Pinterest: Harmless Fun or Enabler?

I’m pretty sure the entire world is using Pinterest. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s like a giant virtual corkboard where you can “pin” the things you find online - cat pictures, inspirational quotes, DIY projects, recipes, and even products you like. Other people can view your board and re-pin the items you’ve selected onto their own boards. Such a simple concept, yet Pinterest has become a serious addiction for many of my friends. And while I did break down and open a Pinterest account a few months ago, I have never ever used it.

I can picture the way some of you might have just reacted in your heads. But Pinterest is so FUN! If you’d just try it, you’d love it! Everyone is on there! It’s so easy to use! I’ve heard all those things and more from my friends. I love technology as much as anyone, but there’s a very simple reason why I refuse to embrace Pinterest.

For a spendaholic in remission, Pinterest is like a massive buffet to a starving man.

Five years ago, I had dozens of bookmark folders in my web browser. Each one was filled with various categories of things I wanted to buy. I had folders for shoes, furniture, home decor, kitchen appliances, handbags, and even one for pictures of cute puppies. (For those who don’t know, I’m on my way to becoming a crazy dog lady.)

When I felt stressed, I would inevitably start opening those bookmarks to look wistfully at the beautiful items I coveted. If something was sold out or discontinued, I remember actually feeling sad as I deleted the bookmark and kicked myself for not buying it sooner. I was utterly obsessed with owning every single item on my list - most of the time I would comfort myself by ordering JUST ONE ITEM. Well, maybe two. Or three.

At the time all this was going on, I was fresh out of Chapter 7 bankruptcy. And it didn’t even take a year to end up back in debt, with every single credit card I’d gotten “for rebuilding my credit” maxed out again. In fact, I just finished paying off the last one 7 months ago.

What Does This Have to do With Pinterest?

The concept of Pinterest is pretty cool. For me, though, it’s a total flashback to all those bookmark folders. Humans are visual creatures, and some of us (raises hand) are strongly triggered by easy access to pictures of things we want. The few times I’ve looked at my friends’ pinboards, I’ve seen all kinds of stuff that caused a kneejerk “I NEED IT!” reaction.

If I used my Pinterest account, I can tell you what would happen. I wouldn’t start out pinning a bunch of stuff I wanted - I’d be much too vigilant for that. But after awhile, all those snazzy song lyrics and internet memes would function as a gateway drug. First would be a picture of a room I thought was pretty. Then a lamp or mirror that would look so cute in said room. Within a few months I’d be redecorating my entire house, courtesy of my recently paid-off credit cards. And I’d probably have a brand new wardrobe to fill my empty closet.

Stick a Pin in This!

Some of you may think I’m nuts. But those with a spending problem know exactly what I’m talking about. And I’d bet money that at least a few of you have made a purchase based on something you saw on Pinterest.

I’m not saying Pinterest is horrible, or that you shouldn’t use it. But be careful not to let the obsession take over your life. Sometimes we spend so much time dreaming about the things we want, we lose track of the things we already have. If I wanted to fill a corkboard with pictures of awesome things, I could do it without even leaving my house. But try telling me that if I’m spending my time looking at what everyone else has - or even just what they wish they had.

Do you use Pinterest? How do you quell the urge to make every craft, try every recipe, or buy every amazing product? Have you ever spent money as a result of looking at your (or someone else’s) Pinterest board?

  • Dave Hilton

    I’ve noticed all these websites & programs designed to “help” us are actually making things worse. I think I’d be more productive if I became a luddite.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Isn’t that the truth? There’s so much technology involved in my everyday life, I’m not sure I could function without it. I had to download a program to block all the other programs on my computer for those times when I need to get some actual work done. Something is wrong with that picture!

      • Savvy Scot

        Totally agree.. furthermore, the amount of interaction through clicks is increasing, yet the written communication is decreasing - let me explain. People used to comment or text or instant message. Now they upload pictures or ‘like’ statuses or ‘share’ others work. Now Pinterest is even more visual. Technology is making us increasingly lazier!

        • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

          I’ll agree with you on that one. I’ve noticed that Twitter has made me a lot more concise, which can be a good thing, but not in a conversation where I’m expected to actually contribute! I’m pretty sure I think in 140 characters or less now.

  • Anonymous

    I love Pinterest. I have tried some crafty ideas, but what makes me not waste a bunch of money is the fact that I know that I’m not truly crafty. I know that whatever I do, it will most likely not look like the picture.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I always wanted to be crafty but it never works out. I can make some killer bubble letters but that’s pretty much the extent of my creative skills.

  • Rosie_mcwhorter

    I love pinterest, but don’t spend a lot of time on it. When I do, I primarily look at the food section, because I’m always looking for new stuff to come up with, or at the DIY stuff, but I’ve been good so far and not gone crazy making stuff based on what I saw on pinterest. It has actually saved me some money though- for example I wanted a cupcake stand but didn’t want to spend 15-20 bucks on one from the store, so I searched “cupcake stand” on pinterest and found a bunch of DIY ideas and made one for about 5 bucks.

    I DEFINITELY have to stay out of the clothes, home decorating, etc sections because that’s where the temptation would set in, and I’d get myself in trouble!

    And pinterest definitely makes me feel kinda crappy sometimes- I see allt hese amazing things that people make and know that I couldn’t come close, as hard as I try.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’m glad you brought that up - it can be really depressing to see all that awesomeness in one place. One of my friends is always posting pictures of her Pinterest crafts on Facebook, and it makes me sick to see how talented she is (compared to my non-crafty self). If I had to look at that stuff for hours on end, I’d probably be so jealous I couldn’t stand myself.

  • Kara

    For me Pinterest allows me to indulge my love of all these things w/out actually spending the money. Also I’ve found a ton of great recipes and life “hacks” that have actually saved me money on Pinterest. Things like frozen crock pot meals, making my own laundry detergent, some holiday decorating ideas, and stuff like that. It’s also a nice mental break for me to just browse pretty pictures.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’ve seen some blog posts with roundups of Pinterest finds, and I have to admit some of the things people pin are amazing. I just know I personally can’t be trusted.

  • Daisy

    I use Pinterest and I was loving it for the first week and, like my love for Facebook, it completely died down. I really don’t have hours to waste away on Pinterest, and I’ve conviced that the precious hours of free time I do have could be better spent.

    However, there are lots of things on there that aren’t consumer goods. I come across the funniest pictures, cutest pictures of animals, funny sayings and inspirational pieces. You can always use a filter to JUST look at pictures of one thing, for instance, so I try to avoid the clothes section.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Ooh, that’s good to know. I didn’t know you could hide the stuff you didn’t want to see. But even so, I’m with you - I’m busy enough as it is. No time for Pinterest when I need to do so many other things!

  • Jessica Lancaster

    I completely know what you mean. I use Pinterest, but there are a few things that I refuse to pin b/c they make me want to buy more. I refuse to pin clothing or stuff I just want for this reason.
    I use Pinterest more as inspiration for things I do: photography, scrapbook (color combinations or layouts), good ideas that I like, organization ideas, etc.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I could see it being really good for people who scrapbook. Personally, I’ve always avoided scrapbooking because I could see that becoming an obsession too!

  • Rachel

    Maybe it’s just more evidence of my abnormality, but the idea of pinterest just doesn’t interest me at all.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I just don’t see the point, really. Okay, here’s all this stuff I think is cool. And here’s all this stuff my friends think is cool. Thanks, but I can find better ways to spend my time.

  • Bryan

    For my part, Pinterest kind of helps me. I’ve got a problem with wanting to buy too many t-shirts, but I’m realizing that most of the reason that I want to buy them is so people realize that I realize things that are funny or clever (I know, my head is way, way, way up my own butt, but go with me). Pinterest enables me to easily broadcast a t-shirt design that I like without having to pay money (and give up closet space) to actually purchase it.*

    *I love that this comment enabled me to write “…butt, but…”. That is all.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That’s a good point, and one I hadn’t thought of. So many of the things we buy would be WAY less cool if we couldn’t share them with other people. That’s what makes social media so addictive I think. I’ll have to ASSess this further. (Couldn’t help throwing that in there.)

