There’s just no way around it. Envy and desire are problems that mankind has grappled with for as long as we can remember. Today, that struggle is captured most commonly in the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)–social media and the internet give us the chance to vicariously experience the curated lives of our friends and acquaintances, and to imagine what our lives would be like if only we had bought this gadget or gone to that destination. Sometimes, these fantasies are an asset, since they give us something to aspire to, but all too often they make us feel like we’re missing something. Though our lives may be rich with meaning and love, this odd, indescribable sense of lack frequently overshadows everything else and compels us to make purchases that hinder our financial well-being and singlehandedly undermine a budget. FOMO can attack from a few different angles. Here are some of the forms it might take and methods for staving them off:
Resist “one-time” offers
Businesses love to instill a sense of urgency in us by suggesting that an item will soon be out-of-stock or that a sale will only last for the next 24 hours. By doing this, they’re intentionally appealing to our impulsive desires and activating our FOMO. We’re made to believe that it’s now or never if we’re to ever find this item at such a low price, or if we’re to even have it at all. But in both of these cases, the promotion is almost always leaving out a key detail. If the item for sale is in demand–and it probably is, if it’s something you want–then chances are good it won’t be out of stock for long. And today’s 24-hour mega-sale will probably happen again in the next year or so, either at the place in question or somewhere else. When faced with the prospect of a “One-Time Offer,” it’s important to take things into perspective and realize that chances are good you’ll have the same opportunity in the near future.
Is it really “the experience of a lifetime”?
We’re always hearing catchy aphorisms about how short life is or how important it is to live in the present. These sentiments mean something, but so often they’re co-opted by businesses that want our patronage or friends who are trying to rationalize their frivolous spending habits. Remember that your friends’ lives don’t consist mostly of extravagant meals and trips to the beach, though their social media page might suggest otherwise, and that they, too, need to work for the finer things in life. Take some time to consider what it is you most want out of life, and try to work towards that specific goal. Don’t let the joys of others or tempting invitations distract you from your own aspirations.
Don’t forget to treat yourself.
So many advertisements lead us to believe that indulging is a form of self-care. And while it’s necessary to spend money on things that make us happy, it’s still possible to over-indulge. That’s why making a budget is so essential. By placing limits on the amount of money we can spend on the things we want without forbidding them altogether, a budget gives us the chance to treat ourselves both now and in the future.
Before giving in to our impulses, it’s best to step back and remember that FOMO is a distraction from the things that truly matter to us. Make a list of what you hope to accomplish in the long-term–be it over the course of the next year or your lifetime–and refer to that list whenever a potentially bank-breaking desire strikes. FOMO is something we all deal with, but there are ways to conquer it.