Spending Money to Impress Others Hurts Finances

Spending Money to Impress Others Hurts Finances
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Anne Johnson

“Keeping up with the Joneses” was a concept that emerged during the 1950s and never went out of style. Many Americans are still looking to impress their family and friends, and some people base their spending on this concept.

Basing spending decisions on what will look good can be costly. It leads to high debt. But how often is spending based on impressing? And are these individuals in debt?

Spending to Impress Not New

Spending to impress is what economists call “conspicuous consumption.” The phrase has existed since 1899, so this isn’t a modern-day phenomenon. It was originally coined to describe the habits of the emerging upper class. They were made rich by the industrial revolution. This new class wanted to establish their worth in their peers’ eyes. The result was leading a lavish lifestyle to impress.
Today’s term is “lifestyle inflation.” It’s still spending to impress.

40 percent of Americans Spend to Impress

Over-the-top spending is prevalent in America. Forty percent overspent on clothes, shoes, and accessories to make a statement to others.

This is more common among the younger generations. Fifty-two percent of Generation Z and 46 percent of millennials spent to impress. At the same time, 34 percent of Generation X and 25 percent of baby boomers felt the need to dazzle their friends.

Men and women were close in how they overspent. Thirty-nine percent of women and 38 percent of men impressed others with their spending.

Spending Meant to Impress

Will Rogers said it best: “Too many people spend money they earned … to buy things they don’t want … to impress people they don’t like.” But Americans keep trying to impress. They spend on various items, both large and small.

Apparel isn’t the only way that many spend their dollars. Purchasing an oversized house in an upscale neighborhood is another way to impress, and with that house comes a luxury car in the driveway.

Buying the latest tech gadgets is often a small but pricey way to try to impress. And dinners out where you pick up the check for friends can quickly add a balance to the credit card.

Another form of overspending is not having someone pay you back for owed money. Fifty-five percent of Americans hesitated to ask for a loan repayment from a friend.

Reasons to Overspend to Impress

There are several reasons that people spend to impress. Thirty-five percent of Americans wanted to feel successful. Some wanted to impress family members or a date. Other reasons include:
  • too embarrassed to say no
  • look good on social media
  • want others to be jealous
  • want to get a raise or promotion
  • feel like a better friend or family member
People are ultimately looking for validation from others instead of from within themselves.

Our prehistoric brains still power us; although we’ve evolved, humans still go with herd behavior to a certain extent. There is an instinct to keep up with other people’s lifestyles. No one wants to be left behind. This can trick some people into spending more or on impulse to impress others even though we know we can’t afford to.

Social media promotes the perfect lifestyle. It shows unrealistic ideals and images of perfection and what “things” people should have in their life. Social media provides a road map on how to impress others, and many people try to follow it.

Making Less Money to Impress

Some people consider a job that will look good to their friends and family even if it pays less. Career choices are made based on prestige. To friends and family, an entry-level job earning $30,000 a year in a high-end advertising agency appears more prestigious than a welding job at $60,000 per year.
The reality is that most people don’t care what you do for a living; it only matters in your head and in your wallet.

Debt Creates Regret

Debt regret happens quickly for most people when they overspend. Seventy-seven percent of people who tried to impress others by overspending regretted their actions.

The term “overspending” implies spending more than you have. That means using credit cards to finance this behavior. The result is that 63 percent of those who overspent to impress went into debt.

The irony to this is who they were impressing. Thirty-eight percent of those who went into debt no longer have contact with the person they were trying to impress in the first place. This also created regret.

How to Break the Spending Cycle

There’s pressure to try to keep up with the Joneses. Twenty-eight percent of Americans feel it. But by stepping away from social media and reducing shopping trips, the “impressing” cycle can be broken.
Instead of giving money, give time. Make it a point to prioritize friends and family beyond just buying them dinner once in a while. Take the time for conversation and listening. This is a better way to impress than purchasing a new iPhone.

Question Spending Motives

Financial decisions you make today affect your future needs. By trying to impress people you not only hurt today’s finances but depreciate any efforts for tomorrow.

Buying the latest luxury car or diamond bracelet to impress is a surefire way to go broke. Don’t get drawn into keeping up with the Joneses. The prudent way is to save and invest. You can keep up by giving your time to friends and family.

The Epoch Times Copyright © 2023.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. They are meant for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or any other personal finance advice. The Epoch Times holds no liability for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.
Anne Johnson was a commercial property & casualty insurance agent for nine years. She was also licensed in health and life insurance. Anne went on to own an advertising agency where she worked with businesses. She has been writing about personal finance for ten years.
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