  • Aloysa @My Broken Coin

    I am staying away from this Pin whatever. I’ve never heard about until a few weeks ago when suddenly everyone was talking about it. I am a very visual person so it would be a total disaster for me. I would spend and buy and plan to buy some more.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’m right there with you! We’ll boycott it together. We can be each other’s anti-Pinterest buddies!

  • JT

    My girlfriend uses it and I’m glad she does. While we have a few…err, tacky decorations from Pinterest, I will say that her cooking gets better and better by the minute from Pinterest recipes. Some of the desserts have been absolutely incredible.

    Even still, I have some reservations with Pinterest. Mostly that women now litter every Facebook feed with a bazillion pictures.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That’s a true story. Every time I see an annoying picture, I have to go to that person’s profile page, tell Facebook not to show their pictures, videos, etc., then wait for the next one to annoy me. I really wish there was a global option to see status updates ONLY. And preferably the status updates that are spelled correctly. That would make my day.

  • Well Heeled Blog

    some research says that the “gathering” aspects of Pinterest can actually save you money. I’m not sure I agree, I know when I see pictures of nice things my desire for them increases.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I saw that article and nearly laughed out loud. I’m sure Time knows way more than I do, but I know there’s NO WAY I could save money with all that stuff staring me in the face. Maybe I’m a weirdo compared to the rest of the population.

  • Earn Save Live

    I am right there with you!

    Clothes are my major spending weakness, and I’ve vowed to limit my purchases for this year. I have not joined Pinterest (and I avoid all stores) for this reason. Since I am really good at convincing myself that I “need” something, I need to keep myself out of situations where I’ll feel that way. (At least until this $25,000 debt snowball is done!)

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’ve been in a mall a few times in the past year, but only a few. I have developed some willpower (finally!) but I still don’t quite trust myself. I think I could make ANYTHING seem like a need if I wanted it bad enough.

      • Christi Frederick

        I have to stay out of the mall and stay away from catalogues, as well. Pinterest is the same. Not only is it a time sink, it opens up the “world of possibilities” as far as what I can spend money on. I’m not fully capable of saying “no” yet, so until I am, no Pinterest or shopping mall trips for me. I will have to carry my Sooverdebt graph/chart spending tree thing if I ever do go

        • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

          Haha, I printed out the pretty one and put it in my purse. I was still carrying around this tattered piece of paper that looked like it had a disease.

  • Allison

    Odor the love of Pete it is an flipping enabler. I have a love hate relationship with pintrest. I love to look but my wallet hates it.

  • Stephanie

    I think my Pinterest account is mostly full of wishes and aspirations. Recipes I want to try, home decor I want to emulate, outfits or dresses I want to look good in, wedding ideas for the wedding I may never have. I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever tried one of the recipes I found on the site. I’ll pin recipes I’ve found before to my boards because I think they’re good recipes, and I want to share them.

    Then there’s the board I’ve made about getting in shape. It’s full of ideas and suggestions. And I’ll pin inspirational quotes about running and exercise techniques, but then the next pin I re-pin is to my “Chocolate” board. That’s right, I have a board devoted just to chocolate desserts. So, really, who am I fooling?

    Also, I kind of get a weird pleasure out of seeing how many people like and repin the things I post. Like, ooh, I’m such an influencer! But not really. Everyone’s just as hooked on the site as I am. And we all just want to be/look/cook/design like the people who created the original post.

    Anyway, yeah, I definitely get hooked on the site, repinning and liking things. Sometimes I think it’s just an unhealthy obsession, sometimes I find actually good advice/tips (not just a 400th recipe for chocolate cake). I’m going to try not to go on too often (promises promises), and see if I can just use the site as motivation and bookmarking good advice, not for reminding myself of what I DONT have.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’m trying to ignore this comment because it really tempts me to go poke around a bit…. See why I said it was a bad idea for me?

  • eemusings

    Pinterest - awesome for recipes, home decor inspiration, fashion and wedding stuff.

