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.