When Wang Yuan, a 27-year-old saleswoman in Beijing, fell in love with a dress, she didn’t hesitate long before buying it, although it cost much more than her budget.
“I don’t really mind if I am unable to save this month – if I hadn’t bought the dress I wanted, I would probably have spent the money on other things, anyway,” she told China Daily.
“我不是很在意自己这个月能否存下钱 —— 如果我没买那条裙子，大概也会把钱花在其他地方上的。”她在接受《中国日报》采访时表示。
Wang is just another member of a group in China given the nickname “the invisible poor”, which has become a popular phrase online recently. It doesn’t refer to poor people, but those who often spend more money than they earn. They usually live a good life and spend a lot of money on things such as clothing, a gym membership and travel. However, many of them spend all their wages every month, and some even have to depend on credit cards for daily expenses.
This phenomenon is not unique to young Chinese people, however. According to a study by US personal finance company Credit Karma, almost 40 percent of young people in the US spend more money than they actually have on things like travel, sporting events or social activities.
A major reason for this phenomenon is a fear of missing out (FOMO), according to CBS. This refers to the anxiety caused by the thought that your peers are doing better things than you are. Indeed, FOMO pushes people to keep up with their friends’ lifestyles, regardless of their financial situation.
This is further fueled by the wide use of social media, on which people tend to compare their own lives to others’, reported US News & World Report. For many people, they often feel inferior when they see their friends’ seemingly perfect lives posted online.
“It’s natural for consumers to compare themselves to their peers, especially when it comes to finances and affording the good things in life like tropical vacations and pricey dinners out,” Michelle Brownstein from Personal Capital, a US digital wealth management firm, told US News & World Report.
“消费者们自然而然地就会和同龄人进行比较，尤其是在经济和生活中的光鲜事物方面，如前往热带度假以及在高级餐厅吃晚餐”来自美国数字财务管理公司的Personal Capital 的米歇尔·布朗斯坦在接受《美国新闻与世界报道》采访时表示。
However, even if people understand that they have a problem with money, it could be difficult for them to overcome it. “People often have the misconception that they can spend now because they’ll save more tomorrow, but unless they’re making real changes, that just isn’t going to happen,” said Brownstein.
According to Time magazine, however, the key to being happy and not overspending is to focus on your own life, instead of admiring the lives of others.
“When you spend all that time staring in envy at [other people’s lives], keep one thing in mind: It’s your life you’re missing out on.”