    I’m a bride to be, but couldn’t give two sh*ts about flowers, shoes, hair, decor, stationery. I already have a great system going on Delicious for recipes. And I’m not into fashion or interiors. Plus I have too many other online distractions. I do not anticipate getting on the Pinterest bandwagon.

    That said, I keep up with industry talk about Pinterest as I work in digital and I think it’s smart to keep up to date with all the social marketing tools out there.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Good point - even if I choose not to use Pinterest, I still need to understand it. You never know how things can evolve over time.

  • Adam Underhill

    I enjoy it, but nearly as much as my wife. I have seen some success from creating additional followers from it, but mostly on the health side of my business. Also, I tend not to want, but am seeking motivation from Pinterest.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That’s an interesting way to look at it! I can see where it could work for those with more willpower than I have.

  • Mysti

    You have been tagged!!! Come visit me.

  • Anonymous

    I’m resisting joining as well. In my marketing class this week we were discussing Pinterest and it seems very similar to Tumblr to me in that it’s a lot of aspirational fashion imagery. Just what I need… Not.

    I still have a favorites tab for things I want :/ One alternatives to bookmarking your favorites it to sign up for an email alert from ShopStyle for when it goes on sale. Then you won’t have to keep checking back

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’ve just been avoiding shopping period! It’s worked out pretty well, though I still have my moments. I’m just too weak most of the time to keep from giving in. I’m trying to learn new ways to deal with stress, like playing Bejeweled until I calm down. So far so good!

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  • Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife

    I don’t even have a Pinterest account. (I also resisted Facebook until about 18 months ago… I’m usually last to the party!). I just don’t have enough time to spend hours on a site like Pinterest. I spend more than enough time in my Google reader catching up on people’s blogs!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Same here. I have to check my reader multiple times a day to avoid overload. If I ever do take a real vacation, I’ll just have to clear it out when I get back! I just figure other people must have WAY better time management skills than I do; I would never get anything done if I was pinning stuff all day!

  • Squirrelers

    Now, how do we use Pinterest to drive traffic to personal finance blogs?

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Someone pinned something of mine awhile back… It actually did send some traffic my way.

  • Stella Inchaurregui Kennedy

    I prefer piccsy to pinterest myself. Piccsy is only for pictures/images, and tends to be full of beautiful photographs, designs, and drawings. I go to it for my daily dose of beauty and inspiration and am never disappointed. Whenever I flip through my chosen piccs it always makes me feel inspired, and if I find something beautiful it’s the first place I think of where I want to share it. Also, in a pinch of boredom, looking through new posts and images is always a fun way to kill a little time.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That sounds like something I could get into, but I still think I’d end up spending my entire life there. I get addicted way too easily!

  • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

    I’m so glad it’s not just me! Even the DIY projects are dangerous for me - when I get on a DIY kick, I spend an unbelievable amount of money on supplies. I have a big 12-pane window in my garage right now that I keep saying I’m going to strip down (lead-based paint on one side) and use as a big picture frame. It’s been there for about 18 months now.

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  • Jackie

    I signed up a few days ago and can see how addicting it could be. It doesn’t make me want go out and buy stuff though, it makes me want to make stuff. Which may be worse, because that involves both time and money!

  • Anotherhousewife

    I Love Pinterest. It doesn’t cause me to spend more money because the fact is I don’t have any extra to spend. With three kids at home and one in college all of our money is spoken for! Which would explain my board titled “If I could afford to have style” I’m not a crafty or creative person. I could go into a design room and tell you what I love but give me a white wall to decorate and it will forever stay white! I do with Pinterest like I do with Pottery Barn I get the idea and figure out how I can make it happen with what I have on hand or for pennies on the dollar. I love the recipes and ideas to do with my kids too.
    I have a similar spending/shopping background as you do, so I can totally see your point. I think it just depends on where you are out discipline/budget wise. Great post.

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  • Money Beagle

    My wife has advised that I should put images in all my posts so that they can be included in Pinterest. We’ll see


    I signed up for Pinterest but was the only boy…

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      There’s a Pinterest for guys! It’s called GentleMint.