on its head and make it work for your financial health instead of damaging it?” says Nayar. “Instead of thinking of all the small things you want right now — like an extra pair of jeans or an expensive photo-friendly meal — think about what you want for the future.”
Whether that's becoming debt-free, saving for a new home, or planning a trip abroad, these bigger plans are what the majority of your money should be going towards, says Nayar. “With savings shrinking, lifespans increasing and healthcare costs rising, we are in for a reckoning as people hit retirement age,” he explains.
As such, planning for your future early on can make a massive difference in the long run — and save you from ending up with a ton of unnecessary purchases influenced by social media that only add debt to your credit card and guilt on your conscience.