Is Financial Literacy The New Dyson Airwrap?

After years of being sold designer lip gloss and $600 hair styling tools, more and more women are realizing that taking care of what’s inside their purse is just as sexy (if not more!) as the label on the outside.

By Baylee Hunt5 min read
Pexels/Yan Krukau

If you were on Instagram in 2015, you can likely think of one item you were inspired to buy after seeing it on an account you followed, but can you think of five? Probably not.

In comparison to today, the original influencers on Instagram were demure about their salesman-like intentions. They might have shared a product they loved every now and then, but it was done in a fairly innocuous way. If it became too much? We simply hit “unfollow.” 

TikTok, the current platform favored among young adults, has convinced an entire generation that hyper-consumerism is normal. Women, in particular, are targeted. After all, we account for up to 80% of consumer spending in general. On TikTok, clothing hauls, makeup routines, and outfit try-ons dominate many women’s feeds. The app’s algorithm can show you hundreds of new faces in a day, creating the perception that this is average behavior for women in your age group. 

TikTok has proven wildly successful at product promotion. Users are frequently subjected to videos about the Dyson AirWrap (a $600 blow dry tool), Rare Beauty blush (from Selena Gomez’s makeup brand), glass skin (a face “shiny” in appearance after applying numerous serums and lotions), gua shuas (face sculpting crystals), ballet-core (dancer off-duty fashion), snail mucin (more on that here), and the list goes on. Currently, #tiktokmademebuyit is a hashtag with over 82 billion views.

Gone Are the Days of Social Media. Welcome to Social Commerce

With the recent release of TikTok Shop, the app is no longer trying to hide its desire to be your online shopping hub. It’s estimated that 4 in 10 users made a purchase from the shop in 2023. While the platform used to be entertaining for its funny videos and dance routines, it now resembles one long infomercial on steroids. 

Perusing TikTok, I notice how numb I have become to the relentless advertising: “ list linked below!” “You NEED this…” “Stop scrolling and add this to your cart ASAP…”

I opened the app just now while writing this. Five consecutive videos were either formal ads or regular people advertising something. The latter group could be posing with products for a number of reasons: They may earn a commission if you purchase what they recommend, they could be hoping the brand will strike up a UGC deal with them (User-Generated Content: a “real people” advertising style that many companies are utilizing to target potential customers in a more casual manner), or they may simply be wanting to share their “secret/miracle” products with aspirations of going viral.

Is This the Future? Normal People Just Influencing Each Other To Buy Things? 

We are constantly inundated with must-have products, 12-step skincare routines, and rapidly rotating trend cycles. Did anyone actually keep up with the Strawberry-Cottage-Tomato-Fairy-Core trends that came and went this summer? If you have no clue what any of that means, consider yourself lucky. You likely blinked slowly and missed some of the aesthetic crazes that swept the internet this past year. They are known as “microtrends,” another consumerism trap by TikTok. Microtrends are where fast fashion brands thrive: Companies like Shein and Princess Polly act quickly and deliver cheaply made, on-trend products almost immediately after the trends’ inception.

It seems impossible for this product-obsessed online culture to become any more extreme, and it’s unknown how much more of it women can emotionally or financially take. There is murmuring of dissent already: It seems others are beginning to find the product-mongering behavior of an endless number of influencers tiresome. More and more videos are popping up lately where viewers criticize influencers for being “unrelatable” while flaunting their shopping hauls. As warnings about the bad economy and inflation flood our news feeds and more folks tighten up their wallets, Amazon Storefronts and affiliate links seem tone-deaf. The perfect salon blowout and Dior Saddle Bag aren’t quite as alluring in the current climate of economic fear we find ourselves in.

Being shown designer items repeatedly online, suggesting they are belongings the average girl should have, leaves many feeling they are somehow less-than if they don’t own one.

Perhaps, like in the case of the Saddle Bag (a purse made by Christian Dior starting at $2,700 and touted by many “fashionable” women online), we are tired of being shown seemingly normal, non-celebrity women who own an accessory that costs more than two months’ rent. It can be fun and fantasy-esque to admire a designer item on a celebrity, or to see a logo-clad pedestrian on a summer vacation to Los Angeles, but being shown them repeatedly online, suggesting they are belongings the average girl should have, leaves many feeling like they are somehow less-than if they don’t own one or something of the sort. 

As fashion and social media barrel at warp speed in an unknown and unsustainable direction, maybe this is your sign to split off and spend some time on your personal finances. 

