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Fighting Financial Pressure From Friends

One of the groomsmen had a baby on the way and couldn't financially make the trip happen. He called the groom and expressed his regret and explained the situation: a trifecta of a recent medical bill, student loan repayments, and a pregnant wife made the trip impossible. He apologized profusely. The groom was disappointed, but said candidly to me, “Honestly, I have 150 other people here with us to concentrate on…”

There shouldn't be fear of financial ruin behind these smiles…

As for as my friends back home, most are receptive to hearing that my girlfriend and I are saving to pay off her student loans and stashing money for our next step after she finishes grad school.

I find that by making our goals explicit, it usually serves to reduce the pressure from others to spend. We find that by bringing our mindfulness about spending into the conversation, it encourages others to take a look at their spending habits as well. We find that with sincerity, conversations about money don't have to be uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, what's most important is the time spent together, and not how much money goes into the event.

Happy Hours and Empty Wallets
Our friends like a good happy hour. Cheap prices and good food lead to a quick decompress after a day at work. However, one drink and an appetizer too quickly becomes two of each, and before dinner is even served, your weekly budget for nights out is gone. Here are some ways to cope with spending in social situations:
  • Low-cost or no-cost activities. Find a nearby hiking trail. Head to a body of water. Look up free events in your area. Grab a deck of cards. Pick up a crowd pleasing board game (I could play Apples to Apples for days). If your friends want to go see the new Batman, suggest going to a cheaper matinee, or better yet, invite them over for a review party of the first two off Netflix. They want to go out, come up with a restaurant you can afford, or better yet, have a potluck.
  • Leave the plastic at home. If you can only afford one drink at happy hour, only take $5, $10, or $20 and leave the rest at home. If you don't have any other money with you, you can't spend it. This isn't to say stiff your friends with the bill, but have your cheap drink, enjoy the conversation, and leave enough for tip.
  • Reduce the frequency. I used to have dinner with my friends every week after the yoga class we took together. I learned to say yes some of the time, but opt out most of the time. By only going once a month instead of every week, I cut my spending by 75% just by walking my friends home after class. If they want to get together every week, start a book club, or find a different no-cost activity.
  • Don't keep tabs. It's hard to not partake in a second round. It's hard not to get the newest gadget. It's hard not to focus on the stuff, what those closest to you have. Instead, focus on the relationships. Make sure your friends feel supported, listened to, and cared for. It doesn't help anyone for you to envy your friend's new shoes, new car, or new house. Don't make it a competition. Do what's best for you, and take care of those around you with what you do have.

Saying “no” to friends is a hard financial reality for most. You want to be generous with your time and money but many of us are working with limited resources. On the flip side of the coin, if you're financially well-off, be mindful that your friends might not be in the same situation. Work with them to come up with activities that are fun and comfortable for everyone.

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