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How the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Is Harming Your Financial Goals
How the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Is Harming Your Financial Goals
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Money Management

How the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Is Harming Your Financial Goals

Doris Kendi
November 16, 2021

Has social media ever made you spend your hard-earned money on something that was completely unnecessary? 

For example, I once spent my hard-earned money on a brand new coffee machine just because I saw someone hype it so much on social media - I am not a coffee person, by the way. This coffee machine has been sitting on my kitchen counter unused for years now. 

This phenomenon is called FOMO. Short for “Fear Of Missing Out.” It is the overwhelming anxiety you get at the thought of not experiencing the exciting prospect that might be happening elsewhere. 

Social media has been the biggest contributor to this anxiety in our generation. Pictures and videos we see on social media might sometimes give us the idea that our friends might be having a more rewarding life and experiences than us. This leads to us wanting to match up, and this leads to us making terrible financial decisions.  

It is this same feeling that leads you to repeatedly check your social media to ensure that you don’t feel out of the loop or miss out on anything. It fuels the need to always feel like you are lagging behind and need to keep up. You want to keep matching up to other people’s standards so you don’t feel left out. 

 But what exactly is FOMO? Let’s find out. 

What is FOMO?

FOMO is not a new issue, and it is not only associated with this era. However, this phenomenon has only studied during the past few decades and was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. The official definition is: 

‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’

The reason it became more prevalent with the current generation is due to the advent of social media. Now everyone competes to present their ‘perfect’ life on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. As a result, your sense of "normal" becomes skewed, and in an instant, you seem to be doing worse than all your peers.

You see photos of your friends throwing house parties every two weeks, and you feel left out. After all, the last time you had a party was on your last birthday. You forget that people have different situations and life goals. 

Science associates FOMO with envy. It is a feeling that makes you feel inadequate and, in return, leads to severe cases of self-esteem issues. It makes you feel like you are lacking as a person, and there are better things you could be doing at this moment - like you are missing out on something really great that other people are experiencing at this very moment.  

This can be anything - from something as simple as a road trip to a holiday destination to owning a newer, flashier vehicle. 

Consequences of FOMO on Your Finances

We all have felt the effect of FOMO at least once in our life. It is prevalent in our times, and in fact, we didn’t even need the phenomenon to be given an official Merriam-Webster’s definition to know that it exists.

It’s the need to buy the latest designer dress to keep up with the fashion trend or the need to keep scrolling through your Twitter feed because you do not want to miss anything on that particular thread you were following from last night. It is the little things that make you feel inadequate!  

But the main impact of FOMO is felt on our personal finances. FOMO spending to keep up with our peers leads to:

Unnecessary Expenditures

FOMO will make you give in to every little impulse buy. Why? ‘Because I finally will have an iPhone 13 max pro like all my other friends.’ 

You sure do not need a new iPhone because your iPhone 12 is still barely a year old, but everyone else has upgraded to the latest brand, and you fear missing out on the experience. In return, your current or savings account suffers the consequences. This is the surest way to stay broke. 

Accumulate Unnecessary Debt

There is nothing that happens quicker and unforeseen like unnecessary debts. Do you see that ‘kaloan’ that you take to upgrade your car to a more sleek-looking one? That one will only take a few hours or days to get approved?

But what happens after? You will be stuck repaying that ‘kaloan’ for the next few years. And why exactly? You probably didn’t even need a new car, but you had to because all your peers are now driving better vehicles, and you would feel like you have failed if you didn’t buy a new one. 

Bad Investment Decisions

FOMO can also affect your investment decisions. Do you know why a certain morning radio show is so popular with the real estate gurus? Because the hosts of that morning show have mastered the art of using FOMO against you. 

You listen in on only one of their shows, and you will start putting your savings together in your head so you can buy a ‘kaplot’ in Kamulu. They bombard you with ideas and promises and make you feel like you will miss out on a lifetime investment deal if you do not invest. 

But if you have not been living under a stone, you might have already heard about the scandals that befell some real estate companies that advertised their investments on the same show.  

Therefore, do not let FOMO make you a pauper for the rest of your life. At least ensure that you are not influenced by something or someone when making crucial investment decisions. 

How to Avoid FOMO Spending

Avoid Unrealistic Comparisons

Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Don’t try to match what others are buying, where they’re traveling, or what they’re doing. Comparing yourself to other people is pointless and will only make you overspend on your money or sometimes spend money that you do not have.

It is especially imperative to note that very little on social media is real. Therefore, it is even more pointless to try to match the perfection you see on social media. 

Create a Budget and Stick to It

If you realize that you are someone who is affected by FOMO and impulse buying, a concrete monthly budget will come in handy. However, just drawing a budget is not enough. You need to be committed to sticking to it.

There are many budgets for beginners templates only that you can download and use for your budgeting. In addition, find ways that will help you stick to the budget. For example, try this 50/30/20 Rule to help you manage your finances better. 

Stop the Envy and Live Within Your Means

FOMO is fueled by envy. Aristotle defined envy as ‘a pain at the sight of another's good fortune….’

So as envy is a negative emotion, so is FOMO. Therefore, strive to keep your head level and stay away from this monster. Forget about impressing people or playing on the same ground as your peers and live within your means. You will achieve better happiness this way. 


Although it is better to aim higher and use our peers as inspiration on our journey to success, it is not always easy to keep it as an innocent motivation. 

Often, it grows into envy and creates a monster called FOMO. It becomes an obsession to want to keep up and not miss on things and experiences.

But this ends up not only hurting our finances but most times also our feelings and mental health. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what FOMO is and how you can stay away from this monster. 

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Doris is a finance professional, freelance writer and SEO expert. She has experience helping businesses of all sizes create content that helps improve their site quality and increase their online traffic. She is a personal finance and wealth creation enthusiast and a frequent contributor to Money254. Visit Doris' personal website to learn more about her work.

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