Money is a sensitive topic. In United States, we put much emphasis on making sure that we seem wealthy and well off to those around us. By saying: “I cannot afford this right now” we might feel embarrassed or ashamed, or not good enough. There is also a lot of social pressure to spend money. An invite from a friend to go out and do something sometime occurs on a daily basis. But what happens when we’re trying to save money for a particular financial goal? How do we still spend time with our friends, stay social and invest in our relationships? I want to share a few things I have learned about this, as I figured there might others who have also been faced with this dilemma.
As someone who is type A, an extrovert, and very outgoing, I enjoy unwinding and relaxing around other people. On top of that, experiences and relationships with people are very important to me. So when I get an invitation to do something fun and social with my friends, it’s hard for me to say NO. I had a situation that taught me an important lesson about handling money issues when going out with friends. I went out with a few girlfriends a while back when I was still in grad school. I had mentioned to them that I was only going to have one drink, but the “first round” comment came from one of my friends once we arrived. I knew that buying a round of drinks wasn’t in my budget then, but I didn’t say anything when my friend offered to get the first round. This was a good lesson for me because I didn’t stick to my plan and I didn’t speak up when the situation came up. Through this experience I have learned that it is important to plan and stick to your plan. When a similar situation came up in the future I ordered my drink first and mentioned that I would prefer to just pay separately, because I was only going to have one drink that night. If it’s a close friend, I don’t mind saying that I am only going to have one drink because I’m on a budget. If I can’t afford to come at all, I simply say: “I’d love to see you, but I am trying to save money right now, can we go on a walk sometime instead?”
Having these experiences showed me once again how hard it is to talk about money sometimes. Money is a powerful symbol, representing lots of different things to different people. It can symbolize power, security, love, belonging, control, status, adoration, etc. Even though I do think having money brings more comfort into our lives, it can also create a lot of stress and anxiety into a relationship. I found that it is important to talk openly and be honest about money with our partners and close friends. Being honest helps communicate our values and build stronger and more intimate relationships with others. And if it’s not someone you’re really close to you don’t have to explain everything. You can simply state your plan with drinking, eating or whatever it is you’re doing and then it’s up to you to stick to your own plan.
If you take anything from this post, take this: BE HONEST. There have been multiple times when my friends invited me to go on trips, concerts, dinners, to the spa and other things and I had to decline with the words: “I’m sorry but I cannot afford to do this at the moment. Maybe we can go for a walk when you are free.” This is not easy at first, but like most things in life, it gets easier with practice.
Lastly, I’ve learned that having fun with friends does NOT have to involve spending a lot of money. Here are some things I have done recently with my friends that were super fun and required little to no money:
- Going for a walk or run together or playing sports. Apart from multiple health benefits, we were spending time together and bonding.
- Having a board game night or a card game night together.
- Going hiking. Even in a flat area like Dallas I have found hiking places that I went to with friends and had tons of fun.
- Attending free concerts in the park. Another great way to enjoy something we love without spending money.
- Trying a new workout class. A lot of studios offer a free class to new visitors. I’ll write a post about those soon.
Hope you find this useful, and feel free to comment and share your thoughts.