January 06, 2022

What is FOMO and how can you stop it from messing up your finances? (audio)

By Renée Sylvestre-Williams and Sun Life Staff

Giving in to FOMO can wreak havoc on your bank account. Here’s how to fight it with a budget trick – and a little help from your friends.

Listen to article - 4 minutes

Seeing others’ lives on social media might make you feel like you’re not living your own best life by comparison. 

Sure, endless scrolling, liking, and commenting can be entertaining and even inspiring. But it can also cause you to suffer from FOMO, the fear of missing out. And that may be putting a strain on your wallet and taking a toll on your mental health. 

What does FOMO mean? 

The fear of missing out is the feeling or perception that other people are: 

  • having more fun, 
  • living better lives, or 
  • experiencing a fuller, richer life than you are. 

And it’s often made worse by social media.

How does social media cause FOMO and affect your mental health?

Social media can make us feel bad because of what Psychology Today calls upward and downward social comparison. 

Upward social comparison is when you try to make yourself look better by: 

  • spending money, 
  • going out more, or
  • taking expensive vacations. 

Downward social comparison is when you compare yourself to those less fortunate than you. 

FOMO can also make us feel bad because we don’t like being left out. Especially when we see our friends having a great time without us.

How can FOMO affect your finances?

Fear of missing out can make you feel pressure to keep up with others and live beyond your means. Before you know it, FOMO can have you spending more but feeling less content. 

For example, let’s say your friends are going on vacation, and you can’t afford to go. You may throw caution to the wind, and charge the vacation to your credit card. In that moment, you’d rather deal with more debt than miss out! After all, YOLO-- you only live once, right? The idea of seeing your friends posting all over social media about the amazing time they’re having, while you miss out, would make you feel even worse than dealing with the debt. It’s decisions like this that cause you to spend money you don’t have.  

That financial stress can feed into more anxiety. In fact, Sun Life found that 59% percent of working Canadians feel stressed about their personal finances.* And they feel the strain of trying to stick to a budget.

What can you do to stop FOMO from messing up your finances?

Sure, you could simply delete your social media accounts. But, there are three less-drastic strategies that can help you: 

  • overcome FOMO, 
  • preserve your budget, and 
  • keep your level of contentment high. 

1. Recognize social media for what it is.

Remember that an Instagram post, for example, is a presentation and not a snapshot of reality. That’s not to say it’s fake or dishonest. Rather, it’s a carefully curated slice of life. The photo you see could be one of dozens taken in pursuit of the “perfect” shot.

A good way to keep FOMO in check is to appreciate what went into creating an alluring post. That way, you can stop yourself from chasing the perfection on display. Try throwing your followers off with an imperfect image once in a while. Who knows? You might give someone a laugh and reduce FOMO across your own social media landscape.

2. Build communities of encouragement on and offline.

You won’t find the true value of your social media experience by racking up numbers of followers or likes. Instead, try to make virtual and physical communities rooted in positivity and encouragement. After all, time with friends can improve your mood and health. And, it can help you make the kind of memories that are worth capturing and sharing online.

3. Put some fun in your budget.

Are you tempted to impulse buy when you see trendy new shoes in a post? Or when you see a friend on vacation? It might be time to make space in your budget for your own adventure, cool clothing, or whatever you crave most.

A good first step is to understand where you’re spending your money. You can use an online budget calculator to help. 

Next step, make a financial plan. Put it together with the help of an advisor. They can help you be more careful in pursuing your wants, and your long- and short-term needs. 

Part of your plan might be setting up a tax-free savings account (TFSA). This can be a great place to stash your cash to save up for your purchase.

Once you’re saving for something you’re really looking forward to, it may be easier to cope with FOMO. That way, when you’re tempted by a post on social media, you can focus on what you’re working toward. 

If you’re ready to start a plan, talk to an advisor. 

Need help budgeting or saving? Let us guide you.

A Sun Life advisor can help you figure out which savings options are right for you.

Talk to an advisor

Most advisors now offer to meet Clients virtually by video chat.

Listen to more: 

* 2019 Sun Life Barometer.

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional advice, or a substitute for that advice. 

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