3 Reasons We Can't Seem to Stop Overspending

By Manisha Thakor

NEW YORK ( AdviceIQ) -- Our spending rarely keeps up with our self-perceptions. Ever set a financial goal only to find that your spending significantly surpassed your budget? When you have the best of intentions to create financial health, why is it so darn easy to sabotage your progress?

As a female financial adviser and confirmed personal finance junkie, I can give three factors fueling this all-too-common phenomenon.

1. Media images of "average lifestyles" that are anything but average bombard us 24/7/365. I love police and medical dramas on TV, but have you ever noticed how each policewoman or nurse has a fresh manicure or pedicure and a professional blow out right before arriving at her 7 a.m. shift? I didn't have hair that frizz-free and skin that flawless on my wedding day, let alone before heading out for a day at work.

Add up the costs to replicate the look of these "average" lives. My hunch is that the costs equal a total price tag 20% more than those jobs pay. With such unrealistic comparisons, any wonder we overspend?

2. Most of us were never formally taught what healthy spending looks like, so we don't realize how much we overspend relative to our incomes. I've yet to meet a single person who sits down and says, "Hmmm, how can I blow my budget?" The much more common response is a shocked, "But I was doing the same thing as everyone else."

My favorite budgeting rule of thumb comes from Elizabeth and Amelia Warren's book, All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. Their formula: 50/30/20, with each number of the formula representing the percentage of your take-home pay best put toward needs, wants and savings, respectively, in a balanced spending plan.

3. Social media creates an alternative universe where we stage our lives and share those images the same way a magazine stages a layout. So yes, a photo of an amazing brioche French toast with creme fraiche and Vermont maple syrup is no longer a photo of just a meal, but a statement of who you are.

The Internet supersizes and turbocharges the long-standing human desire to keep up with the Joneses. Often this leads us to view our lives as if we, too, watch them through a lens. What we do -- the money we spend, the experiences we have -- become the way we focus that lens to create the image of ourselves that we'd like others to see.

And if those aren't reasons enough, in today's life we are so very busy. Company in our homes requires that we shop, clean, prepare -- there's too much to do, so often going out becomes easier. That in turn can lead to ... you guessed it: overspending.

Our vulnerability to overspending strikes at the heart of our sense of worth and identity. To protect our net worth, we must learn how to value ourselves unconditionally instead of buying into the mass media notion that to improve our lives we must accumulate more stuff. Because usually what we accumulate remains just stuff.

-- By Manisha Thakor, CEO and founder of MoneyZen Wealth Management in Santa Fe, N.M., an independent boutique advisory firm focusing on the needs of high-net-worth women and families. Manisha shares her financial insights on her blog, and her work has been featured in a wide range of media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, More and Glamour. She is the author of two personal finance books aimed at women and often appears as a guest on national television. Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School, her bachelor's from Wellesley College and is a chartered financial analyst..

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AdviceIQ is a network of financial advisors that writes insightful articles for the public about investing and wealth management. All articles are edited by AdviceIQ's editor in chief, Larry Light. AdviceIQ certifies that all its advisors have no regulatory infractions.