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Ways to chill social media’s strain on your wallet

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By Andrea Januta

Jessica Jones, 26, jokes that when she wants to spend more money, she goes on Instagram.

Jones, an at-home care provider in California, often gets the urge to buy the same shoes or makeup she sees people wearing when she scrolls through Instagram’s stream of carefully curated images. Last week, she bought a pair of Dolls Kill high heels embroidered with pink roses after seeing them on the app.

Those Instagram-inspired purchases put Jones in good company. A recent study found that 57 percent of U.S. millennials shell out money they had not planned to spend because of what they see on social media.

“Social media can be very aspirational, because people often post things that are an idealized version of what they’re living,” said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “You might get good ideas for a vacation or an outfit or jewelry, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it might not fit into your budget.”

Nearly 90 percent of millennials (ages 20 to 36) surveyed by Allianz Life Insurance Co of North America said social media pushes people to compare their wealth and lifestyle to others’. Only 71 percent of Generation X (ages 37 to 51), and just 54 percent of baby boomers (52 to 70) feel the same way.

Enviable images of other peoples’ lives used to come mostly from glossy magazines and TV, but now we are constantly getting a peek via social media.

“It can be an overwhelming influence on how you see the world,” said Paul Kelash, vice president of consumer insights at Allianz Life. “If you pay too much attention, then you might start making decisions you otherwise wouldn’t in your spending.”

DO I REALLY NEED IT?

To avoid getting into financial trouble, be honest about what is most important to you.

“Ask: Do I really need that, or do I just want it?” Kelash said.

Once that line is clearly differentiated, keep track of your budget and set goals. For the short term, that could be a vacation. A medium-term goal might be a house, while a long-term goal for most of us is retirement, he added.

The temptation to spend is partly why Joanna Zheng, a 24-year-old equity analyst in New York, recently cut back on her social media use.

“Seeing a friend (on Facebook or Instagram) who is particularly well-dressed or has a cute purse makes me wonder how I can enhance my own wardrobe,” Zheng said.

When Zheng shops, however, she rarely regrets it and makes sure to compensate in other ways. Recently, Zheng bought a pair of merino wool Allbirds sneakers for around $100 that a friend recommended after later seeing several ads on Facebook. For the next few weeks, she avoided shopping areas to stem temptation.

Advertising companies understand how powerful social media ads can be. In 2017, Facebook alone brought in $39.9 billion of revenue from ads. Companies will pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have their product mentioned in social media posts by an influencer with a large following.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, recently rolled out Instagram Shopping, which allows people to view product descriptions and pricing without ever leaving the app

Spending is also driven by posts from friends and family. In the Allianz Life survey, more than half of millennials report a “fear or missing out,” also known as FOMO. In fact, 61 percent said they feel inadequate about their own life and what they have because of social media.

To curb impulse purchases, decide ahead of time whether you are going online to shop or if you are just browsing, Palmer advises. Close out other shopping tabs to limit spending.

And rather than buying things immediately, Palmer suggests putting things in your basket to save and then revisit in a day or two. That makes it easier to take a step back and ask if the purchase fits your goals and budget.

An added bonus: Sometimes retailers will send a discount code to entice you to buy.

“It’s about separating that initial impulse to buy,” Palmer said.

(Editing by Lauren Young and Leslie Adler)

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Say hello to the iCar? Volkswagen turns to Apple for help making electric cars

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By Andreas Cremer

Volkswagen is looking at Apple products for guidance on how to style its new generation of electric cars, its top designer said, as the automaker aims to turn profits on battery-powered vehicles when they launch in 2020.

The U.S. tech giant has brought about a design aesthetic with its iPhone and iPad that set it apart from rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd; and Sony Corp and helped make it the most valuable company in the world.

For Europe’s biggest automaker, adopting simplicity as the guiding principle for future styling of electric vehicles (EVs) marks a departure from the era before its 2015 “dieselgate” emissions scandal, when vehicle design conveyed the German group’s engineering prowess and technological ambitions.

“We are currently redefining the Volkswagen values for the age of electrification,” Klaus Bischoff, head of VW brand design, said in an interview. “What’s at stake is to be as significant, purist and clear as possible and also to visualize a completely new architecture.”

With regulators slashing emissions on a fast timetable, dieselgate has also energized the costly shift to EVs that is necessary to compete in China, VW’s largest market, and to avoid future fines in Europe.

