What Instagram Influencers Are Teaching Us About Money

By Jackie Lam
February 25, 2019
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Unless you’re living underneath a rock, chances are you’re no stranger to envy-inducing Instagram influencers. You know the ones. They’re always cavorting to exotic locales,  sipping on Mai Tais underneath a breezy palm frond, or enjoying Sunday brunch at a picturesque polo lounge surrounded by besties.

Truth bomb: Some influencers are spending a pretty penny to keep up these appearances. Yup, they’re not being compensated by corporate sponsors. And the cost to look like an influencer can cost a small fortune. According to Fashionista, you’d have to spend about $31,400 a year “to maintain the physical standards of beauty represented daily in our Instagram feeds.”

Case in point: An Instagram “star” racked up $10,000 in debt trying to make it seem like she was living a glamorous life while still living with her parents.

So, how can you keep it real and stay grounded with your finances despite the illusion that permeates your social media feeds? Here are some money lessons that can be gleaned from Instagram influencers:

Don’t: Keep up with the Joneses

Bleeding money just to keep up with your peers isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s just that it’s hard to escape Insta feeds filled with those who are “living their best lives” and “living large.”

For example, I have a friend who is married to a popular Instagram influencer. My pal once admitted to me, “it’s all empty.” I’ve also witnessed behind-the-scenes actions of a social media power couple who have 250,000 Instagram followers and sponsored ad campaigns. It turns out the couple spends a lot of time and money carefully curating their feeds. Plus, they’ve experienced massive burnout and growing pains.

The truth: Nobody has their situation figured out, financial or otherwise. We’re all struggling. It’s just that some of us are better at making it look like we have it all together.

So, instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, live a life that works for you and a life you can afford. If you’re feeling stretched or having trouble staying on top of your bills, it’s time to recalibrate.

Don’t: Wear your wealth on your back

If the price tag of your Christian Louboutin ankle boots is higher than what’s in your bank, it’s time to think twice. Remember: Your worth isn’t defined by the type of car you drive or the swath of designer threads in your closet. It’s how much money you have sitting in your bank and investment accounts, and the value of your assets.

To figure out your net worth, enlist the help of a money-saving app or financial management software. Look at what you own and have saved up. Then, subtract all your debt – student loans, credit card debt, car payment, house payment. Whatever is left over is your net worth.

Don’t: Compare and despair

You’ve probably experienced pangs of pain from comparing yourself to others when you were a child. Who had the yummiest snack spread in their lunch box? Who was the smartest, prettiest, most athletic in your class? Sadly, those internal head games we play with ourselves don’t disappear when we become adults.

As they say, comparison is the root of despair. There will always be someone who is faring better than you. But guess what? Instead of focusing on what you don’t seem to have, practice gratitude. You’re probably doing well, and even better than most. Be appreciative of what you do have, and know that you have enough to be content.

Do: Assess the value of a purchase

As someone who tends to be super frugal, I’ve recently leaned toward focusing on the value of what I buy versus just how much it costs.

For example, I have made some “spendy” purchases, but the value was high. For instance, I bought $300 pair of leather boots. That’s more than I’m used to spending, but I wear my boots nearly every day. That’s a good value for the price.

So, take a page from my book: If you’re concerned about going into debt for a large purchase, consider setting up a savings account, and auto-saving on the regular for a splurge fund. Then, when you can afford that purchase, make sure it’s a good value and give yourself permission to splurge.

Do: Be realistic

When it comes to spending money, timing plays a huge part of whether you can or should buy something. As nerdy as it sounds, I have a list of questions I run through before I make purchases I’m on the fence about:

  • Is it the right time? Do you have enough money in the bank? Are there other purchases that should take priority?
  • Can I afford it?
  • What is the trade-off?
  • How many times would I have to use that purchase for it to be worthwhile?
  • What is my gut reaction/feelings telling me?

You do you

There’s no benefit to spreading your finances thin and digging a deep debt hole just to live like an Instagram influencer. So, live within your means, be realistic with what you can afford, and be in sync with your values.

This page is for informational purposes only. Chime does not provide financial, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for financial, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own financial, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based financial writer whose clients include Fortune 500 companies and FinTech startups. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider, and GOOD.

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