If you want to know how I spend my money, go to Blippy.com Each time I make a purchase on my credit card, the amount I've spent and the name of the place I've spent it automatically pop up on this weird new site. Why would any sane person volunteer to publicize that information? Philip Kaplan, a technology entrepreneur and one of Blippy's co-founders, hazards a guess: "To tell people friends, acquaintances, maybe even strangers a little bit more about you."
I had a different theory. If scads of people could see and comment on what I was buying, maybe I would be shamed into spending less. Could there be a practical use for the exhibitionism and groupthink of social networking? Location-centric sites like Foursquare encourage people to blast where they are and what they're buying. But Blippy takes things to a new level, since information goes straight from point of purchase to website. You don't have to push a single button; just agree to let Blippy broadcast the details that end up on your credit-card statement. Marketers are constantly mining all sorts of consumer data, and Blippy which has received seed money from big-name investors like Sequoia Capital and Twitter CEO Evan Williams wants to help individuals start harnessing this kind of information too.
Conversations on Blippy occasionally revolve around how people should spend less for things. If you pay more than $29.99 a month for a gym membership, expect to hear about it. But more often the comments are pro-purchase. That's especially true when people opt to specify what they're buying on sites such as Amazon, iTunes and Netflix (I like The Office too!).
During my first month on Blippy, which was in beta until Jan. 14, my proclivity for eating at Mexican restaurants quickly became a topic of conversation among the strangers who started following me on the site. As I scrolled through other users' purchases, I was reminded that most people sometimes go to grocery stores instead of eating out every night. I noticed another Blippy member getting joshed about how often charges showed up from a particular bar. He bantered back that to avoid the appearance of a drinking problem, maybe he should switch to cash.
I ran my cost-control theory by Kaplan, and he said it was interesting but that he had witnessed his spending habits being swayed in the other direction. On a recent trip to Bali, he battled with a friend over who would get to pay for dinner. He wasn't being gracious. He simply wanted the Blippy community to see that he was in a cool place.
I, too, eventually found that sharing details about what I was buying only made me want to spend more. With friends on New Year's Eve, I asked to be the one to purchase a bottle of champagne. In an odd way, I felt I would be ringing in the New Year with my Blippy compatriots. And that made me realize Blippy isn't primarily about spending habits. Like any other social-networking site, it's mostly about feeling as if you're surrounded by a particular group of people even when you're not.