Trying to keep up with the Kumalos or the Joneses or the Pillays is like giving your money to other people to spend. Giving in to peer pressure is the worst thing you can do for your credit health.
Peer pressure and the desire to fit in are part of life. How we respond to them, however, can be decisive for our all-round wellbeing, from mental health to financial wellness. Here is some advice for paying less attention to how other people are doing – and what they’re buying – and focusing instead on your own financial health.
Learn what makes you happy
Getting to know yourself is the best antidote to playing the comparison game. When you know what activities and people fill up your tank/give you energy/bring you joy, you can structure your life (and your finances) around those preferences. If you don’t know, you are far more likely to follow the crowd.
Are the lifestyles of friends or celebrities for real?
Very often, glamour only exists as far as they eye can see. The flash car in the driveway may conceal a house with almost no furniture, or a bank account deep in the red. The people you try to emulate could very well be broke, which means their example is not a good one to follow.
Be proud of your debt-free living
Sometimes you see bumper sticker on older cars: “Don’t Laugh. It’s Paid For.” Be proud of the fact that you’re living within your means, and flaunt your thrift rather than follow the herd by being a conspicuous consumer. A superior and open attitude about your financial lifestyle choices can be a very healthy thing.
Filter your media consumption
We are influenced not only by people we know, but also the rich and famous. Their Facebook pages and Instagram accounts show beautiful clothes, exotic holidays, expensive drinks and exclusive venues. It is easy to use that as our benchmark of a good life – and just as easy to get into financial distress trying to live the same way. It’s good idea to spend less time drooling over other people’s lives and instead live your own.
Choose your friends wisely
Hanging out with people who share your attitudes and values about money and spending can make life a lot easier and simpler, and lift the pressure of keeping up and spending money you don’t have. You also want friends with whom you can be honest when times are tough, and who will happily stay home and not pressure you to go out when you can’t afford to.
Look at your current financial situation
Instead of thinking you know your income and expenses picture off the top of your head, write it all down (yes, that’s budgeting!) and really understand your money situation. Tools such as Bayport’s budget calculator can be very helpful to get you organised. When you put the numbers together, you will quickly see how much it is costing you to keep up with other people.
Try a “what was I thinking?” audit
A good reality check is to look at your discretionary expenditures at the end of the month and asking yourself: “If I could go back in time, will I buy this again?” Keep a list of the purchases you regret and review it often. You’ll learn from your spending mistakes, and with each monthly audit, your list will shrink as your bank balance grows.
Don’t let your kids tell you how to spend your money
Children have influence over household expenditure, and advertisers know it. In trying to keep up with their friends, your children can cause you to spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need or even want. Make sure you put financial boundaries in place to avoid this.
Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Always keep the bigger picture in mind by weighing an expensive impulse purchase against your longer term financial goals. Is the latest gadget worth more than a deposit on a house or even the holiday you are saving for?
Count your blessings and be grateful
Appreciating all of the wonderful things you already have in your life, but often take for granted, is a powerful way to counter peer pressure.