“Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.” – Rita Mae Brown
By: Jennifer L. Lopez, Debt.com Financial Fitness Trainer
These days, the online website Pinterest has become all the rage. If you thought that other social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter were time-wasters, Pinterest has already entrapped 10.4 million users (and growing) into spending hours daily “pinning” their favorite items onto the online bulletin board. You often hear of users describing their newfound interest in Pinterest as their latest “obsession” or “addiction.”
Naturally companies are taking advantage of this free, popular, and easily accessible technology to encourage consumers to take a look (and another and another…) at their product lines. It’s actually quite ingenious that these companies are getting consumers to provide free product placement and advertising by pinning and re-pinning. It is a known fact that buyers are more likely to purchase items from someone they know or that has been recommended to them by someone they trust (think celebrity endorsements). This marketing strategy should provide a red flag to Pinterest users that are trying to stick to a budget. Read on to find out why you may want to hide your credit cards and cut down on the time that you spend pining for merchandise on Pinterest.
At first glance, Pinterest seems innocent enough. You create individual boards that contain images, often from online websites. Let’s say you want to redecorate a room: you can take items from various websites that you want to incorporate into your design (furniture, accessories, paint colors, etc.) and “pin” them onto your board for future reference, or to be shared with your followers. If someone likes what you have pinned, they may “repin” it onto their own board. The concept is cool, useful, and attractive. Other harmless uses include utilizing Pinterest to collect recipes that you want to try, crafts that you want to make, or hairstyles that you want to attempt.
But according to PCMag.com, 97% of Pinterest users are women. Let’s be honest, women are also more susceptible to window-shopping, and the consequent “retail therapy” that inevitably occurs. A website like Pinterest and the time devoted to designing your own boards, along with looking at other people’s boards, can encourage overspending. Why, you may ask? Because instead of avoiding temptation, you are reveling in it. If you are trying to avoid spending, the last thing that you need is to spend excessive amounts of time creating a virtual wish list. Due to the fact that Pinterest is so visual, it provides an even greater temptation, as we are so influenced by images. Many of us are less likely to be influenced to buy after just being exposed to a text description, but show us a picture, and we may fork over the funds. That’s why commercials, billboards, ads, and even restaurant menus may place more focus on graphics than words. Images are expressive, and stir up strong feelings in us, including the drive to obtain what we see at any cost.
If you are on a diet, the last thing that you want to do is tempt yourself by going to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Likewise, if you are trying to stop drinking, you want to steer clear of bars, liquor stores, or friends that might encourage you to drink. And when I want to avoid spending, I steer clear of temptation by skipping mindless online or in-person window shopping or looking at sales papers or catalogs, because if I look, I may want to buy. Increased exposure to temptation breaks down our defenses and makes it more difficult to overcome it. Additionally, even other forms of social media have encouraged jealousy as people are able to observe what their friends have or are planning to buy. A website like Pinterest can spur a spike in this activity and subsequent spending in an attempt to “keep up with the Joneses.”
If you are looking to protect your pocketbook, prevent overspending, and avoid getting into debt, you may want to consider minimizing the amount of time spent on Pinterest. Alternatively, you can make a conscious decision to only use the website in ways that will not inspire unplanned spending. As consumers, we are exposed to enough forms of spending temptation on a regular basis without knowingly leading ourselves into potential financial peril.
Photo credit: Design Indulgences