dollar bill in article about budgeting
Budgeting can be difficult if you want to socialize or participate in costly activities with your friends. (Illustration by Giovanna Martin, Columbia College Chicago)

A Guide to Budgeting Your Finances While Wrestling With FOMO

Saving money is difficult when your friends want to go out and spend it. Here are some tips for keeping your money and your friends.

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dollar bill in article about budgeting

Saving money is difficult when your friends want to go out and spend it. Here are some tips for keeping your money and your friends.

FOMO: the fear of missing out. Coined in 2004, the term is as relevant today as it was for our grandparents or even great grandparents. It may be tempting to spend your very last cent on joining in with your friends so that you aren’t the only one left out of group events, but saving money still weighs on your mind. If your friends want to go out to eat, you want to go too. If your friend group decides to all get gym memberships together, you also want to get one. Participating out of a fear of missing out can wreak havoc on one’s wallet.

Why Budget?

All of us are veteran budgeters when it comes to what we deem important to us. We budget our time, sleep, energy, food and the space in our closets. Despite practicing the discipline of budgeting our resources on a daily basis, we can still fall short when it comes to budgeting our finances.

Young adults and college students may find it difficult to stick to a financial plan because they do not want to be left out of social gatherings or activities. However, a key element of living a healthy lifestyle is operating with healthy financial wisdom. A 2016 survey by the U.S. Bank revealed that 59% of Americans do not hold themselves accountable to a budget. The next generation could change that statistic. The first step is creating a budget.

Inform Your Friends

After you create your (realistic) budget, it’s time to pull on your black boots, dust off your binoculars and spy on your lifestyle to see which areas you need to stop spending so much money.

If your friends text your group chat and say that they want to go out to eat, you can look at how much money you set aside for eating out and judge whether or not it’s the right day to use those finances. Learning when to indulge and when to withhold is a valuable lesson for any young adult to learn. If your friends are supportive and patient, they will find ways to work with you so that you can still participate in group gatherings without having to pry open your abused wallet. Clear and direct communication is critical.

Suggest Free Activities

If you tell your friends that you want to spend less money while hanging out with them, it’s a good idea to offer suggestions of free or inexpensive activities for the group to do.

Hosting game nights, hiking, going out to picnic, practicing yoga from a YouTube video or spending a day at a local museum are all potential alternatives to spending money as a group. And it’s possible that others in your circle of friends also want to save more money but their FOMO and pride have strong grips on their willingness to admit the need for a stricter budget.

Keep “Fun Money” Around

Now you’ve created a budget and are beginning to cement financial health as a major element of your lifestyle. You carved space in your budget for rent, school supplies and gas money, but what about “fun money”?

According to Dave Ramsey, a famous debt advisor, it’s important to set aside money for hobbies and other fun activities so that your budget remains under your rule and doesn’t rule over you. This doesn’t mean that you’ll always use all of your fun money, but it’s there just in case you want it.

When your friends want to go out and spend money, take a quick peek at the status of your fun money. If you’re running low and choose not to participate in how the group is spending their money, order a cup of tea or find another way to occupy yourself and simply enjoy their company.

“Pregame” Dinners

One final tip for participating in group activities while on a stricter budget than your friends is to “pregame.” No, this does not mean that you should drink alcohol before hanging out with your friends.

The term “pregame” in the context of saving money means that you should eat dinner before meeting your friends at an expensive restaurant. If your appetite is already satisfied, your stomach is less likely to draw you toward the restaurant’s menu. This way, you won’t need to justify spending money on food since you’ve already eaten. Your own temptations as well as the pressures from those around you to eat will be lessened.

Learn to Say “NO!”

Meghan Trainor said it best in her song “NO,” except instead of refusing to hand out our phone numbers to men in a club, we are saying “NO” to people who invite us to do things that stretch our wallets too far.

While there are times when you can participate in group activities and choose not to spend money, there will also be times when you must discipline yourself and say “no” to participating in certain events. Learning to say “no” and set boundaries is a life skill that some people never fully develop, so the process of setting financial boundaries may also help strengthen your ability to say “no” in other areas of your life. Practice makes it easier.

For those who are so afflicted by FOMO that they would take medication for it if such a thing were curable, saying “no” to spending time with people who all hang out together can feel threatening. This is partially why it’s healthy to practice saying “no” at times. Not only does it let your debit card breathe, declining an opportunity to be with people builds a contentment and independence within you.

Budgeting your wealth should make your life easier and more disciplined. While discipline and self-control are not always fun in the process of becoming more responsible with your money, it pays off when you can buy a new car, plane ticket or whatever it is that you are budgeting or saving up for.

Writer Profile

Briana Byus

Biola University
Journalism & Integrated Media

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