financial independence

Is Your Money Making You Look Fat?

We earn and spend to attract others. But could some expenditures be producing opposite effect?

Contrarian Saver is a strict no-judgement zone, so let’s start with an obvious truth. One reason why money is so important to us, is its ability to attract others. From the cliché about the guy that buys a hot car to attract all the chicks, to the vast array of expensive personal grooming that women endure to attract a man – billions are spent to impress people for romantic, social, and professional reasons.

And I am certainly not one of those people that will tell you to stop all that, that you don’t need all those things, that you should just put yourself out there unadorned, thereby only attracting “real” (whatever that is), people.

No. Spending money is, sadly, a real and often effective method that has been used for millennia to attract others. But: in some cases, we can go overboard, spending on things that repel vs. attract.

Below I have listed just a few unintended consequences where spending money can put off the very targets we seek to impress. I have personally felt all of these impacts at some time or another – turning off colleagues, employers, potential friends and romantic partners. Have you?

  • Intimidation (aka “high maintenance”): people that spend a lot to maintain themselves inevitably trigger the question “will all that maintenance by my job someday”? This can be triggered by expensive looking cosmetics, any accessory with an “LV” near it, or clothes that are just a step above your environment. The trashy laddie mags (Ask Men, Muscle and Fitness, etc.) wax non-poetic about how this can be a romantic turn-off for guys. But even in a professional environment, this could signal (or mis-signal) a demanding, hard to satisfy employee of either gender. You don’t just want to come off like a 1987 Jaguar, beautiful to behold but nightmarish to maintain, something that looks good but will ultimately just deliver heartache and frustration.
  • Camouflage: at its worst, people may suspect that your expensive accessories are hiding some dreaded flaw, or at least overcompensating. To wit: the realtor or salesperson with the big, flashy watch, desperately trying to convince prospects that yes, he or she is really successful. An overdressed or over-accessorized  man or woman in a social setting, who may look like they are using their wardrobe to hide some physical flaw. Or, perhaps most cliché of all, the man with the expensive sports car who is always suspected of using it to camouflage his “shortcomings”.
  • De-sexualization: in my observation, this is a bigger danger with men than it is with women. The most extreme is the sad case of Dr. Fredric Brandt, the famous and fabulously successful New York plastic surgeon with a million dollar wardrobe and unlined face. Ironically, all the efforts and money spent to perfect his appearance actually made it nearly impossible to attract a partner. Tragically, his spending not only de-sexualized him in the minds of others, but ultimately lead to his own demise.
  • Distraction: if people are spending just a bit too ostentatiously, don’t you begin to suspect that they are hiding real financial problems? For example, the social media “friend” furiously posting photos of exotic world travels, who we all know will never be able to afford a home so instead tries to distract from this fact with endless $199 flights to Iceland?
  • Insincerity: overdressed; overly made up; over-sharing their fabulous lives, either live or virtually. All these spending mistakes can repel people, causing them to suspect that you are too focused on the image you are creating – and making them wonder if there’s a real person under all that window dressing.

To be clear, I am not asking anyone to stop spending on appearance, impressive accoutrements, or totems of financial success. In fact, in a future post, I acknowledge the benefits of spending money exclusively to impress others.

However, one can go overboard with spending. You repel the very people you are spending to attract. And that’s an even bigger waste of resources than coursework at The University of Phoenix.

Have you ever spent money that repelled the very people you sought to attract? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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