spending habits – peer pressure and social spending
Welcome to part two of our “four spending habits of the financial apocalypse” mini series of posts! Today we are talking about spending habits that are largely influenced by our social circles, which can seriously mess up our finances if we’re not careful!
i want one of those
This is basically what it boils down to for me. It harks back to when you were 3 years old and despite there being 20 perfectly decent toys laying around the room, once your playmate picked one, it became the most desirable toy you’d ever seen in your short life. I am guessing this mechanism has some basis in evolutionary psychology, back in the days of hunter gatherers it might be a lot easier to just go and take some tool or foodstuff from another rather than make or acquire it from source yourself.
However as we grow into adults in our non-caveman society we realise that it is not socially acceptable to just go and grab stuff out of other peoples hands, and on top of that we now have another means of getting the stuff anyway… Money! The urge to want what we see other people have is still strong, and this little equation all adds up to you buying what your mates have.
This is clearly how “fashion”, trends, fads and crazes work so well. I have seen it many times throughout my life and I guess I still partake in it occasionally, although I certainly can’t remember the last time I bought something literally just because one of my mates had it.
are you one of us?
A recent example is that, having met up with an old group of friends I haven’t seen for a while, I noticed that they were pretty much all wearing the same trainers. This intrigued me and to be honest, I thought it looked pretty stupid, however I remember going back about 7 years I indulged in exactly the same behaviour when we went on a lads holiday and everyone bought a pair of “flossies” (basically a brand of deck shoes) – luckily they were pretty cheap at about 10 Euros! 🙂
I think this is a sign of tribal behaviour and our strong desire to fit in showing up once again; if you aren’t conforming you aren’t part of the group.
This not only how we act but what we wear, the products we buy and use, how we style our hair, what football team we support, and so on.
Once something reaches a tipping point either within a group or indeed even in society at large, the “thing” becomes a runaway trend and network effects make it even more popular, fuelled by word of mouth and our desire to want what others have.
“It must be good if it’s that popular” is the general implied line of thinking here
A great example of a tipping point in society at large is the 50 shades of grey book (and subsequent film). Now I have heard 1 many terrible reviews of both yet it was probably the most read book of the year FFS! A classic example of people wanting to read something just because so many other people have already done so.
My advice here is try to almost always take the complete opposite view until you have done enough research to suggest that the masses were, in fact, correct after all.
not the bloody joneses again
I think “keeping up with the joneses” has to rate as the most overused phrase / concept on personal finance blogs I have ever seen, but it is with good reason because it is so true! A lot of our spending in areas outside of our needs is merely social signalling. When we buy “luxury goods” we are often just attempting to say to our peers… “look at me, I got dollar bills bulgin’ outta my underpants 2“.
When someone in your social group engages in these sorts of purchases, you may then have an urge to do the same lest you be shown up as the pauper that you will ironically end up being if you take out 15 credit cards to fund the purchases you are about to make!
If you do end copying your friends initial mistake you are just stoking the fire for a relentless tit-for-tat spending war that were talking about yesterday. Everyone’s a loser in this situation!
The advice here is obvious. Silently mock those colleagues that feel they have to show their status via spending money. Once you get into that mindset you see it as a weakness and not something to be emulated!
The final point is probably the most subtle and I bet is one that many do not realise is even happening. It is when you are out and about with friends and someone suggests going to the slightly more expensive restaurant, having the more expensive wine from the menu, and the classic splitting of the bill (a lot of people who suggest this are the ones who have clearly had more than everyone else!). There are obviously many other examples but this one serves to make the point very well, you are now under immense peer pressure to just go along with these suggestions, lest you be outed as a tightwad. It takes a strong and resolute person in my experience to stand up in front of a large group and say “Hey guys, come on, this is just too expensive, can we try to find a cheaper restaurant”. I have done it on occasion 3 but it always causes a bit of agro and so I generally just go with the flow.
The experienced FI’er solution to this would of course be…: “Why the hell are you eating out in the first place?” 🙂
Have you ever felt under pressure to spend when out with friends? How do you deal with this situation! Let us know down below! 🙂
- I honestly haven’t read it just in case you were wondering! 🙂 ↩
- UK readers: Sorry for the Americanisms there. I thought the translation “look at me, I have one pound coins falling out of my arse-crack” was a bit too abstract to make the desired point though 🙂 ↩
- I will also admit that on occasion I am the one suggesting the more expensive option. Bad TFS!!! ↩