Protecting your wallet from #YOLO, #FOMO and #FONSY

[This is an awesome guest post by Sarah at Life, Comma, Etc… #IMHO]

It’s easy to hop on a trend and add a hashtag to your latest tweet about going over the family budget. We’ve all seen them, lately:

“Yeah, I want a down payment, but #YOLO right? And Maybe I should stay in and study tonight, but if I say no, they’ll stop inviting me! #FONSY.

While these trendy lifestyle philosophies seem like harmless fun on your Twitter feed, it’s another thing when you realize the real-life budget consequences of living life by a short-sighted acronym.

Torn between between dismissal and adoption? Take a look at the following best and worst case scenarios to find out how to put these philosophies to work for you:

#YOLO – “You Only Live Once”

YOLO is short for “You Only Live Once” and the dire life-and-death implications are obvious. With respect to your religious beliefs, this trend capitalizes on the fact that you’ll only live the life you’re living right now once. So, the logic goes, this is your only chance to go crazy on the frozen yogurt bar, drop 10K on that vintage Led Zepplin t-shirt, or ring up the most expensive bar tab ever. It represents the sentiment that experiencing the benefit of life and money now is the most important factor, and this philosophy works out in two different ways:

Best Case Scenario: Not only does this probably fund the economy with impulse-runs to Las Vegas, but it keeps you on a permanent entertainment high. It’s no longer a question of discretion or moderation, it’s just how much of it you can bankroll before you have to go home and be boring again. Assuming you have friends to share in the glory, a YOLO lifestyle makes for some great stories.

Worst Case Scenario: Obviously, you’ll run out of money sooner or later without discipline. Have the cash? YOLO can very quickly turn into a depressing, hedonistic experience. While it may be true that you only live once, if you live irresponsibly, it leaves plenty of room for regret.

The Middle Ground: Reap the benefits of YOLO by allowing yourself a few indulgences without going overboard. Decide in advance what experiences are worth putting off your financial goals, and what experiences you need to wait and save for. Then put your plan to action and enjoy the outcome!

agony sculpture

#FOMO – “Fear of Missing Out”

FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out,” is called into play when you scroll Facebook for the latest updates of your friends and find yourself feeling restless. As Get Rich Slowly reported, FOMO is that “uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out — that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you.” Can you guess where that leads? Right down the path of keeping up with the Joneses.

Best Case Scenario: Purely motivated by FOMO, you can expect to be in the know on major trends among friends and in the news. FOMO-related activities include constantly refreshing your email, RSS, and social media feeds, and knowing the who, what, where, and when of every major event in your area of interest.

Worst Case Scenario: From texting while driving to commitment-phobic behavior in relationships to “keep your options open,” going full-on FOMO can paralyze you into missing out on a lot of things.

For starters, it’s hard to make choices at all, which can sometimes lock you into making bad choices by way of inaction. Then there’s the agony of feeling like you’re constantly behind on the latest technology, purchases, and investments, and that only leads to sadness and financial crisis.

To avoid the full effect, pause before you make financial decisions to make sure it’s something you really want to do — not something you’re doing just to keep up with or be available to your friends.

The Middle Ground: Choose good over evil by using your FOMO-instincts to connect more with friends. Find out what everyone’s doing by getting in touch personally, not through your wi-fi connection. You can also use your need for knowledge to thoroughly research purchases before you make them– just give yourself a time limit so you aren’t paralyzed into indecision.

yes graffiti

#FONSY – “Fear of Not Saying Yes”

The “Fear of Not Saying Yes” is another trend that can have real financial (and life) consequences. FONSY and FOMO may seem oddly similar, but the difference is that while the latter is motivated by wanting to be involved in a lot of stuff, FONSY speaks to the social pressure of not being able to say no. FONSY encourages people to take on responsibilities, projects, and obligations that they might have said no to… if they weren’t so afraid of not saying yes.

Best Case Scenario: FONSY can work against you, sure, but it can also leave you with more accomplishments and experiences than you might otherwise choose for yourself. If you’re not acrophobic (afraid of heights) and your friends are going sky-diving, FONSY might be that extra push you need to have that experience.

Worst Case Scenario: When you participate in a FONSY lifestyle, you wear away at the boundaries that make your life your own. For example, if you’re trying to stick to a strict budget to pay down your student loans, FONSY might encourage you to spend that savings on a weekend trip invitation from friends without really enjoying it. You also might say yes to work opportunities that don’t meet your income requirements, or don’t respect your time.

The Middle Ground: Instead of accepting every invitation for every opportunity, take time to set a vision for your financial and emotional goals. Then carefully assess every opportunity to see if it aligns with your vision. If it does, even if it’s uncomfortable, say yes without fear.

Do any of these pros outweigh the cons? Or are these philosophies perhaps ridiculous to begin with? What do you think?

Sarah Greesonbach is a former teacher turned blogging and social media specialist on the hunt for the meaning of life and a YA publisher. Read about back-to-basics food, love, and finance at Life [Comma] Etc or work with her at Greesonbach Creative.

Photo credit #1: UglyRenaissanceBabies
Photo credit #2: Mark Turnauckas
Photo credit #3: erix!