Being Money Smart Is the New Status Symbol

I know, the thought of personal finances makes you want to start scrolling TikTok immediately, and the reason why is learning about finances is boring, hard, and scary. 

In reality, education takes all of the fear out of finances and learning something new is hard (but so is mastering winged eyeliner, and you did that didn’t you?), but it stops being boring once you have assimilated the information and understand how to take action.

With all the advice out there in the financial sphere, and so much of it conflicting, it’s tempting to say, “Why even bother! I’m young! I can do this later!” 

Regardless of your age, you will never regret planning for your future and being aware of how money flows in and out of your accounts. So much of the advice given to us about personal finance is fear-based: “You need to save it for a rainy day! In case you lose your job! In case you get in an accident! In case of a recession!” Blah, blah, blah.

Money management could be fun and creative if you approach it with positivity and excitement. Learn about your finances because you want to be able to impress your future husband on a date by intelligently discussing Roth IRAs with him. Learn because your promotion/big break/first acting role is coming next year, and you need to learn how to handle all that money before the first deposit hits. Or learn because Elle Woods (or insert your personal film icon here) most definitely was financially savvy, and just as she is your fashion role model, she could be your wallet’s role model too.

Approach your checkbook-balancing journey like an adventure, one that will make you smarter and hotter, and your future self so proud of you. So instead of perusing TikTok Shop tonight, here are three ways to start your personal finance journey: 

1. Read I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi 

Ramit Sethi’s book remains a staple recommendation for any beginner’s finance journey. Business Insider listed it at the top of their 19 Best Books to Read for Personal Finance in 2023.

After reading a handful of money management books, the second edition of this one is by far my favorite. It’s easy to read yet in-depth. You will feel inspired while reading it, not overwhelmed or afraid. 

In Sethi’s book, he details a six-week plan to automate your finances. He explains how to optimize your credit cards, even giving exact recommendations and sharing which ones he personally uses. From there, his chapters focus on debt, savings accounts, and investing. Each section ends with a list of action steps to take before moving forward.

His philosophy is that most people agonize over which moves to make with their money, and as a result, end up doing nothing, stuck in analysis paralysis. Sethi encourages you to take informed action and be satisfied with it, so you can avoid driving yourself crazy obsessing over the "perfect” thing to do. 

Even if you have never heard of a Roth IRA, 401k, or HSA, reading Sethi’s book will make them all feel well within reach to you. 

Every time you splurge on your present self, invest the same amount into your future self as well.

2. Be Aware of Your Current Finances (Since “Budgeting” Is a Boring Word)

I used to subscribe to the belief that I shouldn’t worry about money, and that it was okay to swipe my card when I felt like it because I was showing the Universe I have a wealthy mindset. In my head, I was saying, “Hey, Universe! Look how carefree and non-stingy I am with my money! Bring some more to me!” Manifesting, duh!

To a degree, I still believe this. I love to splurge on high-quality items I believe will increase my happiness. However, I have realized that excessive spending is actually a low-vibrational way to live. Releasing money too easily, on things you don’t 100% enjoy or need, brings you down energetically.

High-vibrational money habits include: knowing where your money goes, allocating it happily to things you want and love, and saving when you could go without. All of these habits create a mindset where you appreciate and honor the resources you have.

3. For Every Coffee or Lunch You Buy Out, Challenge Yourself To Deposit the Same Amount into Your Investments 

Too often, money advice starts with: “Make coffee at home! That $3.50 you spent on your blonde roast (or one pump caramel macchiato with extra whip) you could be investing!”

Yawwwwnnn! Where is the fun in growing your accounts if you can’t pick up a latte when you want to? Instead of depriving yourself, make a goal that every time you splurge on your present self, you will invest the same amount into your future self as well.

We often think investing is only for people who have a lot of money and time to do it. When you’re beginning, it’s not about the amount you invest, it’s about the habit you create. Even contributing $5 per month to start will build a healthy mindset around managing your money. 

Closing Thoughts

Don’t let the current internet culture fool you: You can’t buy your way to the perfect life. Personal finance and being savvy with your hard earned money is important. The more excited you get about your investments, the less enticed you will be by the temporary dopamine rush of purchasing something unnecessary. The goal is not to snub all material items and obsess over every dollar; it’s about showing yourself some respect and honoring the hard work you do to earn those dollars.

Sethi calls it a “rich life,” when you care for your money, and can then splurge occasionally on things that make you feel alive: vacations, shoes, lots of dogs, or just peace of mind with a juicy savings account. 

Let’s quit making all of these influencers rich and instead concentrate on our self-worth and growing our own bank accounts. 

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