Mavis Fodness

'Fear of Missing Out' costs


Growing up, I often heard the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

Now, I didn’t have any neighbors named Jones, but I knew the saying referred to buying something just because someone else already had the same item.

By owning the item, you were at the same high social level, and those who didn’t have said item were somehow at a lower socio-economic scale.

Decades later the “Keeping up with the Joneses” phrase is replaced by the “Fear of Missing Out” notion. Interestingly FOMO was officially added to the dictionary in 2013.

I am fighting that FOMO urge right now as I look to replace the family car with a newer model. 

My younger self would have already made the decision for a new car. After all, the old one has more than 200,000 miles, and more importantly, its body is starting to rust (gasp!). The embarrassment of the rust alone would have caused me to ditch my current vehicle.

However, my older self is not so sure a new car is needed.

Sure, it has a lot of miles (I drive a lot), and while there are a few rust spots (three are noticeable), the vehicle still gets me from here to there in relative comfort. (The heated seats still work.) And it still looks good on the inside and outside.

My hesitancy comes from a financial standpoint. There is no loan on the vehicle and the payments that would go to a new car instead are put into an emergency fund to cover a few months of household expenses if necessary.

I recall the stress that my younger self felt trying to get a paycheck to stretch to the next. The stress was created because I thought I needed to purchase certain things even when the bank balance said I couldn’t afford them.

It appears I am not alone seeing the cost FOMO has created and has quantified the amount.

In Minnesota alone, research found that one-third of Minnesotans say they overspend on payday and their finances are “stretched for the rest of the month.” 

One-third (or 39 percent) of Minnesotans spend an extra $227 a month on items they don’t need, just to satisfy the envious feeling that other people are having more fun or experiencing better things than they are.

Two out of three people say Facebook causes them the most “Fear of Missing Out” sensations.

Many FOMO sufferers (17 percent) also use loans to purchase items they cannot afford or need, causing them to struggle to pay monthly bills. Credit cards are the most common source of loans.

My younger self definitely used credit cards for the FOMO items, thinking I would pay the credit card balance the following month. But that credit card balance was not paid in full, and the interest would grow —sometimes to an amount greater than what was originally purchased.

My older self cringes at the thought of not paying credit card balances off each month. I’ve found that the fewer payments I make each month, the less stress I experience when paying bills.

While Minnesotans spend an average of $2,853 a year on FOMO items, nationally that average is $3,912. Rhode Islanders spend the most at $13,354 a year.

At that Rhode Island amount, resistance to FOMO spending would allow me to buy that newer car I’ve seen on Facebook.


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