Previously a laggard on electrification, VW has pledged 34 billion euros ($42.45 billion) of investment in EVs, self-driving technology and digital mobility businesses across the group by 2022.

The core namesake brand alone will spend 6 billion euros on a new modular platform dubbed MEB designed to underpin over 20 purely battery-powered models such as the I.D. hatchback, I.D. Crozz crossover and the I.D. Buzz microbus.

Bischoff said VW will use the Geneva auto show on March 5-7 to give early guidance on what the post-I.D. generation of EVs might look like, but declined to elaborate.

Bischoff belongs to VW’s old guard, having worked a quarter of a century in VW’s design operations and the past decade as head of the core brand’s design.

He became famous through a video shot at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show that has since drawn over 2 million hits on YouTube.

It showed Bischoff being yelled at by former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who was inspecting a model by South Korean rival Hyundai and had discovered something that had displeased him.

“In the past everything was very centralized, very narrow boundaries were set on the road of success,” Bischoff said. “Today is the most exciting time of my career because I’m allowed to do things that didn’t use to exist that way.”

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‘People would die for Olympic medal, I nearly did’

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Canada’s Mark McMorris described his comeback from life-threatening injuries to the podium at the Pyeongchang Olympics as a “miracle” and said inspiring others with his story was worth more than the slopestyle bronze he won on Sunday.

Snowboarding near his home in British Columbia with his brother Craig in March, McMorris caught an edge as he took off for a jump and spiraled into a tree.

Feb 11, 2018; Pyeongchang, South Korea; Mark Mcmorris (CAN) competes in the snowboard slopestyle during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park. Mandatory Credit: Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

He broke his jaw and left arm, ruptured his spleen, suffered a pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed lung.

“People would die for a medal at the Olympics and I nearly did,” he said on Monday, a day after his medal-winning run at the Phoenix Snow Park.

“It’s definitely a miracle and I’m really thankful… to be able to motivate and inspire others – that’s bigger than any medal, right?”

Feb 11, 2018; Pyeongchang, South Korea; Mark Mcmorris (CAN) reacts after his run in the snowboard slopestyle during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 11, 2018; Pyeongchang, South Korea; Silver medalist Max Parrot (CAN), left, gold medalist Redmond Gerard (USA) and bronze medalist Mark McMorris (CAN) celebrate their victories in the snowboard slopestyle event during the medals ceremony in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Medals Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

McMorris’ remarkable comeback drew praise from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tweeted: “What a journey back to the podium for @MarkMcMorris. Mark – your tenacity and courage inspire so many of us.”

McMorris tweeted two photographs on Monday, one of him in the hospital following his crash and the other on the medal podium. They were accompanied by a caption: “Thank You Life.”

The Canadian could add yet another chapter to his success story before the end of the Games, as McMorris is seen as a gold medal contender in the new Olympic discipline of Big Air.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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Tokyo elementary school is so EXTRA AF with Armani uniforms for students

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A public elementary school in Tokyo’s upscale shopping district of Ginza has raised parents’ eyebrows with a plan to adopt uniforms designed by Italian fashion brand Giorgio Armani for its students, media said on Thursday.

Taimei Elementary School is introducing the uniforms for incoming pupils, each costing more than 80,000 yen ($729), including optional items, or more than three times as much as current ones, the Huffington Post said.

Armani’s Japan head office, located in Ginza, is just 200 meters (219 yards) away from the grade school.

“I was surprised, and wondered why such luxury brand-designed uniforms have been picked for a public elementary school,” an unnamed mother was quoted by the Huffington Post as saying.

“I’m worried that a wrong notion that something expensive is good and something cheap is bad could be imprinted on children,” said the woman, whose child is set to start at the school in April, when a new school year begins.

In a letter to parents last November, headmaster Toshitsugu Wada said Taimei was a landmark in Ginza, and the decision to adopt the Armani-designed uniforms aimed at creating an atmosphere suitable for such a school, the Huffington Post said.

Taimei officials were not immediately available for comment, but Wada posted a statement on the school’s home page, promising to provide sufficient explanation on the plan for new uniforms.

“With humility, I take the criticism that explanation has been insufficient and not well-timed. I will go on explaining carefully to those concerned.”

(Reporting by Kiyoshi TakenakaEditing by Clarence Fernandez)

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