How Social Media Encourages Us to Overspend During the Holidays

January 16, 2019

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were the most popular social media channels in America during 2018. These feeds are updated in real-time with the curated highlights of people’s seemingly ‘perfect’ lives. Our holiday feeds are filled with staged photos, super fun once-a-year activities, fancy cocktails, picture perfect gifts and more. In fact, social media users are 40% more likely to buy items they see online, and this behavior gets worse around the holidays. Young people are the most susceptible to buying items seen online, while millennials are the most likely to make spontaneous online purchases. Of the millennials who impulsively shop online, 86% said that looking back, they made a mistake. Sounds like Millennial FOMO (fear of missing out) at its finest.

Instagram recently introduced shopping functions – making it way too easy to buy online. For many of us, online payments don’t feel ‘real’, because we don’t see the cash leaving our wallet. While social channels like Instagram shopping are brilliant for retailers and marketers, they’re designed to get us to part with our hard-earned money. This is both terrifying and comforting – it’s not simply a lack of willpower causing us to overspend!

Social Statistics

“90% of millennial respondents say social media creates a tendency to compare their own wealth or lifestyle to that of their peers” (source)

“60% of millennials report feeling “inadequate” about their own life because of something they saw on social media, like flashy clothing or vacations. And, as a result, 57% say they parted with money they hadn’t planned to spend” (source)

Please take comfort in some of the dumbest purchases the DigitalAMN team has made:


In my youth, I had a shoe fetish that was second to none, satisfied with frequent mall runs. I’m still the owner of entirely too many shoes. As time passed, that passion converted to handbags. One day a few years back, my mother and I spent the day “girl” shopping. We had personal shoppers and spent more money than I have sense. I regretted my actions while doing it and I still regret them! Emotional shopping at its finest.  


Young and foolish, I yearned to be more exciting than the introverted reserved person I was known to be.  At a party in NYC in the summer of 2003, I inadvertently became the life of the VIP party. I started off accidentally popping a lovely partygoer in the eye with the cork from a champagne bottle, dancing on the tables, and then somehow found myself face planted outside next to the bouncers. A homeless guy picked me up and dusted me off, to which I proceeded to return to the nightclub to settle my bill on the 9 bottles of Crystal I had purchased to impress the promoter (who up until that evening looked right through me).

That evening made me a legend. The next day my voicemail was full of messages from people I apparently knew – unbeknownst to me – screaming, “Pass the Crystal!”  A mantra I apparently adopted; chanting it with each new bottle I purchased.

I may have become a legend that night, but a series of awful financial choices followed, at a terrible cost to my soul.  That evening, those 9 bottles were one of the worse purchases I’ve ever made in my life. Uggghhh… I am still embarrassed (partly why I no longer drink in public) and regret it!


A balsam scented candle from Anthropologie I bought in store a few years ago. It smelled like a delicious pine forest, but I impulsively bought it because I was having trouble finding that particular scent. Had I done basic online research, I would have found the same thing for a fraction of the price. Sooo yeah, pretty much regretted that one by the time I got home.

What’s the dumbest purchase you’ve made? Share in the comments

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