How Much is Impressing Others Costing You?

aaron_image1Have you ever sat down to think about how much your spending habits are dictated by a desire to impress others – or your goal to be perceived in a certain manner?

Although I still fall prey to it – I think I have been able to manage my spending to a point where I really don't care what type of house I live in, what kind of car I drive or the clothes I wear (of course, this is all relative. I certainly wouldn't enjoy living in a shed or driving a rusty 1970 station wagon).

I have to admit, this wasn't always the case.

My first big car purchase proves my desire to impress others. I bought it in the hopes of “looking cool” and being seen as more wealthy than I was. I chalk it up as a $16,000+ impression cost.

There are many folks who have been equipped with adequate self-confidence where they don't go seeking approvals by outside means.

Then there are those – like myself – who have struggled with the self-confidence and have looked for outside means as a way to conjure good will or to “get you to like me”.

Impression costs

We humans are pretty creative. And some of the most creative are people I have worked with for over 12 years: marketers. These folk spend their day trying to convince you and me that our lives aren't adequate enough. That more is better and the latest and greatest will put you on top (on top of what is never really determined).

I don't believe all marketers are bad. They are trying to do their job – sell a product they believe in (hopefully) which will improve your life (hopefully). The bad marketers are those who do just the opposite.

There are countless ways we have conjured up over the years to impress our fellow man/woman. Among those we tend to spend the most time/money on:

  • Homes
  • Cars
  • Clothes
  • Appearance (make-up, jewelry, stylists, etc)
  • Titles/jobs
  • Gifts
  • Toys
  • Vacations
  • Gadgets
  • On and on

It's not cheap impressing others. And, if you play the game long enough – you will find that it is never-ending. You'll never impress enough or be satisfied with the impression you are making.

Why do we care so much?

It's very hard to escape the impression-seeking mentality. Unless you live in the jungle or the woods by yourself, we are all surrounded by others. When you see what others have or who they “present” themselves as – it's easy to compare. I agree with Theodore Roosevelt: comparison is often the thief of our joy.

But sometimes if we don't “keep up with the Jones'” we are left out (another marketing ploy). No one likes that feeling. Obviously, in today's culture, if you don't have a cell phone – you are “left out”. If you don't watch tv – you be “left out” of certain conversations. If you don't hang with a certain social crowd or experience the latest restaurant – you're “left out” or “not in the know”.

But, all these things cost us – both personally and monetarily.

How much are impression costs setting you back?

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  1. I believe in impressing others with my frugality and resourcefulness. People are amazed that i can watch tv for free (with a digital antenna), don’t need a dryer (i line dry all my clothes) and read books/magazines for free (going to the public library). It also depends on your circle. Some are impressed with a new phone, nice car, big home while others are impressed that you don’t need any of those things to be happy.

  2. This is so true! I went through a phase in grad scool where I was constantly with the same classemates who were into name-brand everything. I’ve never cared about brandsbut suddenly I was ‘wanting’ the same stuff. Some of which I bbought…dumb girl.

  3. A client just shared this with me, and it fits with what I see with couples all of the time. My line is “you can have anything you want, just not everything that you want” – so we can help them determine what is most important and let go of the spending on the other stuff.

    Great work, I’m a subscriber now! Thanks!

    • @Jude – Thanks for subscribing!
      @Catherine – Yeah – it’s crazy how the peer pressure can be so influencial

  4. Nice post Aaron! As one who owns an advertising company we see this all the time…and I would hope we’d be considered a “good” marketer. :) I think a lot of it comes back to who are you living for – are you living for you and your family or for someone else. Once you have that delineation in your mind I think it makes it a little easier to avoid that temptation. That is not to say that you’d never struggle with it again, but would be easier to protect against.

  5. Aaron, great post. When we lived in the suburbs, we were constantly feeling like we were being judged based on our car, house, clothing, the amount of extracurricular activities we did or didn’t participate in, etc. Out here in the country, it’s a different ball game. No one seems to give a hoot about your “stuff”, but, at least in our area, they are concerned with your character. Value-based spending and frugal living seem to be the norm on our street. I feel like I’ve gotten an inside look into why so many people are heavily in debt. It’s tough stuff to try and ward off those feelings of non-acceptance that seem to come when you aren’t one of the “haves”, and you’re surround by those who seem to “have it all”.

    • @Laurie – yeah, always more prevalent in the burbs for sure (keeping up w/ Jones’)
      @John – that’s a great point “who are you living for?”

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