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Scrolling social media may provide entertainment, catharsis or just a way to pass the time. It might also cause you to spend more than you can afford.
A new NerdWallet survey finds that 65% of Americans believe that social media has increased overspending. Here are five tips to keep social media scrolling from hurting your real-life finances.
1. Wish list and wait
According to the survey, 18% of Americans have made a purchase because of something they saw on social media that they regret making. Impulse buying is easy on social media, particularly when you purchase from within the app. One way to combat this and possibly avoid regret? Wish list and wait.
Create a list of anything and everything you come across on social media that you want to buy. And then wait to purchase. How long you wait is up to you — maybe it’s a month or just 24 hours. You might still choose to purchase the item ultimately, but when you put time between wanting and buying something, you may find that the desire to own the item dissipates. Allow the shine to wear off and then make the decision to buy or not buy with a clear head.
Again, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the things you want. But you might be able to avoid buyer’s remorse by taking a beat and adding to the cart later.
2. Evaluate the item without the sale
Nearly 3 in 10 Americans (28%) say they’ve made a purchase because of a deal or promo code they saw on social media. Limited-time offers can increase urgency by making you feel like you have to buy now or never. And we love a deal. But deals generally come along more than once, and it’s worth considering whether you’d want the thing you’re planning to buy if it wasn’t on sale.
It’s smart to buy something you want or need at a discounted price. However, something being on sale isn’t a good enough reason to buy it. Would you pay full price? If not, passing on the item is probably a good idea.
3. Limit late-night scrolling
Nearly 1 in 5 Americans (19%) say they’ve made a purchase late at night — between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. — because of something they saw on social media.
At the end of a long day of making decisions, your defenses may be down when you start scrolling on your social media app(s) of choice. The American Psychological Association says that “purchasing behavior has been shown to be subject to willpower depletion.” In other words, as you exert willpower throughout the day, you may be less likely to continue doing so when you come across an appealing social media ad before bed. Consider checking your apps earlier in the day to avoid impulse buys.
4. Know how much you can spend on your wants
The survey found that 15% of Americans say they’ve purchased something out of their budget because they saw it on social media. Knowing how much your budget allows you to spend on your wants offers one method for curbing this.
The 50/30/20 budget suggests you spend 50% of your income on needs, 30% on wants and 20% toward savings and debt repayment. Consider whether the cost of that nonessential item on Instagram you’re impulsively thinking of buying is within your wants amount. If so, go ahead and get it. If not, add it to your wish list and decide whether to save up for it.
One of the most effective ways to reduce social-media-inspired purchasing is unfollowing or muting the accounts that influence you to buy, intentionally or otherwise. By removing the temptation proactively, it will likely be easier to avoid overspending.