One thing that I have always prided myself on is my solid sense of self and my ability to march to the beat of my own drum. Still, no matter how high my confidence level, sometimes I find myself falling victim to financial peer pressure. There have been times, like when friends were going out to dinner or planning vacations together, that it truly was hard to turn down the invitations or resist joining in on the fun because of my financial constraints.
Financial peer pressure can be brutal. We often look at the financial habits of our friends to establish our own and sometimes we even strive to keep up with how our peers are spending, which is only exacerbated these days by easy access to credit.
Every time I see a friend making destructive choices with their money, I tense up. Not because I’m this awesome personal finance strategist and their behavior isn’t compatible with mine, but because I’m afraid their money choices will rub off on me.
If you don't think friends influence your spending habits, consider this: Have you ever spent beyond your budget so you wouldn't feel left out? Has anyone ever talked you into a purchase you later regretted? Do you not have a budget because your friends don’t have budgets?
There is always room to make better and more deliberate choices with money, and one of the best areas to improve upon is learning how not to give in to financial peer pressure.
Your well-meaning friends might put pressure on you to purchase something you can't afford right now. Since you're the one who has to deal with the outcome of a purchase, and the only one on the hook for that credit card statement, it’s important to learn how to be your own shopping buddy and go solo if you can’t overcome your friends’ influence.
Personally, it took me years to be able to go shopping with someone else without feeling crappy about myself. Sometimes it’s nice to just go it alone. I find I have zero patience waiting for someone to try on the same pair of jeans for 30 minutes, so it works out in the end.
Get Positive Support
Shopping alone works great when you have to combat negative influences in your spending habits. But if you find that you’re still making destructive spending choices without anyone around, peer influence may still be lingering. Look for someone in your life with strong financial habits and let them influence you and hold you accountable instead.
Some of my friends now like to bounce their spending impulses off me first since I’m the face behind The Holistic Wallet. Sometimes they admit their spending shame to me after they make their impulse purchases.
Losing this sense of shame is important. Having financial limitations does not make you inferior to anyone. Maybe you have more expenses or responsibilities than your friends. Maybe your friends have jobs in higher-paying industries. We all have unique circumstances, so if you have to pass on a fancy excursion, is it not a big deal.
Don't Be Fooled by What You See
Even if your friends seem to have it together financially, it could just be for show. Remember, you only see the stuff people have — not their credit card balances or net worth. Realize that what you see isn't always the whole picture, and it definitely shouldn't be the standard you live by. Some of the people you measure yourself up against may be up to their nose in debt.
Also, research has shown that instant gratification doesn’t make us happy. Waiting and working toward something provides a more rewarding experience. So if you’re going to want what others have, accept that you’ll appreciate it more when you receive it on your own terms.
Don't Forget Your Goals
If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “It was only $25!” I would have a lot more than $25. Keep in mind that all of those small purchases can add up to a busted budget. It is important to keep your eye on your big-picture goals and stick to your budget.
This may mean foregoing the instant gratification of a shopping excursion so you can welcome more financial ease into your life instead. The next time you feel pressure to spend your money, think about those goals and decide who you’re really trying to make happy here.
Choose Frugal, Not Boring
You know how when you’re dieting, you get hungry but don’t have anything healthy on hand, so you wind up cheating? Well, getting bored has the same impact on our finances. You should try to keep some ideas for low-cost or free activities on hand so you don’t get the urge to go shopping just to have something to do.
When it comes to resisting financial peer pressure, you just have to get familiar with what triggers you to spend and be brave enough to make changes that establish new boundaries. Don’t let financial peer pressure get the best of you!
Michelle Bobrow is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.