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  1. Blair Illiano September 19, 2013 at 5:58 AM

    Awesome post, Sarah! Right from the hilarious meme at the top! And these three acronyms definitely need to be used with care with regards to personal finance- although I’ll be happy if people stopped using them completely!

  2. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle September 19, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    I am occasionally struck by FML. I get very discouraged by my life sucking hole of debt and say “FML I am already broke and may never get out of this debt so what does it matter if I charge something that will make me feel less feel happy for a few minutes.”

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 7:11 AM

      So true! Sometimes how long it takes to get out of debt feels so never-ending that it feels like no-harm-no-foul to just embrace the lifestyle and get a little out of it as you go… I have definitely felt that!

      1. J. Money September 19, 2013 at 9:15 AM

        I’d say FML is def. a more popular one out there these days. Just so depressing though! Haha.. I don’t like it.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 7:13 AM

      Agreed! Especially since YOLO doesn’t take into account that it could still be a very long life indeed… maybe the matching slogan is “Die young and poor”? #DYAP

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules September 19, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    Good post Sarah! This is the first time I’ve heard of FONSY…which is interesting since I know that I can be guilty of it all too often. As with most anything in life, balance is so vital in these areas so you can enjoy life and not go crazy in the long run.

    1. J. Money September 19, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      I hadn’t heard of FOMO or FONSY until reviewing this post – but they are true ones!! The missing out part gets me all the time – makes me all anxious inside.

    2. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      Thanks John! I completely agree…. and there’s something very human about trying to balance living a full life a la carpe diem and planning for the long term!

  4. Brian September 19, 2013 at 8:49 AM

    Great post. First time I’m hear FONSY also. Over the last 3 year I have learned to say no often as we have cleaned up over $75k in debt. You have to find the sweet spot for yourself, what works for you and not worry about what others are doing.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      Wow – that’s a lot of debt, congrats! And I like to think that you were saying “yes” to your future each time you said no!

  5. Debt Blag September 19, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    Ha. FONSY is one I hadn’t heard of. I think I’ve been able to get over impulsively buying stuff because I’ve decided that, if anything, I should buy experiences rather than stuff. Of course, that’s where FOMO/YOLO comes in

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Yep, yep, yep…. striking that balance between really living and playing it safe makes it hard to choose between saving and investing in experiences! Sigh!

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      Thanks, Stefanie! I loved your “‘Oh Shit, Yeah That Thing’ Budgeting,” too. I’ve added you to my RSS and I can’t wait to get to knowing you better!

      1. J. Money September 19, 2013 at 10:30 PM

        Is that really what it’s called?? Haha… That is AWESOME!!!!

  6. Martin September 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Man, I’m way behind on those last two. Now I have a FOMO on new acronyms! What will I do?

    YOLO is a killer IMO. It’s just an excuse for getting drunk and maybe doing drugs. I don’t like the popular context of it.

    I apply YOLO to taking risks, starting a business, traveling, doing work you enjoy, and being a bold person. Not just getting wasted. Any coward can get wasted at some crappy bar.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      HAH! Acronym FOMO! Thank you for your comment — your last point about applying YOLO to productive, life-changing (not life-ruining) actions is right on!

  7. Giddings Plaza FI September 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Good post–gives me something to think about. I definitely got caught up in FONSY this summer. Two very close friends of mine were getting married, and not only was it a destination wedding, but I also got guilted into flying to NYC (not the state the wedding was in) for three days of pre-wedding partying. But then again, YOLO

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      A perfect example of balancing a budget and allowing for important life-moment budget stretches!

  8. Romona @Monasez September 19, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    Sometimes spending money can feel like a drug. It’s like your on a high while your spending cash and afterwards you have a come down period and you start feeling bad for blowing your money. It’s happen to me too many times before. That Yolo philosophy stinks.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      Awesome example, Romona. It’s so weird how closely tied money can be to emotions!

  9. Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans September 19, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    I have never heard of FONSY until just now! But I can see how it does affect me and my decisions. Really, it’s just hard to say no sometimes.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      Thanks for your comment, Lisa! Saying no can feel so wrong for so many reasons… especially when it’s based on money! I myself have a hard time saying no to dinner invitations because I don’t want to look cheap. But then I spend too much out on the town and have a budget hangover!

  10. Nick @ September 19, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Love that picture at the top!

  11. Broke Millennial September 19, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    Great points! FOMO compelled me to play the lottery for the first (and probably last) time yesterday. A bunch of co-workers went in on buying tickets for $2 each. After a vivid image of them each winning over $20 million I decided to throw my $2 in. Needless to say, we all had to come to work today to earn money….

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 19, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      HAH! At least you were in the running for a brief time, I suppose….

      1. J. Money September 19, 2013 at 10:31 PM

        It happened on The Office, remember? And not everyone participated!!

  12. Jacob | iHeartBudgets September 19, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    My wife is totes #FOMO! Told her a few days back….totally agreed. Time to unplug the WiFi!

    1. Sarah Greesonbach September 20, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      Definitely has to be a connection between time spent online and time spent feeling FOMO!

  13. Mike Carlson September 20, 2013 at 5:12 AM

    With personal finance, I wouldn’t want to use these acronyms. I should know better than those and that I should be more wise with my finances.