FOMO — the fear of missing out — is a powerful feeling. It’s defined as an anxiety that something exciting is happening somewhere that you’re not. It may sound like a benign and harmless feeling, but FOMO controls us more than we like to believe.
Many of us — myself included — have been so worried about missing out that we’re willing to spend money we don’t even have.
Expensive concerts, regular restaurant outings, and plenty of traveling are all ways to combat this fear of missing out. However, all these events that we’re compelled to go to can create big holes in our budgets.
Where it Comes From
Researchers found that FOMO is heightened through social media use. People always present their best, most interesting selves on Facebook, Snapchat and other social media applications. When you see someone’s tropical vacation or amazing lunch, it’s natural to want to experience the same thing. That’s especially the case when your own life feels so boring. All of this, however, is an illusion.
Psychologists say that people are so involved with seeing all the great things other people are doing that they overlook the things they’re enjoying in their own lives. People under the age of 30 are more affected than older people.
Making this feeling worse is that advertisers are harnessing the fear of missing out to attract customers. No matter what sort of media we consume, we get that feeling that we should be doing something else.
I know this struggle all too well. In college, I never wanted to miss a trip or a party. If I had to miss an event, I’d regret it. I’d say yes to anything, whether I had the time or money to responsibly join in. Worst of all, I felt overwhelmed by the pressure to participate in everything.
After graduation, I’d go out to restaurants all the time with my friends. It was fun to meet up, yet it was never my favorite thing to do. Still, I’d dutifully go out as much as possible even when I was struggling to make ends meet.
Mercifully, my finances never got completely out of hand. Still, it was a challenge to make sure I wasn’t in the red. I was treading water and it was all self-inflicted by paying for things I didn’t need and didn’t actually want.
That’s when I read up on the FOMO phenomenon and started to realize the problem I had.
The good news is I learned that by following four simple guidelines, I could make a big impact on both my finances and personal happiness:
1. Own Your Problem
The fear of missing out is so pervasive that most of us don’t even realize when we’re experiencing it. For me, I just had to admit that I was feeling it. Owning up to it and admitting that I’m easily influenced helped get me started in finding the balance I needed for my life.
2. Focus on Yourself
With all the exciting things people share on social media or that advertisers us with, it’s easy for our own lives to feel comparatively dull. What helped me was realizing that I have things pretty good. I have a great group of friends, and I’m lucky enough to travel from time to time.
Focusing on present experiences makes me feel a lot better. It also makes it easier to spend my money on the things I really want to do, and opens up more time for me to do things for myself. I love cleaning and organizing, so I absolutely love having time to deep clean my apartment and doing fun DIY projects for home decor.
3. Limit Social Media
I never cut off social media use completely. It’s too important to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. What I did do, however, was drastically cut back my usage. Checking in from time to time, rather than mindlessly scrolling through people who I’m not close to was a healthy decision.
4. Saying No
I’m always up for something now, but I’m now more discerning with the things I spend my time and money on. Psychology Today says it’s important to discern the difference between what we need and what we want. Thinking in those terms isn’t always easy, but it has been helpful.
We can’t have everything we want. There aren’t enough hours in the day or money in our accounts to avoid feeling like we’re missing out on something. Finding a balance between the two is the only way to find happiness.
Anum Yoon is personal finance blogger who started and maintains Current on Currency.
Photo Credit: dryhead