A few years ago I had absolutely no idea what FOMO even meant. I don't think it was something I ever really thought about or struggled with at all. It was something that I didn't have a struggle with until I started looking around and constantly comparing myself with others. Maybe it was just because I was self-conscious, or it could have been because I wanted to start dressing a little smarter. Whatever the reason, I found myself going shopping five times as often and buying things "just in case," "because it's a good deal," and because "everyone is doing it."
This wasn't just about clothes, either. Home accents, specialty foods, and even makeup. It was seriously getting out of hand. I felt like, since I was going to get married and soon budgeting and bills would change, now was the time to splurge on myself a bit. It started as one or two "treat yo' self" things, but then the inevitable worst happened. I got a little addicted to new things.
I fell into that pit of retail therapy, which was something I had been so fantastic at avoiding for such a long time. I had saved more money than any of my peers that I knew, and there were others things I preferred to do on a bad day rather than go out and spend more money on something I didn't really need. It never really worked though, because I would just end up feeling worse about the fact that I'd spent money in the first place.
I'm sure it's a story we've all heard by now, but I honestly couldn't believe that it happened to me.
I'd been so strict with budgeting and spending choices for so long that when I loosened the belt a notch, everything just came flying out. If I'm honest, it was my serious following of blogs and social media accounts that started it all. I wanted to be like the people I was following, even if it meant spending more money and not staying completely true to my personality. I know now that you can admire and take inspiration from people without having to be just like them in every way, but that's not how it felt for a long time. I felt inadequate or inferior because I didn't have those things, that lifestyle, or that talent.
I'm still in recovery, and I know that it's going to have to be something I'll have to keep in check forever. But I remember how much more secure and content I felt with just saving money and having control over my money instead of letting the money control me.
Things are definitely better than they were, and I hope to continue the process into the new year. In the meantime, here a few things I've learned so far.
Social Media Just Makes Things Worse
Even though Fear of Missing Out isn't a new concept, it's been accelerated and magnified thanks to things like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (my personal weakness). Even though I have a long list of books that I've been meaning to get to, or a house that might need more cleaning, the first thing I do when I have a moment is check social media.
And if I'm having a bad day? Social media is even worse. It's easy to forget that all those profiles and pretty pictures are just a curated edit of someone's life - a highlight reel. No matter how many times I remind myself of that, it's hard not to want the kind of lifestyle that I seem to see all over my feeds. Maybe a serious social media fast in is order ?
Buying Things Isn't As Satisfying As Being Creative
When trying to recreate a look or outfit, the easiest way thing to do is just buy the exact items. But what fun is there in that? Stretching your wallet doesn't your imagination one bit. I can be a pretty lazy person, but I find a lot of satisfaction in being able to replicate something just with items I already have, or by adjusting things a bit.
It's far more satisfying because of the little bit of extra work that goes into it, and it helps to boost my confidence a little knowing that I have the ability to recreate things using just my noggin' instead of my wallet.
A Perfect Life would be Perfectly Boring
If I did have an #InstagramGoals life, I'd probably still be looking at other Instagrams and wishing I had that life instead. As I mentioned before, nobody's life is only what appears on social media. There are ups, downs, and quiet times. It's those things that make life enjoyable, rich, and full of experience.
So if you don't feel like your experiences are matching the ones that someone is literally getting paid to show you and make you want to spend your money on, you're probably on the right track.
Have Clear Goals and a Clear Path
Simply saying "I want to spend less money" or "I want to lose weight" is all fine and dandy, but the chances of those things happen without a game plan is pretty much none. It's important to have that overarching goal, but you need to take some time to figure out the steps you're going to take to get there.
For example, I do want to spend less money on myself and frivolous things. In order to do that, I decided to set aside an extra X amount of money each month for savings. That money would usually just be fun money, but I will be adding it to the savings so I don't spend it. In addition to that, I've created a pretty strict budget to stick to for monthly spending. Instead of saying I'll spend less, I say that I can only spend X amount, and if I want something that costs more, I'll have to wait until next month or save up.
Creating smaller steps helps you feel like you're making progress, and you can see the progress as you work towards your big goal.
One other way is to work towards saving for something big that you really, really want. For me, that's a trip across the ocean next year. Instead of just saying I'll save for it, I say that I need to save a certain amount every month in order to have enough when the time comes.
Put Down the Phone Already
One of my least favorite things is going out with friends or my husband and seeing other people just spend the entire time looking at their screen. Isn't the point of going out to do something that you normally wouldn't - like, staring at your screen, for instance?
I've made it a point to not pull out my phone when I'm with others. Sometimes, if I'm expecting a message or phone call, it can't be helped as much, but I still make the conscious effort to keep the phone away. It's the reason I usually don't have a lot of pictures from parties, dinners, or breakfasts that I attend since I've gotten to the point where I don't even remember I brought my phone. It's been so refreshing and nice to have real experiences and conversations that are free of screen time.
It's Okay to be Happy with what you Have
The entire purpose of every magazine, ad, and the majority of the media that we are exposed to every. single. day. has one goal: to make you buy something. The way they do this is by showing happy, luxurious people raving about how much happier and better their life is because of said product. Part of my major is advertising, and the science behind it is amazing. A bit scary, but amazingly powerful.
Advertisers want you to feel like you won't be happy until you have what they're selling. Truth be told, we've all bought into this now and again. I know I certainly have, probably more than I'd like to admit.
The real truth is that you can be happy with what you have. You don't have to have the latest and greatest, you just have to have the right attitude. If you work with what you have and enjoy the things you already have, then you will be a lot happier and more satisfied. More stuff is just more stuff that takes up more space, and I don't think any of us really need that.
This journey has not been smooth sailing for me. There have been a few times where I just convince myself that "it's okay," and "it won't happen again" are great reasons for spending more than I want / should. There have even been times where I go out with friends or family and buy things just to show that I can. Don't ask me why that's a thing, I'm still trying to figure it out myself.
Overall, I've gotten better. That's the important thing. I've beaten myself up so many times, but that doesn't help anyone - least of all me. If FOMO is something that you're struggling with, just like myself, then you find that you constantly have to remind yourself that a small slip up does not put you back in square one. Two steps forward and one step back is still progress. To be honest, it's probably the type of progress I'm making, but it's still progress.
I hope to keep posting updates about this journey. I've always had a good relationship with money in the past, and it makes me a little sad to see how much I actually dread having to think about budgeting and balancing accounts now. This isn't the sort of life I want. I don't want my money or FOMO to own me, I want to take full control again.
Will most likely be found traveling, reading, writing, or somehow doing all three. Passionate about books, culture and art.