This article isn’t about saving money, investing or becoming wealthy. It is more about your self-awareness and the psychology behind what influences your spending habits.
Self-awareness involves developing an understanding of many facets of your life including your personality traits, personal values, emotions, and not least, your spending habits.
Spending money is one thing we all cannot avoid. We must buy things for our everyday use – that’s just how life works. However, have you ever sat down to think about what influenced you to purchase all the recent items your purchased? A friend of mine recently bought an iPhone for close to half a million naira. To be honest, I was envious for a minute till I pinched myself back to reality.
Having an understanding of why you spend on what you spend is very important to keeping you from paying too much for an item, or impulse-buying that shirt you probably wouldn’t wear twice.
Here are the people who influence your spending habits:
1. Your Family: To start with, the personality type of your parents will definitely be an influence on the type of spender you are. Your parents were the first influencers. They were your heroes or role models and everything they did was right in your eyes.
According to a study, the prefrontal cortex – the rational part of the brain –isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25. So your ability to make the right decision on whether or not to be a spendthrift or extravagant wouldn’t have been solidified while growing up; you would only just pick up what you observed from your parents and family.
Questions that would give you an insight include:
• Were your parents extravagant or stingy?
• Was it normal for your parents to discuss money matters with you whilst younger?
• Were your brothers, sisters, in-laws and other extended family extravagant?
• Is your spouse extravagant or stingy?
There are numerous other questions, but the idea is to try and answer the questions to help you think critically and help you trace a footpath to what your spending habit is like now. This is what I call the historical path.
The bond with your family is deep. They helped you get to where you are today, and will not hesitate to help you in your journey to the next level, so you’ll have to reciprocate. People in your family will need help for various life issues (the same recurring Maslow needs) – feeding, shelter, clothing – and you will feel obliged to help.
2. Your colleagues: Your colleagues are family; I should have classed them above. You spend the majority of your time with them, especially if you are a nine to fiver (work at a 9-5 job), which means you will be influenced arguably mostly by them.
You are the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with.
You watch what your colleagues eat and probably eat the same. You dress similar. You will be influenced by what type of vacation they want for themselves – Mr A is travelling to Mauritius, he doesn’t even earn as much as I do, so why can’t I go next year?
3. Your Social Media: This is, perhaps, the most dangerous influencer of them all. Not like it doesn’t have its positives, but l think this has the most influence on us whether or not you agree. The average person with a smart phone has a minimum of 2 social media apps which are opened a minimum of 50 times a day.
Facebook & Twitter: Social media has evolved from just sharing your thoughts and photos; there are marketers who use it as a tool to showcase whatever product or services they want to sell – and you will definitely fall.
Your favourite influencers sell themselves on social media and later become politicians who you will vote for. They also provide reviews for products which you will consciously and unconsciously buy. We are all addicted to our phones which we press every second, so clothes, accessories, fine restaurants, vacation spots are constantly flashed in our eyes.
That gorgeous friend of yours who constantly updates her WhatsApp stories every second just wore that wig of just N52,000 you think you can afford. Why not?
Do I need to talk about Instagram? Your guess is as good as mine.
4. Friends: Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.
Human nature has a way of making us feel it is okay to have what others have, after all, you work harder than he does, but he just spent N1 million in one night. You probably feel bad about yourself for not doing better, then you go ahead to borrow money just to keep up.
The truth is you can never know the true financial situation of another individual, except you are married to that person, and that too is not a guarantee – “Man know thyself.” That friend of yours could be getting unknown financial assistance or is living on an inheritance; on the flip side, that friend could also be languishing in debt.
5. Entertainers: The flashy cars, jewelry, beautiful women and fine restaurants we watch in music videos definitely plays a part in influencing us. The lifestyle music artistes display in their videos takes us away from the boring life we are presently living and makes us believe in it as the ideal.
We then begin to act in a term psychologists call ‘referencing’, whereby you picture yourself in the shoes of the artistes and train your brain to act in ways that convince you of why you deserve that type of lifestyle.