FOMO Put Me In Debt, Now I Force Myself To Stay In To Save Money

I spent my twenties never knowing when to go home – and paid the price for it.

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When I was in my early twenties, newly-single and interning, I managed to blow all of my savings in less than a year and rack up thousands of pounds in debt.

I can’t even blame paying rent, because I had moved back in with my parents who live on the outskirts of London. What I can blame, however, is my chronic FOMO and desperation to distract myself from heartbreak – or, if you want to see the receipts: four festivals (one in Croatia), a lot of weekends spent getting wasted, and countless mid-week dinners.

This isn’t a tiny violin moment – I had the time of my life and it was exactly what I needed at the time. But spending wildly beyond my means for that period and being unable to shake the debt for the best part of a decade, is largely down to the fact that I find it impossible to stay in – or miss out.

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Like many journalists, I didn’t get into this industry for the money (read: there isn’t any). My close friends, however – accountants, engineers, lawyers, recruitment consultants – were definitely chasing paper when they decided their career path. Good for them, I say, I just wish I’d realised how detrimental it was to try and keep up. Let’s just say, my credit card(s) got a lot of use.

I only have myself to blame, of course. Instead of paying off my debt, I buried my head in the sand and spent yet more money: another round of drinks, a holiday I couldn’t afford, a dinner I should have stayed home for. Gradually, compounded with the cost of renting in London, my finances got worse.

Almost ten years on from my year of interning, with the same friends now getting married, having kids and buying their own homes, I figured I should probably get a bit smarter with money.

That involves budgeting and, unfortunately for my social life, learning to say no – to others, but mostly to myself when I start to panic about an upcoming Friday night with no plans.

I’m a massive extrovert. I enjoy nothing more than spending time with people I love – and if they’re not free, I’ll happily hang with friends of friends of friends. Anything beats being on my own, to be honest. I’ve had heart palpitations about the prospect of an empty weekend before.

“Introverts may boast about the joys of a weekend or holiday alone – but extroverts are largely misunderstood creatures.”

Introverts may boast about the joys of a weekend or holiday alone, but extroverts, if you ask me, are largely misunderstood creatures. We aren’t just a bunch of loud mouths who never know when to go home (although that is true for some, including myself), it’s just that instead of recharging with a book or a hobby, we get our energy from others. Hence why I never know when to call it a night.

Now I’ve faced up to my debt, I have to force myself to stay home more and turn down those mid-week social invitations. It helps that I live with my boyfriend, who is a bit of a homebody. He thinks I still go out loads, but it’s a far lot less than I used to. I call that progress.

What has helped the most is budgeting, which might be ingrained in many people’s mind, but is a new thing for me. On payday I immediately set money aside for savings and my outgoings, then whatever’s leftover is for me to play with. This helps me work out how much I can spend on fun stuff without having to start hitting up my credit card again – something I try to avoid at all costs.

I make staying in more appealing by ensuring I have plenty to do when ‘doing nothing’ (exhausting, I know, but otherwise I feel like a night in is ‘a waste’). I could plan anything from cooking a feast, calling a friend for a catch-up, doing some yoga or challenging myself to watch seven series of Game Of Thrones in a ridiculously short window (as I did earlier this year).

I also largely try to satiate my appetite for socialising without spending loads – like dinner at friends’ houses, free exhibitions or summers spent in the park. My plans might be more thrifty than they once were, but I’m pleased to say it’s working. And friends always seem quite relived at the prospect of not spending any money – it gets them off the hook too.

Recognising that my insatiable social life was wreaking havoc on my finances has been a huge wakeup call – and only self-discipline has helped me (almost) pay off my debt.

Even now, I’m resisting temptation to organise something this weekend, instead, letting myself play it by ear. But we’ll see how long that lasts.

I’ll give it til midday on Saturday.