The fear of missing out, or otherwise known as FOMO, is the concept that we might lose out on something better than what we’re already doing. Unfortunately, when people have FOMO, they tend to forget about the cost associated with the activity they’re so eager to participate in. For example, if you’ve been fawning over your friends’ Maui vacation photos that are all over Instagram, think about the fact that their trip probably came with a hefty price tag.
FOMO doesn’t have to ruin your finances. While no one can completely avoid the fear of missing out, here are a few steps to take that can help you combat this feeling (and hopefully keep you from breaking the bank):
STEP 1: SCHEDULE EVENTS AHEAD OF TIME
FOMO is likely to strike when you have an open schedule. If it’s Friday afternoon and you have the entire weekend free, it could be tempting to schedule a spontaneous weekend getaway. Not only will the logistics of putting together last-minute plans create a lot of difficulties, you may also eat up your entire weekend chasing after an elusive “better” activity that doesn’t exist.
Instead, schedule events ahead of time. Creating your schedule in advance will give you something to look forward to, and more time to budget for the costs associated with your plans. Looking forward to a future event will give you more satisfaction than partaking in activities on a whim.
STEP 2: TAKE A VACATION FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
When you’re focusing on your own life, there’s no time to worry about what you may be missing out on. Participating in a social media fast gives you the opportunity to prioritize your own life and not worry about what others are doing.
Taking a vacation from social media will give you the freedom to focus on your own goals and spending habits.
STEP 3: ONLY CARRY CASH
A last-minute invitation to a swanky night club isn’t as appealing if you have to drink water or find the closest ATM on the way. Carrying cash forces you to prioritize your spending and plan ahead. If you only bring a certain amount of cash out to spend, you may eliminate the temptation to make poor spending choices.
STEP 4: UNDERSTAND THE OPPORTUNITY COSTS OF PARTAKING ACTIVITY
Economists refer to FOMO as opportunity costs, or the loss of a potential gain, caused by the erratic changing of plans to participate in another activity. More than likely, the last-minute change of plans will cost the participant (both in money and in emotional turmoil). However, what makes opportunity costs so devastating is that participants feel as though the stakes are high. Due to this feeling, they feel pressure to make the “right decision” as opposed to enjoying what they’re currently involved in. This feeling of pressure leads to erratic and unnecessary spending.
To help you conceptualize opportunity cost, people who suffer from this often fear they’ve selected the wrong option and that they’re missing out on the greatest opportunity of all time. Therefore, they’re willing to spend whatever amount of money they need to, to participate in the “greatest opportunity.”
Next time you start to feel flustered by the choices set before you, evaluate each opportunity and acknowledge the costs associated. Recognize that the stakes aren’t as high as they seem. If you decide you don’t want to miss out on a more expensive opportunity, give yourself time to determine how you’ll afford to participate. Consider what sacrifices you’ll have to make in your budget to accommodate your choice.
A great example is Friday Happy Hour. If your co-workers go to Happy Hour every week, and you want to join them, start to consider what sacrifices you can make to accommodate your desire. Perhaps you can start packing your lunch instead of eating out, so you can save for Friday Happy Hour.
As you address your fear of missing out, remember: the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Embrace all the wonderful opportunities, consider them, choose your preferred option, and avoid FOMO. This will not only help you from second-guessing your choices, but it will also assist in keeping your finances intact.