For the last 15 months, we’ve been paying off our $84,000 of consumer and student loan debt. We’re $60K down, and have $24K to go. It’s been a combination of hard, easy, fun, annoying, and exhausting. There are times I wish we hadn’t taken out the loans, but I know we wouldn’t have the jobs and friends we love without them. So even in the arduous task of paying them back, I’m grateful.
In paying off our student loans in such a short amount of time, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and our culture, that I may have never seen without this journey. I’m more aware of what I enjoy, now that I don’t mindlessly consume, and I’ve discovered a whole new skill-set that’s giving me life! I’m also more aware of people’s poor spending habits, especially my friends.
First, you should know I friggin love my friends; I don’t have siblings, so I consider them my family. I’ve kept my best friends through college, marriages, moving hours away, and (so far) a pregnancy! (Not mine.) We’ve had our disagreements in the past, but for the most part, they’ve been a joy to have in my life.
They’re also adventurous, and like nice things. We used to share trips to theme parks, road trips, dinners at new restaurants, and fancy lattes at hip coffee shops. It was all lots of fun, but it all cost money, and our priorities have changed.
But just because we’ve changed, doesn’t mean our friends have. And what used to be tags on Facebook and Instagram turned into a bad case of FOMO, and me, balling my eyes out over a picture of doughnuts. (There may have been more to that story, but you get the picture.)
See, another thing we have in common is that they, too, have student loan debt, car loans, and credit cards. And it makes it even worse knowing I make more money than some of them. So here I am doing dishes, by hand, on a Friday night, while they’re taking trips, seeing movies, and racking up bar tabs.
So I unfollowed them on Facebook and Instagram. I don’t have a Snapchat, or I’d unfollow them there, too. I didn’t de-friend them — we’re still friends online and in “real life.” And I guess it’s a good thing I don’t think they read my blog, because I didn’t tell them I did this. I didn’t hash it out with anybody, or try to get them to change — I just hit unfollow. In the future, when seeing their insta-worthy lifestyles doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out, I’ll follow them again, but for now, ignorance is bliss.
Now, I don’t see where they’re spending their money, and it doesn’t make me jealous. Scrolling my Instagram feed doesn’t feel like a constant reminder that I’m not “living my best life” now (even if it’s by choice). So if your friends are jet-setters, foodies, fashionistas or over-sharers, I give you permission to unfollow them. You can still be great friends without subjecting yourself to GOMO (Guilt of Missing Out), and I your relationships may even improve as a result.
Unknowingly, our friends seem to have turned into mini commercials for businesses and products with every post and check-in. Do you think it’s coincidence that social media marketing budgets have doubled in the last two years? Companies spend billions of dollars on advertising via social media. For the most part, we’ve learned to tune out ads as a necessary nuisance to enjoy a free service. But when it comes to our friends, whom we love and we want to be more like, we care about the products they’re using, and what they’re wearing. But it’s not unreasonable to unsubscribe from emails to stores you like so you’re not tempted to spend money there. So if your friend does a lot of stuff you wish you could do, but don’t have the money for, why can’t you unsubscribe from them?
Maybe it’s better for you to hit unfollow then be constantly tempted by their “advertisements.”
Companies are intentionally spending more on “word of mouth” marketing, meaning they’re offering freebies for check-ins or pay regular people with moderate followings to take pictures and talk about their stuff. It’s a great strategy (I’ll post whatever you want for a freebie!), but if it’s causing you to stumble in your finances, that’s no good.
Be cautious out there, friends; it is possible to separate business from pleasure. If you have a goal, do what you need to do to get it done, even if that means cutting some virtual chords to ease the pain. It’ll all be worth it in the end when you’ve got money in the bank, and maybe even get unfollowed yourself.
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