It’s so easy to get caught up in the world of Instagram.
Scroll through your feed and you’ll see picture after picture of designer shoes and handbags, carefully co-ordinated outfits – usually taken in front of coloured walls – glamorous holidays and candid snaps, with the perfectly coiffed subject peering over her shoulder laughing, definitely not worrying about the minutiae of life like who’s turn it is to take the bins out or who forgot to buy bog roll.
It can make your own life, of said bin duty and toilet roll, seem dull and boring. We get jealous and FOMO. And that’s where the danger lies.
Lisette Calveiro was in her early twenties when she moved from from Miami to New York in 2013 after landing her dream internship.
Finally, she would live the glamorous New York lifestyle she’d soaked up from films, TV shows and through social media.
Bottomless brunches and outfit posts were just some of the #Blessed Instagram content she was posting trying to live up to that. On the surface, things looked glamorous. In reality, Calveiro was getting herself into trouble.
Her attempt to live up to an Instagram worthy life landed her $12,845 in debt. Her internship was only paying to cover her transport costs and even with a part-time retail job, she was forced to draw on her savings.
“I was shopping . . . for clothes to take ‘the perfect ’gram’,” she told the New York Post.
She told the US paper she would go on monthly $200 shopping sprees to buy new outfits to post, buying designer items like $1,000 vintage designer bags and travel for the perfect picture.
“If you break it down, a lot of the travel I was doing in 2016 was strictly for Instagram,” she said.
Despite earning a “low to mid five figure salary” at this point, Calveiro says she was “living a lie, debt was looming over my head.”
When she landed a PR job in New York towards the end of 2016, it was a wake up call. She pulled back the Instagram activities, moved in with a room mate and gave herself a strict weekly grocery budget.
It is interesting to note, however, that since the 26 year old did the interview with The Post, her Instagram followers have doubled from 12,000 to almost 26,000. And a few of her recent posts have been sponsored ones.
According to a recent investigation by fashion website Fashionista, it would cost a normal person about $40,300 a year to “maintain the standards of physical beauty represented daily in our Instagram feeds”.
And that’s just looks alone, discounting the designer goods and international travel. It’s not just sustainable or realistic.
Mia Freedman makes the case for more realistic images on Instagram. Post continues after audio.
While the desire to emulate what we see others have has certainly increased thanks to social media, Editor of Money Magazine Effi Zahos says it’s nothing new.
“This whole thing of ‘keeping up with the Jones”, it’s been around since the beginning of time. Before social media, there was a pressure from seeing what your friends were doing, what house they had just bought or their new car. Instagram just put that on steroids,” she tells Mamamia.
“But I expect that Calveiro is not alone. It’s like any business – if you don’t have any cash flow coming in then how are you sustaining that [lifestyle]?
“It costs money to get that perfect picture and if cash flow is not there, then you’ve got to dip into credit and you rack up credit card debt.”
Financial Planner and author of The $1000 Project Canna Campbell is also a YouTuber and influencer. She says there’s definitely lots of pressure to look certain way.
“It’s just another form of advertising [but with social media] we choose to take on that pressure ourselves and subject ourselves to it,” she tells Mamamia.
“Good influencers have to be authentic. Ones that are trying to do smoke and mirrors and portray a lifestyle that’s not there’s will be exposed.”
She says if you’re feeling the urge to shop all the time, feeling inadequate and looking for external satisfaction in purchasing things or feel the needs to photograph yourself all the time, then there might be an issue.
“If you are really pushing your lifestyle, there’s something going on behind the scenes. If you’re genuinely happy, you don’t take a picture every five minutes.”
Want to get your #finances on track but don’t know where to start? Well you can book in an appointment to speak with me over Skype/FaceTime or in my Darlinghurst office. Plus if you have purchased The $1000 Project you get 20% off immediately. Email [email protected] to book your spot xCC (oh and yes, I speak with everyone, international followers as well!)
Zahos stresses the importance of preparation if you really do want to be an Instagram ‘influencer’.
“Right from the outset, ask yourself is this a true business I’m trying to get into? What’s my marketing plan? How long will it take to get a cash flow in? Once you know that, you’ll work out how much you will need before you get that,” she says.
“If you do amount a massive debt – which is why a lot of small business fail, because there’s no prep involved – then you might need to be honest with yourself that you’re not going to make any money from it, cut your losses and clear up your debt.”
According to Zahos, it’s when people rack up a debt of about $5,000 that they begin to panic.
And while it’s easy to say ‘stop spending’ that’s not always the solution.
“Are you overseas on a Instagram-fuelled holiday? How are you going to get home?” she says.
“If you can’t see money coming in the short term, then you’ve got to have an action plan.”
Both experts advise looking for ways to get income on the side – whether that’s a part time job, bar work, selling items that you own, whatever you can do to fund the lifestyle or pay off the debt.
So what do you do if you do find yourself in significant debt like Calveiro?
In one of her recent videos, Campbell explains the how to do the ‘hit list’ – writing a list of all the money you owe people, starting with the least amount and finishing off with the biggest, and focus on paying that back.
“Be honest with your credit card advisor. Contact them – if you are in financial hardship you can can get an arrangement,” Zahos says.
She warns to be wary of zero balance transfer cards, which are ok to use as long as you are disciplined.
One of the problems Calveiro spoke of to The Post was that no-one speaks about their finances on Instagram. Campbell says that there is a growing community that do that now.
“If you find that Instagram is a dangerous trigger, make sure you follow people that will inspire you,” she says.
“There’s an amazing debt free community that posts things on Instagram, sharing their financial goals, how they’re feeling, how they’re paying off their debt, which brings you down to earth and gives you your power back,” she says.
You can find these profiles by searching the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram.
“A lot are American users but it’s really good stuff, very honest and refreshing,” she says.
Calveiro says she regrets her spending habits.
“I had a lot of opportunities to save. I could’ve invested that money in something,” she told The Post.
Zahos says her case can be a lesson for all of us.
“The grass is never greener on the other side. Those pictures you see, there is a cost involved, both time and money and it’s important to remember that,” she says.