Have you ever felt pressured into spending money just because you didn’t want to miss out on an experience? I’m going to guess that almost everyone answered with a resounding “yes,” and I am right there with you.
Here’s an example…Garth Brooks did a nine-concert stand here in Edmonton, and it was all everyone could talk about for awhile. Am I a Garth Brooks fan? Nope. Did I almost convince myself I should buy tickets to the show just because EVERYONE else was going? Absolutely! But I was talked off the Ticketmaster ledge by my more rationally-minded (AKA more country music-hating) friend. Was everyone currently raving about how incredibly awesome every single show was and posting endless shots to social media? Heck yes. Am I sad I didn’t get to experience it? Not so much.
I find that more often than not, you aren’t really that disappointed when you don’t get suckered into missing out on something you didn’t have much desire to do anyway. If you desperately want something, then yes, do everything you can to make it happen. But if you’re feeling indifferent to something, that’s a sure sign it doesn’t deserve your hard-earned dollars.
Fear of missing out is a thing — it has its own acronym (FOMO). Search #FOMO anywhere on social media, and you’ll get inundated with results. RateHub actually completed a study just last year, and discovered some pretty staggering results:
- 26% of Canadians have experienced FOMO (and that jumps to 48% when you focus just on millennials)
- 70% of Canadians believe 25% of their debt is because of FOMO
- 50% of millennials feel FOMO when on social media
Humans are competitive. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given our mild obsession with handing out awards and playing (or watching) professional sports. Being the best used to be a matter of life or death (way, way back when), but those survival instincts have stuck with us even though the stakes aren’t so high. Now it’s almost the opposite…we push ourselves so hard to live up to the ideals set forth by people we might not even know that it affects us emotionally, physically, and financially.
The stat from the above survey results that really stands out to me is that 70% of Canadians can attribute 25% of their debt to FOMO! Going into debt just to keep up with your friends, neighbors, internet acquaintances, or whoever is not ok. Let’s all make a deal right now that we’re not going to do that anymore, okay? Spending money that you should be saving is one thing, but charging a FOMO experience to your credit card is bad news. Not only will it cost you the upfront charge, but factor in the 18%+ interest rate you pay, and what you’re paying is going to increase each month you can’t catch up. It’s not worth it, and I can promise that you’re going to regret it in the long run.
It’s not just about money, either. People (myself included) are hooked on social media and being up-to-date on all the latest news. FOMO can lead to unrealistic expectations of what your life should be. Everyone knows that no one’s life is as perfect or exciting as it seems to be on Instagram, and yet we still compare ourselves to all those edited posts of other people’s daily lives. Just take a gander at your own posts — is it an authentic portrayal of how you live or what you do? Or is it more likely a recap of the highlights with none of the lows? I have no problem with people posting those pictures, but I just have to remind myself that everyone is in the same boat and only lets you see what they want you to see…so stop comparing!
How to overcome FOMO
Turning off your fear of missing out and keeping your focus inwards is no easy task, but there are a few things you can do to keep yourself on track.
1. Set Goals
Specific savings goals are a savior for me when it comes to sticking to a plan. I need something to look forward to and something to put my money towards, otherwise, I end up spending it on random things or experiences I don’t even really want (e.g. Garth Brooks tickets). If I can say to myself, no Sarah, if you spend your money on this stupid thing, you won’t be able to do this super awesome thing in the future, I’m way more likely to stay strong.
Having a stable budget can also help dissuade you from spontaneous spending. If you know you have a set amount of money to spend on entertainment, clothing, food, etc., then you’ll know when you can and can’t afford to splurge a little.
2. Take a Social Media Vacation
Being flooded with people talking about an upcoming concert or wearing an article of clothing you just HAVE to have is not going to help you convince yourself to go without. Give yourself a break and do something to distract yourself (that doesn’t involve spending money). Take your dog for a walk, have a nice long bath, read a book, binge watch a new TV show…distracting yourself is key. And turn off your phone, even if it’s just for a few hours. Not seeing the notifications going off will make it easier to stay checked out.
3. Read for Inspiration
Have you ever read a book on personal finance and been suddenly inspired to cut your spending and start saving for retirement? *Hands up!* This happens to me all the time, and not even just for money. I’ve read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and had dreams of becoming a marathon runner (okay, not entirely, but I did run way more than my norm) and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo had me cleaning out my closet before I finished the first chapter. Sometimes a little push from a good book is all you need to change your mindset.
4. Find Like-Minded Friends
The biggest influence on your spending habits is often your friends, and this is particularly the case for millennials. Frugal friends will almost always mean you spend less. Now, I’m not suggesting you banish all your friends and attempt to make new, less-spendy ones, but maybe try and come up with different things you can do together that cost less. Instead of always going out for dinner, how about hosting a girls’ night in?
Do you guys find that the fear of missing out impacts what you do? Or have you figured out ways to cope with it?
Sarah is a Canadian personal finance blogger over at Smile & Conquer. She has been working in the world of finance for almost a decade and uses that experience to help other millennials get smart about their money.
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