The Fear of Missing Out Can Hurt Your Budget
The fear of missing out (also known as “FOMO”) is a social anxiety where you worry that others might be having rewarding experiences that you are not participating in. Social media and other modern technologies have made it possible to see and read details of what other people are up to at any given time. You can quickly check your phone and see that your friends, relatives, or acquaintances are at a concert, taking a fabulous vacation, driving a new car, or dining at a fancy restaurant at nearly any given time. This can result in a situation where people overspend on brand name clothes, electronics, nights out, and expensive experiences to “keep up” with what they see online. Unfortunately, this can result in financial trouble.
People are more likely to make a purchase if they see that their friends are spending money in a similar way. However, when you’re looking at social media, you’re seeing a highlight reel of everyone’s splurge activities. You’re not seeing the truth and trying to keep up with these highlights can be almost impossible.
For instance, if you see that one friend just left on an exotic vacation, another friend got playoff tickets to a huge sporting event, and a third just bought a new car, you might feel like you’re missing out or living a worse life than your peers. This feeling might cause you spend more than you can afford on a trip, tickets, or a car so you feel like you’re keeping up. However, social media doesn’t show you the rest of the story.
You don’t know whether your friends are making reasonable financial decisions, nor do you see the sacrifices they may be making to afford those purchases. This issue is compounded by the fact that you’re seeing posts from many different people one right after another when you’re looking through Facebook or Instagram. This can make it seem like everyone is spending more money than you but, in reality, it only looks that way because of how it’s presented online.
How to Avoid Overspending Due to FOMO
One of the best ways to avoid spending money you don’t have due to a fear of missing out is to remember that what you’re seeing online doesn’t tell you the whole story. Everyone’s lives look more interesting and successful on social media. Facebook, Instagram, and other social sites make us more aware of what people are doing than ever before.
To make it easier to avoid getting caught up in other people’s spending, limit your time on social media.
A good idea to follow is to not check social media first thing in the morning or right before you go to sleep. Checking in the morning sets the tone for the day while checking at night can leave you feeling down before bed. Decide on a time each day where you will quickly check what your friends are up to, and then vow to not check again until the next day. This kind of policy will leave you feeling in the know, but it won’t overwhelm you with posts.
Most phones these days have options that can restrict access to certain apps after a pre-set time limit. Use these functions if you need to so that you don’t spend as much time scrolling through your social feeds.
It’s also a good idea to unsubscribe from newsletters, updates, and deals that are emailed to you by retailers and bloggers. Seeing a constant stream of products in your inbox every day makes it much more likely that you’ll make an unwise purchase. Purge your inbox and unfollow social media “influencers” who encourage you to shop.
Finally, always think purchases through. While you can’t see the details of anyone else’s financial situation when you’re scrolling through social media, you do know the details of your own finances.
Going into debt to avoid missing out on experiences is not a wise decision. It can take years to resolve a debt problem once you have one. Don’t make large purchases on impulse. If you see something online, and then feel like you want to jump in and spend money on whatever they’re wearing, doing, or driving, take a step back. Give yourself some cooling off time and make a plan to revisit the potential purchase in a week or a month. This will keep you from spending money without thinking it through and it could help you avoid debt.