We're all familiar with the fear of missing out — just scroll through Instagram and look at pictures of your friends having a good time without you. But what happens when your friends invite you out and you can't afford it? According to a new survey from Credit Karma, you might go anyway. Nearly 40 percent of millennials are going into debt to avoid FOMO, according to the survey, and it's because we don't want to say no when friends ask us to spend money. Whether it's a vacation, a night out or a shopping trip, turning down an opportunity to spend time with the people we like just isn't on the radar for a lot of us. Researchers surveyed 1,045 people and found that 27 percent of millennials are uncomfortable telling friends they can't afford something.
There is good news, though: The majority of young adults are pretty forthcoming with their finances. If a friend asks me to grab drinks or dinner and I don't have the money, I have no problem saying I need to stay home, but I'm also married and regularly have boring errands that keep me busy. When I was single and only had my friends for social support, it was much harder to skip a chance to socialize. According to the survey, nearly 40 percent of millennials worry that saying no will lead to being excluded from future social outings.
According to Credit Karma's research, the average millennial has $46,713 in debt, on average. Although most of that is probably related to student loans, credit card debt can be a huge burden. Spending money to keep up with your friends isn't a great habit — 36 percent of the people surveyed said they worry about going into debt within the next year if they continue trying to keep up with their friends. If you eat out regularly, you know how quickly it adds up, so it's not exactly shocking that most of our FOMO expenses revolve around food. The study says that nearly 60 percent of people who struggle to keep up with their friends spend their money at restaurants, and a third spend money on alcohol.
But one of the most fascinating findings is the big-ticket items we spend money on to impress our friends. People are buying clothing, electronics and cars to fit in, which sounds pretty excessive until you think it through. If I'm at the mall with friends, chances are that I'll buy something, so it's not hard to believe. And no one wants to get ribbed by their friends for having an older iPhone. But in the big picture, it doesn't really make sense to go into debt to keep up with your clique.
So what's the alternative? You could always suggest free or low-cost activities to your friends, like outdoorsy trips and nights in watching Netflix or a movie. I can understand why it's difficult, though — I'd much rather get brunch than hang out at my house and cook breakfast. But if you know a friend is having a rough time financially, it may be smart to brainstorm social activities that aren't cost-prohibitive. Credit Karma also recommends limiting credit card use when you don't have the money.
It can feel embarrassing to turn down an invitation because you can't afford to go, but honesty is the best policy. Any friend who makes you feel bad about your budget isn't much of a friend in the first place, so you may be able to cut toxic people out of your life based on how they respond to your financial situation. We all experience FOMO, but it's not worth unnecessary debt.