From fashion to lifestyle, from music to diet. It seems that every week my timeline is telling me something new. Idealised promotions on how the ‘perfect’ person looks and behaves lurch at me from my phone screen or the mannequins in the shop windows. Every single one brandishing its very own big shiny price tag. Ensuring that even if I wanted to conform to every single one of these trends, my bank account could not.
Why are we so tempted by fads?
I will be the first to admit that I have fallen into my fair share of fad ‘rabbit holes’. New outfits that didn’t make me feel good, diet fads that made me tired and music albums I never listened to. Hundreds of pounds thrown at an image that I will never achieve. Then there is that feeling we have if we don’t spend the money. The sickly “if” that hovers in the back of our minds. “If I had the money, I would buy all this and do all this and then I would be good enough”.
An idea created by institutions to monetise from our insecurities. Of course, the solution to avoiding the fads and spending our money is to love ourselves unconditionally. To recognise that we do not need to change ourselves and spend our hard-earned money on cheaply produced products that help us to temporarily fit a certain mould.
Easy right? Clearly no. This most likely won’t be the first article you’ve read that tells you to do so. When I am stood in the drugstore aisle I force myself to remember the epiphany I had last summer while travelling (I am aware of the cliché). In the supermarket we were met with shelf upon shelf of skin lightening products. There were oils and creams and soaps and shower gels – all claiming to make your skin lighter. That is when I realised. There is no one idea of beauty. Compare this to the fake tan products that decorate our shelves. Feeling better with a tan is something the beauty industry have managed to drill into us. Western standards of beauty have created that idea of acceptance. Yet take a 10-hour plane journey and that golden-brown skin we crave so much is being sold as undesirable.
It would be impossible to keep up with this ever-changing world, especially on a student budget. The ability to avoid the fads revolves around a need to be comfortable with ourselves and an understanding of how to be sensible with our money. Our student bank accounts have gifted us with an overdraft that we often forget is not free money. In my personal experience, I have begun to see it as an extension of my bank. I do not fear it anymore and once I am in there is no stopping me. Following the fads may start with an insecurity but has more palpable consequences on our finances than one would expect.
You are not alone
According to ‘Save The Student’ the average student spends double the amount of money on shopping on clothes than they do on course materials per month. This is illustrative of how difficult we find it not to spend our money on trends. Budgeting at university is hugely important. I would recommend making a monthly spend spreadsheet that accounts for all aspects of your expenditure. A nice aim would be £35 a month on shopping. Of course, everyone’s income is different and you will know if this is a realistic benchmark for you. Ultimately, the idea is to set yourself restrictions so that when you feel the urge to splurge on a fad then you have a sensible budgeting scheme in place.
Help is at Hand
If you want to seek any further guidance in money management whether that be in the context of shopping, household bills or your student loan then the student union does offer a money advice service as well as online tips on the website under the ‘help and advice’ heading. If you are struggling with money and it is causing you to feel uneasy or anxious do not hesitate to get in contact with these services.
Resisting the fads is a necessity, albeit one that is easier said than done. Before spending your money, critique your mindset. Ask yourself if it is really worth the money? Do you have the money to spend? While there is nothing wrong with trying new things or treating yourself, we must be mindful when it comes to what is motivating us to do so and how much we are spending when we do.