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MSE’s Academy of Money
MSE’s Academy of Money

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2 The social influences on spending

When you buy products – particularly when you’re buying something expensive – several different sources of pressure may apply to the decisions you make.

Clearly there are economic pressures. Do you have enough money to buy the item you want? What is the item worth? Do you need to borrow money or can you pay for the whole item upfront?

But there are social pressures too. Our choices of products and brands can be affected by these, particularly when the products are seen and used publicly – for example cars, smartphones and clothing.

Listen to Audio 1 and learn about these social pressures which may consciously or subconsciously affect what we buy. Then try the activity below.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 1 The modern way to shop
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Audio 1 The modern way to shop
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Activity 2 Why we buy what we buy

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes for this activity

Identify the main social influences on what we buy according to:

  • Veblen
  • Bourdieu
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Veblen refers to the concept of conspicuous consumption where products are bought as a manifestation of prosperity or to seek recognition and approval from others.

Bourdieu’s approach is that what people buy is influenced by the social class they believe they belong to or aspire to belong to. So, the purchases made are symbolic of this class and are intended to be distinguishable from the tastes and preferences of other social classes.

Do you recognise these influences within your own social group?