"Things TikTok Has Convinced Us Are Normal": This Spending Coach Is Calling Out The Way Social Media Normalizes Harmful Money Habits

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"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 4 themes she sees on TikTok and other social platforms that encourage us to spend, spend, spend, and she really nailed it.

@overcoming_overspending / Via tiktok.com

The video has been watched over a million times on TikTok, with over 100,000 likes and 1,800 comments. 

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 4 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

Yagi Studio / Getty Images

She says, "As soon as you buy something and you start using it, something better is going to come along. And when you buy into this belief that you always have to have the newest and the best and the biggest, you're never going to get much use out of your products."

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

E! / Via giphy.com

Paige acknowledges that of course it's fine to treat yourself now and then, "But my philosophy is that you always want to prioritize your future self and what's best for her financially rather than doing what's best in the moment. And sometimes that will mean saying no to yourself in the present moment so that you can say yes to yourself in the future for the thing that you want most."

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

Ronstik / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Seeing these idealized images can feed into an all-or-nothing mindset and make us feel like we're behind. However, Paige says, "It's so much healthier and it's so much more beneficial for your spending habits when you're going into a new season to live life a little bit in that new season and then decide what you need, and it's absolutely okay to be an in between phase."

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

Ronstik / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Though money actually can buy happiness, that really only works up to a certain point. Like, more money can definitely make you happier if you're struggling to make ends meet, but if you're already comfortable, the positive effects of making more drop off fast. And the same goes for our spending. 

As Paige explains it, "We tend to think that there is a linear relationship between how much we buy and how much we spend and how happy we are going to be and it's simply not the case. So don't buy into the lie that social media is feeding us that more is better."

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

Jlco - Julia Amaral / Getty Images/iStockphoto

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

Matthias Kulka / Getty Images

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

Nadia_bormotova / Getty Images/iStockphoto

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

Travelcouples / Getty Images

"My journey showed me that my passion was helping other women create the same results so in 2020 I became a certified life coach through The Life Coach School and now I have helped thousands of women stop impulse shopping."

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 use 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

D3sign / Getty Images

Paige, have you been spying on me???

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

Nora Carol Photography / Getty Images

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

Javier Zayas Photography / Getty Images

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 over all.

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.

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