Instagram grooms you to spend money — here's how you can use it to help you save instead


Before Bernadette Joy paid off $300,000 in debt by living a one-income, minimalist lifestyle, she was not the most restrained spender.

"I had over 100 dresses in my closet," she says. "In hindsight, even if I spent $50 on each dress, that's already $5,000."

Today, she says she realizes that much of her spending had to do with not wanting to be left out, something many millennials experience. Almost half of this generation (48%) says they've overspent and even potentially gone into debt, to keep up with their friends, according to a 2019 CreditKarma.com survey. And 49% say they have been influenced by social media to spend money on experiences, according to a 2019 Schwab survey.

"Instagram is such a driver of peer pressure," Joy says. But used wisely, it can actually help you: She has found that certain accounts on the platform encouraged her to save money and pay off her debt.

Here are three ways Instagram can help you save money.

Unfollow accounts that are bad influences

Instagram prompts us to want things, Adam Alter, a professor of marketing at NYU's Stern School of Business, told The Cut. "You're seeing the top 1% of interesting people doing the top 1% of the most interesting things in their lives, and that puts you in an aspirational mindset that leads you to shop for betterment," he said.

In fact, 72% of millennials have wondered how friend can afford the expensive experiences they have posted on social media, according to the Schwab survey.

Chris Browning of the financial podcast Popcorn Finance says he used to struggle with comparing himself to others based on their social media personas. "For me, I would get down when I saw people buying homes in other areas," he says. "When people were hitting these milestones that were so difficult and seemed out of reach."

Joy says she felt the same thing — which is why she cleared her feed of those accounts. "I've phased out any social media that encouraged me to spend or made me feel bad about my current state of mind," she says.

I've phased out any social media that encouraged me to spend or made me feel bad about my current state of mind.
Bernadette Joy

Follow inspiring people

Look for accounts that make you feel good about and reinforce your financial choices. Plenty of users have accounts to help them document their debt-free journey or to share tips on how to pay off large loans or save money. A few to try include:

Follow inspiring hashtags

Browning and Joy both said that following inspiring hashtags like #debtfreecommunity helped them rein in their spending.

"I saw a lot of individuals that were getting into the debt-free community [lifestyle] and I saw people brag about how much they were saving, especially in the F.I.R.E. community," Browning says. "Seeing people push themselves and say, 'I'm going to retire by 45 or 50' forced me to think about what I was going to do."

Other popular, useful hashtags you might want to follow include:

You can also just delete your account

Each minute you're on Instagram, the chance of you purchasing something increases, Alter told The Cut.

It's not only the peer pressure of perfectly manicured feeds that encourages us to shop — it's the app itself. One-third of Instagram users have made purchases through Instagram, according to data collected from eCommerce Marketing platform Yotpo. And more than half of millennials (57%) spent money when they hadn't planned to after seeing something on social media, according to a 2018 Allianz study.

So if using Instagram to encourage your positive impulses doesn't work, it might make more sense to quit altogether — or at least to try blocking the ads.

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