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Keeping Up Appearances: Investigating How Self-Perception Shapes Spending Patterns

Posted by Arya Chatterjee

March 22, 2024

This could be the hidden truth behind your financial choices.

Beyond the world of numbers and spreadsheets lies a realm where our beliefs about ourselves shape our spending habits and consumer choices. Self-perception acts as a silent but powerful orchestrator of our final decisions. From the allure of luxury brands to the appeal of social media validation, our wallets often dance to the tune of our self-image. 

Today, we’re embarking on a journey to unravel this intricate relationship between personal identity and spending patterns, where perception is not just reality but the driver of our fiscal choices. 

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Mirror, mirror on the wall: The influence of self-perception

Have you ever wondered why some people love to flaunt their luxury purchases while others prefer the charm of shopping from thrift stores? The answer lies in how we see ourselves. A study by the National Library of Medicine showed that individuals with a strong desire for social status and prestige are likelier to splurge on conspicuous consumption, aiming to signal their elevated societal position. This “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality can often lead to extravagant spending on items that serve more as status symbols than practical necessities. 

According to a report by Frontiers, even though the global luxury market declined by 12.6% in 2020, the gradual resumption of worldwide travel and social activities in 2021 increased luxury sales by 20% to $63.3 billion, surpassing sales levels in 2020 and 2019. Additionally, they break down the strong consumer demand for luxury brands into a two-dimensional framework, including social and personal perceptions. Whether buying that designer handbag to feel more fashionable or upgrading to the latest smartphone to appear tech-savvy, our spending habits are deeply intertwined with our perception of self-worth. 


The founder’s dilemma: Navigating self-perception in business

Entrepreneurs, particularly startup founders, are not immune to the influence of self-perception on spending habits. They often find themselves straddling the line between personal identity and professional aspirations. 

On one hand, founders may aspire to splurge on lavish office spaces to give potential investors and clients an image of success. On the other hand, this can drain precious resources allocated to core business operations. The temptation to maintain appearances can sometimes cloud judgment, leading to financial splurges prioritizing image over business sustainability. 

Another area budding startups blow their cash on is hiring prematurely. Startups make the mistake of hiring unnecessary or underutilized personnel to get their revenue flowing, especially for revenue-generating roles like marketing, accounting, or sales. This can easily be remedied through outsourcing, especially for finance and accounting functions, which makes for a cost-effective solution. 

Many founders fall prey to vanity spending, highlighting the delicate balance between self-perception and fiscal responsibility in the entrepreneurial world. 


Talk to us about how Escalon’s essential business services can help your startup scale faster.


The social media mirage: Perceptions in the digital age 

The pressure to maintain a particular image is more pervasive in a world driven by social media. The difference between online and offline personas is ubiquitous. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook have become virtual stages where individuals flaunt their curated versions, complete with luxury vacations, gourmet meals, and designer outfits. 

Gitnux notes that 60% of people using social media reported negative impacts on their self-esteem, and 80% reported that it is easier to be deceived by others through their online persona on social media. This constant exposure to carefully curated lives can fuel feelings of inadequacy and FOMO (fear of missing out), prompting individuals to overspend to keep up with their online peers. 

Moreover, the rise of influencer culture has further blurred the lines between authenticity and aspiration. With influencers promoting products and experiences with the promise to elevate one’s lifestyle, consumers often find themselves caught in a toxic loop of comparison and consumption, chasing an elusive ideal fueled by their self-perception. 


The path to financial empowerment: Rethinking self-perception 

Amidst the allure of overconsumption and the pressure to maintain appearances, there lies an opportunity for individuals to reclaim control over their financial destinies by mindfully analyzing their self-perception. 

One of the greatest approaches is to be mindful of their spending habits, where individuals align their purchases with their values and long-term goals rather than in-the-moment urges for social validation. By cultivating a deeper understanding of what brings you fulfillment and happiness, you can break free from the shackles of materialism and hegemony and embrace a more authentic and sustainable approach to consumption. 

Financial education also plays a crucial role in empowering individuals, entrepreneurs, and others to make informed decisions that align with their self-perception and long-term aspirations. As an entrepreneur, you can foster a culture of financial literacy, even amongst your employees, by arming yourself with the knowledge and skills to maintain your finances effectively. 


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The road ahead 

In the intricate dance between self-perception and spending patterns, perception often steals the spotlight, dictating the rhythm and tempo of our monetary decisions. Whether you’re an entrepreneur navigating the founder’s dilemma or a consumer grappling with the social media mirage, understanding the interplay between personal identity and fiscal behavior can carve a successful path toward financial empowerment. 

So, the next time you consider buying the newest Louis Vuitton bag or those Apple AirPods, take a moment to reflect on the underlying motivations driving your decision. Are you seeking external validation or investing in a version of yourself that aligns with your actual values and aspirations? Remember, true wealth lies not in the possessions we amass but in the authenticity of our self-perception and the wisdom of our financial choices. 

Want to know more? Since 2006, Escalon has helped thousands of startups get off the ground with our back-office solutions for accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, HR, payroll, insurance, and recruiting — and we can help yours, too. Talk to an expert today.


Arya Chatterjee
Arya Chatterjee

Arya Chatterjee is a freelance writer and consultant from Mumbai. With a background in journalism and over five years of creative writing experience working with legacy media like Architectural Digest and Femina India and brands like The Label Life, and Macy's, she crafts unique and compelling stories that engage the readers. She enjoys writing about health, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle and exploring the symbiotic relationship between thriving businesses and happy employees through her writing. She is always looking to explore new avenues to expand her creative energy.

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