Practical ways to prevent overspending because of the fear of missing out

The financial cost – and the way out – of FOMO

If you’re addicted to social media networks, could you be suffering from FOMO? The abbreviation for fear of missing out, FOMO is the virtual equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses,” or competing with your friends and acquaintances for material accomplishments. Caution: if you’re a millennial (between the ages of 25 and 34), you might be particularly susceptible to FOMO. According to a recent study, 26 per cent of Canadians admitted to having it. Of those, 48 per cent are millennials.* The good news: there are practical ways to deal with the condition.

Besides the psychological pressure of measuring your life based on the content your friends share online, FOMO can make a serious dent to your wallet. Here’s how:

Flaunt fest:

Your friend posts amazing photos from her latest cruise in the Mediterranean; another snaps a video of his fine wine sipping in Napa; your cousin Instagrams photos from a book launch – your favourite celebrity releasing her novel. No matter who is in your social media circle, someone will always seem to have a more interesting life than yours at any given time. Without set physical boundaries, the virtual space becomes an open and endless exhibition arena for flaunting material success, teasing you to indulge in your own.

The cycle of inadequacy:

You know your friends’ Facebook life is not their real life, at least not the whole picture. People post selectively, oftenMillennials Fear of Missing Out highlighting the good in their lives. Despite knowing this, it’s easy to get carried away by the projected lifestyles of your social media contacts. You may feel lacking, not based on facts but on your perception of how everyone else on your social media feed is having a good time. From there, it doesn’t take too long to hop on the bandwagon to pay for your own social media promotion. See how the cycle works?

Things over people:

The more you remain glued to your tablet or phone screen, the more you expose yourself to shiny new things to aspire to – the designer clothes and accessories a friend posed in; the luxurious Hawaii trip the co-worker can’t stop raving about; the gourmet food photos another friend keeps tempting you with. As things take precedence over the people in your life, the winner is often retail therapy. The losers? Your wallet and your relationships.

Spurred by instant notifications and alerts flashing on digital screens, FOMO can easily lead to impulse spending. Many, if not most of these expenses are unplanned and unaccounted for, and over time, can add up to a lot of money – money that could have grown through investments.

If you think you might be suffering from FOMO, try these steps:

1. Break down your budget and stick to it:

Earmark a portion of your budget towards fun expenses, triggered by FOMO or not. Being conscious of how much you’re allowed to spend will help you be more realistic and cause less stress to your wallet.

2. Try sticking to cash:

Leave your cards at home. Every time you pay in cash, you will be forced to live within your means and not be tempted to overspend.

Many, if not most of FOMO-triggered expenses are unplanned and over time, can add up to a lot of money – money that could have grown through investments.

3. Schedule fun time:

Knowing when you’re going out with your friends for a movie or with your partner for dinner takes the randomness out of it. You can plan better and allocate the right amount for each scheduled expense.

4. Try to unplug every once in a while:

If your FOMO is really serious, try and get away from the blitz of social networks all together for a while. You can have a weekly social media fast; deactivate your Facebook account for a period of time, turn off your phone for a couple of hours daily, or use blocking tools to restrict your access to specific social networks. You might be surprised by how you can use up all that time productively while also preventing yourself from potential splurging.

5. Pick your splurges:

If collecting antiques is your weakness, put some funds aside for it in your budget. If you like to eat out, allocate money towards that. Identifying one or two key areas you’re passionate about can help limit you from spreading your finances too thin in trying to respond to every big and small FOMO attack.

In the end, it’s all about perspective and staying grounded. Make sure your FOMO isn’t stemming from a sense of lack in some other area of your life. Remaining conscious of your spending behaviour and focusing on the non-material things that bring you joy can help you live a full life without creating a hole in your pocket.

Bonus tip: Talk to me to learn how you can grow the money you saved using the tips listed above.