Are you dreaming? 3 Ways to Avoid Overspending, Money News

NEW YORK — Beth Martin may be a designer in Charleston, South Carolina, but in her mind she is in the south of France, touring an 18th century castle.

On real estate site Zillow, Martin tends to pause, procrastinate, and wonder what she would buy if money were no object.

“I’m not really going to buy all this stuff, whether it’s an A$11 million (S$14.8 million) house or a $30,000 vintage Hermes bag,” laughs Martin, 40. “But I do like to watch my daydreams.”

Martin is certainly not alone. There is even a term for her hobby: ‘Dreamscrolling’, according to financial services provider Empower.

Empower’s new research shows that Americans spend 2.5 hours a day, or 873 hours a year, window shopping and staring at dream purchases.

“It’s an outlet for everything they dream of: imagining their ideal retirement, looking at homes, choosing vacation destinations,” says Rebecca Rickert, head of communications at Empower.

It’s the opposite of “doomscrolling,” the term popularized by Canadian journalist Karen K. Ho at the height of the Covid pandemic.

Because we all absorb so much bad news throughout the day, Ho — now a senior writer at ARTNews — became known as the “doomscrolling reminder lady,” telling people to put down their phones every now and then. Ho suggests that we should also be careful about dream scrolling. As fun and distracting as it may be, we can’t spend the entire day in a dreamy haze exploring Bali or luxury bathroom renovations.

“It’s worth remembering that real life is messier than whatever people dream,” she says. “Homeowners dealing with interest rates or failed renovation projects; travel influencers struggling with loneliness, burnout and constant logistics; fitness influencers with body dysmorphia and endless, restrictive diets.”

As long as you don’t cross the line, the Empower research shows that dream scrolling can be a positive thing: defining what we want in life and envisioning action. 71 percent of respondents said dream scrolling motivated them to achieve their financial goals, Rickert says.

Some of the most common things we crave: shoes and accessories (49 percent), tech gadgets (30 percent), home decor and furniture (29 percent), vacation destinations (25 percent), beauty or self-care products (23 percent) and homes or apartments (21 percent).

Here are three ways to avoid overspending for the dreamers among us.

Define borders

If you browse through houses or holiday destinations to de-stress after a hard day at work, that’s fine.

But you may want to scale back your online time if those short breaks start to last several hours each day, hurting productivity. Members of Generation Z do this the most, spending more than three hours a day dreaming.

“It’s always worth setting time limits on social media apps like Instagram and TikTok, and thinking about whether browsing Zillow is fun or stressful,” says Ho. “It’s also worth remembering that the people creating travel and real estate content have very specific goals and motivations: likes, shares, subscribers.”

Make a concrete plan

Let’s say dream scrolling has led you to actually want to make a certain purchase or experience. Where the rubber meets the road, steps are taken to get there.

“The most rewarding thing you can do is use a dream as inspiration for an actual plan to do something,” says Ho. “Find out how much money and energy is needed, and then go through the process of saving and the work involved,” says Ho, who used this framework to plan a trip to France with her mother in September.

Put the trigger finger away

Save your dream purchases for future use by keeping an item in an online shopping cart or keeping an open tab.

Don’t get carried away and click ‘Buy’ immediately, because according to the Empower survey, the average cost of all impulse purchases is a whopping US$86,593.40.

That could obviously put you in a deep financial hole. So look, but don’t buy until you think about it and look at the numbers.

“It’s the era of the abandoned shopping cart,” says Rickert. “In fact, nearly a third of people said dream scrolling helps them avoid unplanned purchases. It helps them figure out what they really want.”

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