When FOMO Strikes the Finances

It’s okay to say no.

Every new year brings about a revival of conversation and optimistic commitment to do more. Whether it’s to exercise more, eat more healthily, or spend more time pursuing hobbies, for most people I know, the annual transformation of one year to the next sparks an inherent compulsion to fill their calendars with activity.

This year, contrary to resolutions of years gone by, I’m resolving to do less, and to say “no” more often in one area that I love the most — my social life.

My boyfriend and I have a tendency to say “yes” to just about everything. Dinner out for a friend’s birthday? Count us in. Brunch on Sunday? We’ll be there. Catching a concert downtown? Absolutely. It’s not just that we’re people-pleasers. We genuinely enjoy every social engagement that we sign ourselves up for. Often, we ourselves are the catalyst of these gatherings, constantly organizing one thing or the next.

Even if we do decide to have a night in, we’re the type of people who will find ourselves out a mere few hours later because a friend had decided to go for some impromptu drinks. Call it a lack of willpower, but we love our friends. We love being social. And in the effort to please everyone, we often end up overextending ourselves, and subsequently, overspending.

We’re not heading to expensive restaurants or imbibing at swanky cocktail lounges, either. We would take dive bars over dress codes any day. But regardless of where our instinctive inclination to socialize leads us, there is still, inevitably, money being spent. Dollars add up on things that seem inconsequential at the time. With the swipe of a credit card for a reasonably priced pizza, the tap of the Uber icon on my phone, or the passing of ten-dollar bill over the bar for pint of local suds, each individual cost on its own never comes close to breaking the bank. But when the Visa bill arrives, these seemingly trivial transactions tend to add up quickly.

As a result of what some would deem as perhaps too much fun, we are learning the impact it can have not just on our own free time, but also on our wallets.

Rather than eradicate our social lives completely, this year is about striking a balance between spending time with our friends while also striking line items off our bank statements.

We realized that it wouldn’t have to be that difficult after having friends over for dinner the other night. Staying in always works out to be more cost effective, while still being an opportunity to socialize. And dining elbow to elbow with four people at a table clearly made for two taught us something unexpected that night. Our limited space and seating has its silver linings. While cramming everyone in for the occasional party won’t be an issue, we’ll be forced to be more selective about hosting friends for dinner, meaning more quality time spent with guests in the long run.

The next morning, when another couple called and asked us if we wanted to grab brunch, I forced myself to take a pause, despite an instinctive urge to say yes. Instead, I had another idea.

“What if we met you guys for a post brunch coffee instead?”

While there was a time I couldn’t fathom extracting one of my favorite parts of the weekend from my social calendar, I eventually realized that it is still possible to enjoy my friends’ company on Sunday mornings without spending as much money. The continuous rise of indie coffee shops and bakeries over the past few years makes it still possible to participate in a caffeinated weekend outing, but for a fraction of the cost.

And maybe being more strategic about outings in general would be another valuable lesson. As a ‘yes’ person, I sometimes find myself tagging along to things that may not necessary pique my own true interests. Leaving a ballet performance with a group of friends one evening, it hit me: I don’t really love the ballet. Others were going, and I love an opportunity to hang out with friends, so I bought a ticket too. But as the crowd hushed before curtain call, I found myself silently realizing that it just wasn’t really my thing. With countless other activities that I do love, why not be a little bit more selective?

It all comes down FOMO. That dark cloud that sweeps in when debating whether to hop in the shower and find something to wear, or flop on the couch and turn on the TV. The fear of missing out is an undeniable driving force behind all those times I’ve said yes to socializing. The worry of missing that “awesome night” that everyone talks about for months may sound absurd, but if FOMO is an affliction, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got a chronic case.

And with a boyfriend who is the same way, we’re the respective fuel to each other’s FOMO fire.

Learning that we don’t have to go to everything all the time, and being ok with it, will be our biggest challenge. But we both know it will ultimately be the most rewarding resolution for our finances.

Being able to say no to some things (and sticking to it) will mean saving money otherwise spent on soon-to-be-forgotten drinks or unnecessary meals at restaurants. It will eventually result in the ability to say yes to a weekend away, or something more costly that we may not have done otherwise.

But what happens the next time someone texts and wants to head out for the night when we have our pajamas on and are about to press play on a Netflix movie? Instead of thinking about the fun we’re missing out on, we’ll focus instead on the fun of what we will be doing with the money we’ll be saving. So that when our favorite bands are headlining a summer music festival in six months time, we’ll have our weekend passes purchased, guilt free.

Emily Gilbert is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto.

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