People often say they end up spending money they hadn’t planned to because of a fear of missing out (FOMO). And it’s justified because you only live once (YOLO), right?
It’s something I really struggle to wrap my head around. I have a fear of missing out on all sorts of stuff and it has long had an impact on the way I make financial decisions but not in the way you might expect. When I’m presented with last minute plans, like lunch with co-workers or a night out with friends that’s not in budget, FOMO kicks in straight away. The fear of missing out on something a hell of a lot better!
When I say it’s long had an impact on the way I make decisions, I really mean it. At around the age of 6, my dad used to occassionally give me the choice between a £1 coin and a comic book costing £1.20.
If I went for the comic, I understood that it would be all I could choose. If I took the pound, I could use it to buy anything I wanted at all, but if I later decided I wanted a comic after all, I’d have lost out on 20p.
Most of the time, I couldn’t help but think there might be something I’d want more another day. I was afraid that, by taking the comic book, I wouldn’t have enough money saved if and when I saw something more expensive that I wanted more. In summary, I guess I was afraid that I’d miss out on something better in the future by choosing to have something I wanted now.
A few years later, maybe around aged 10, I complained to my parents that we didn’t get to do cool stuff in the holidays, like going to the cinema, bowling, the zoo, theme parks etc. (We mostly did bike rides, picnics, and played games). It’s not that we never did that stuff, but it was rare.
I expected to be told off for not appreciating what I had, to receive a lecture on everything my parents did and gave up for me (I do realise and appreciate what I had now, but I was a bit brattish when I was younger). I didn’t get told off or lectured. My dad calmly asked me how many of my school friends had a holiday abroad every year. I couldn’t name a single one. Then he gave me a choice. Would I prefer that we have a family holiday each year or should we spend the money on days out throughout the year?
I do not know if he knew what my choice would be when he asked the question. But it was clear to me that missing out on awesome family holidays was never going to be worth a few better-than-average days out, even knowing I would have to wait for the holiday.
In essence, I understood opportunity cost from a young age. Spending money on one thing means its no longer available to spend on something else. I learned that I couldn’t have everything, but I could make decisions about what I did have.
Think about what you want from life, what your goals are and what really excites you. Is it a daily coffee, a Friday night takeaway, a week in an exotic destination or possibly the opportunity to work fewer hours and spend more time with family? Your goals are exactly that- yours! They may be in this list and they may not, but that doesn’t matter as long as you know what your own priorities are, you can work towards them.
Ask yourself what you’re more afraid of missing out on- those daily treats or ad hoc nights out, or meeting your life goals. This will help you say ‘no’ more easily to things that aren’t a priority. It’s not a case of never spending money on those less important expenses, but being deliberate about how often you do and knowing it could cause you to miss out on something even better.
Honestly, when I’m lying on my death bed, a few missed lunches or days without a latte aren’t going to be remembered. But the memory of toasting a long and happy marriage aboard the exquisite orient express with the man of my dreams will still put a huge smile on my face.
The choice is simple. You can miss out on various small things today, tomorrow and the next day. Or you can miss out on something that means a lot one day in your future. Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy, and those big goals only come as a result of lots of smaller sacrifices. But if you reach your true goal because of those smaller sacrifices, have you really missed out?