When I was younger, my mom and I lived in one of the nicest communities in Colorado. We were surrounded by generational wealth.
There were people taking vacations to Europe regularly, and people who I subconsciously wished that I could be. We were living in this town because my mom was attending the college that was the anchor business and institution that connected almost everyone to the area.
I wanted new clothes instead of used ones. Similarly, I wanted high-end shoes instead of shoes from Payless, and I wanted trips abroad.
I went into debt as an adult as a result of my wanting what I saw other people having. As I swiped my credit card for beautiful new clothes, a trip abroad, and manicures, I would feel so rich in the moment — until I didn’t. When the credit card hangover hit me, it was fast and furious.
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Those bills were a painful reminder that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I get why people want to be like Kylie Jenner, Rob Gronkowski, and Will and Jada Smith. Their lives look so beautiful and glittery from the outside. Who wouldn’t want to walk in their shoes, even for just a day?
There was a day in college when my friends and I decided to go to the mall and go shopping.
We opened up store cards (I even remember the store) and then proceeded to shop like rock stars. Each of us spent around $1,000!
I didn’t realize that that trip would begin an adult life filled with a long list of money mistakes. It all stemmed from a wish to live someone else’s amazing life instead of my own, in which I worked at retail shops, an olive oil store, and a Starbucks.
The Widespread Effects of Celebrity Envy
We are a pop culture-driven society. In fact, many societal trends hinge on what pop culture celebrities like, love, and now show off on social media.
A 2015 Business Insider report noted that sales of gold Cartier bangles went up by a noticeable percentage after Kylie Jenner posted a picture on Instagram wearing at least four of them.
Everyone is affected to some degree by the images that we see of people that we would like to emulate. On the surface, famous people have what we are all aspiring to — wealth, control, fame, and beauty.
Most people won't buy $6,000 bracelets for their teenage daughters. But the hype did encourage some parents to write that big check, and it drove some teenagers to throw a fit when refused the money.
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How Celebrity Envy Affects My Life
I’ve experienced the impact of celebrity marketing on my life. It created a big crater in my credit score.
I enjoy social media as much as the next person. That said, I’ve begun to notice that some of my purchasing decisions that have been influenced by someone else’s gorgeous Instagram feed, awesome Facebook posts, or beautifully pinned Pinterest boards. It’s almost as if my life would be much more beautiful, organized, and stylish if I were just like Kylie, Halle, or Tyra.
Making financial decisions based on the lifestyle of such fantasy figures is a one-way street to financial ruin.
My problem wasn’t being jealous of just one celebrity. Rather, I was jealous of the jet-setting lifestyle that I saw many rich people leading. I saw JLo hanging out on yachts in Miami, Kim Kardashian shopping on Rodeo, and the Real Housewives of Atlanta roaming around on exotic islands. I wanted to be like them.
So I traveled on money that I didn’t have, living a lifestyle that I hadn’t yet earned. Once I was even told by someone who was older than me, “You young people retire first and work later.” I didn’t understand what he meant by that at that time. Now I do.
As I find myself paying off debt related to not only mismanagement of money but also fame envy, I wish I had followed some money-smart celebrities such as Amy Schumer, Marshawn Lynch, and Jennifer Lawrence. But, I didn’t.
I no longer wish to live like Kylie or any of the other celebrities I've mentioned. My goal is to live the best life that I can with the money I actually have. That’s not sexy money; it’s boring money, and that’s okay.
Tips to Combat FOMO
Just because Kylie Jenner has it doesn’t mean you need it (or can afford it). We’ve asked former strategic marketing and business consultant turned entrepreneur Suzanne Brown of Mompowerment for her top tips to avoid that awful FOMO feeling.
“Balance is all about managing all the things. If you overspend one day, you have to make up that money somehow, and this will likely take away from other things throughout the year, or force you to work even harder to make up for the money you spent,” Brown says.
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“This can unbalance your long-and short-term goals, and your FOMO will only be exacerbated. If you focus on balance, including living within your means financially, it allows you to live your life to its fullest both now and in the long term.”
What can you do about it? “Think about setting a budget for extraneous purchases,” Brown suggests. “If you have to buy gifts for someone else, consider focusing on meaningful experiences or smaller luxuries. For example, get something simple monogrammed to add a personal touch. Buy homemade truffles from a local chocolatier.”
And if you see something you want to buy, she says, “Wait and buy things on sale, not just when they are hot commodities. When you see something that you, your friends, or family would like, bide your time until you can get it cheaper, or search for cheaper prices online.”
Additional reporting by Kelly Meehan Brown.