I once got into an argument on Facebook with a friend over how being extroverted was an excuse for not being good at budgeting, paying bills, or other personal finance tasks.
“It’s just not something extroverts are naturally good at,” she said.
Being the proud extrovert and budgeter I am, I couldn’t understand their side. Budgeting was exactly what allowed me to spend money on my social life. But that’s not to say I’m not guilty of spending more than I should because of pressures to overextend my means to meet a demanding social calendar.
Are your friends making extravagant plans that don’t quite fit in your budget? You could make it work, but you know you should say no. It should be easy to do the right thing in this situation, that is if it wasn’t for the infamous FOMO!
FOMO, or fear of missing out, can bring even the best budgeter to their knees. Extroverted millenials are all too familiar with the anxiety about letting life pass us by—and literally seeing it shoved in our faces on Instagram and Facebook. Having a lot of social connections means having more opportunities to spend money in an effort to avoid missing out.
I feel like I’m always trying to balance my budget and my love of saying yes to every single expensive adventure. Before I know it, I start allowing my fear of missing out drive my spending and suddenly I’ve overcommitted. But, like any anxiety-driven behavior, indulging your FOMO can have some nasty unintended consequences... most of all, lifestyle creep.
What is lifestyle creep?
You’re making a solid salary and you finally feel like you can spend more money on life’s luxuries. Weekend getaway with friends? Yes please!
You may be thinking that making good money means you never have to say no to doing something fun, right? Before you know it, you’re spending nearly as much as you’re earning and your money isn’t moving you up in the world like you might expect - that’s lifestyle creep.
As someone who is actively aiming for financial independence, my goal is always to save more than I’m spending. Just because I can afford something, doesn’t mean I should buy it. But, it isn’t always easy to keep that in mind (like tempting wine club memberships...).
Before you stretch your budget too thin in an attempt to keep up with your friends, try some of these tips for avoiding lifestyle creep and FOMO!
Here are seven tips and tricks for keeping the lifestyle creep at bay AND crushing your financial goals:
1. Keep your eyes on the prize
Sure, a weekend away sounds great in the short-term, but in order to tackle your financial objectives and keep lifestyle creep at bay, you absolutely have to focus on your big-picture goals. If the FOMO feels unbearable, write your goals down and repeat them like a mantra.
Think about it this way: you probably won’t remember the weekend trip you skipped when you’re finished paying student loans, paying off the last of your credit card debt, or even retiring early. Don’t let anxiety cause you to spend money unwisely. Remember, your goals are bigger than the temporary feeling of missing out!
2. Social media: scroll with care
Lifestyle creep is largely driven by a need to “keep up” with other people in your social circle. Endless, careless social scrolling is a surefire way to launch yourself right into this exact spiral to stay on pace with the pictures you see. As an extrovert, I often feel stricken with an incurable need to watch my friends’ plans and lavish lifestyles unfold across every social media platform when I’m not there in person. It’s much easier to let go of the nagging feeling that you should also be living extravagantly when you don’t follow along.
On the flip side, sometimes the fancy fun your friends are having really isn’t that fun. I recently went to a music festival in Austin, Texas. I budgeted, saved, and prepared to have the best weekend ever. My social media posts showed me having the time of my life — and I did have fun — but the reality was that I was hot, tired, and endlessly aware of the pressure to look like I was having an easy, breezy time on social media. Even when you can afford to keep up with your friends, it may not actually be worth it.
Ignoring that self-sabotaging voice telling you to tune in to exactly what you’re missing out on will do wonders for you! If you browse social media with a critical eye, you’ll be more likely to avoid the onset of lifestyle creep. Remember, social media is just the highlight reel of everyone else's lives. Your highlight reel is coming, as long as you can fend off the FOMO and make wise financial choices!
3. Keep a close eye on your budget
One of the best tools in my toolkit when it comes to conquering lifestyle creep is self-evaluation via my budget. When I keep a sharp eye on my budget, I notice when I start spending more on luxuries than putting aside what I should be toward my goals. As much as I might wish they would sometimes, the numbers don’t lie!
I like to sit down with my budget at least once a week in order to make sure I’m staying on track. If I skip these budget maintenance sessions, I will start to notice myself spending in non-goal-oriented ways.
You’ll find the budgeting groove that works best for you. Remember to reflect on your spending periodically, and make sure you take time to consider whether you’re spending your money intentionally or whether you’re allowing your salary to dictate your lifestyle. Don’t live large just to live large!
4. Find fun that fits your budget
Once you have a budget, then comes the time to put it into action. Setting aside what’s reasonable to have fun in your day-to-day life is a crucial step in finding balance and keeping on track with your goals, without feeling like you have to say no to everything!
This isn’t to say that you can never participate in an activity that costs any money. Just be careful to check in with yourself and make sure that you’re choosing to do something because you genuinely think it’s worth the money, not just because it’s something that all of your friends are doing for fun.
Even better, suggest budget-friendly plans to your friends on a regular basis to create opportunities for spending time together, while achieving your goals! There are fun social activities to fit every level of aggressiveness when it comes to saving. Try finding budget-friendly things to do around your city like hikes, museums, and community events. There are ways to be a financially-savvy extrovert! It just takes a bit of planning.
5. Know it’s okay to say NO
Sometimes it feels impossible to say no. Whether the plan sounds so fun or it’s that friend who you have a hard time resisting. Or maybe you are a little scared or insecure and wondering if saying no means you’ll be left out of future plans.
When your friends come up with extravagant or too many plans, don’t feel pressured to make up an excuse, maybe consider using those conversations as an opportunity to share your financial aspirations. It’s likely that they’ll understand where you’re coming from, and they might even feel inspired to dream big too!
Better yet, identify friends who are just as budget-minded as you, or make new ones. You’ll be able to support each other and celebrate victories together.
6. Make some room in your budget to treat yourself
It’s a lot easier to stick to your goals when you don’t feel deprived. Your budget may not allow room for a weekend away or a lavish spa day, but making room in the budget for a trip to the movies or a manicure is a great way to stay motivated!
Even if you do decide to splurge on something a little luxurious, making a conscious choice to do so means that you’re not allowing lifestyle creep to happen. Just be sure to assess your enjoyment after.
Little victories and rewards for reaching your goals and sticking to your budget add up to a powerful feeling of success. When you feel victorious, you won’t feel a need to spend more money just for the sake of spending money!
7. Remember that FOMO is temporary
While it might feel like the FOMO will never end, it will! Though it’s uncomfortable, leaning-in to the anxiety and allowing it to pass is an essential step for taking back control. Ultimately, it’s about not letting temporary anxiety lead to making permanent money mistakes.
You’re a financial and social wizard, you don’t need something silly like the fear of missing out on one bit of temporary fun to undo your progress toward your long-term goals. Trust me—I’m an internet stranger and I believe in you!
The key in all of this is to stay aware in your decision making and how satisfied you are after all is said and done. When you’re making choices driven by smart budgeting and relentless goal setting, you’re sure to keep lifestyle creep at bay.
Now get out there, kick FOMO out, have budget-friendly fun, achieve your dreams, and show lifestyle creep who is boss!
Are you an extrovert or introvert? Have your social connections played a role in your finances? Let me know in the comments—especially if you have other tips to share!