7 Ways to Stick to Your Budget When Your Friends Want to Party
When you’re on a strict budget, it can be really hard to say ‘no’ to things. Whether it’s bar nights, ordering in food, or buying that dress you saw in the window that you reallyreallywantOMG, saying ‘no’ can leave you feeling deprived, defeated, and sometimes a little bitter. Even if you’re a really committed and diligent budgeter, it takes a LOT of self-discipline to say no to things you want.
I budget $25 a week for what I refer to as ‘fun money’ (aka ‘pocket money’). $25 is really not much when you consider the cost of some common pocket money purchases:
– a movie ticket is $12 – $15, plus snacks if you want them (treat yourself to the movie theatre popcorn but bring your own drink and candy)
– a bottle of decent wine is $12+
– a treat latte at Starbucks will run you $4 – $6
– a dinner out at a restaurant with no alcohol will be about $25 after tax and tip. A lunch will run you at least $15.
– nice hand lotion or a new nail polish will cost about $10
– a new book is $10 – $30, (e-book, paperback or hardcover)
– and if you just LOVE that shirt but it’s not in your monthly clothing allowance, it’s probably going to cost even more than $25 after taxes.
One of the things I find hardest in adult budgeting life is saying ‘no’ when it comes to socializing with friends. You want to have fun! Life is short! But the expenses incurred for activities with friends fall under that ‘fun money’ budget category. So what do you do if you’ve already spent your weekly spending money budget by Tuesday night and your bestie enthusiastically proposes you go out for brunch on Saturday? (probably for that $15 avocado toast we Millennials are so often accused of coveting).
Let’s face it: it can be kind of embarrassing to say ‘No, sorry, I can’t afford it.’ It can lead to weird awkwardness or your well-intentioned friend offering to pay for your lunch or movie ticket. And then that gets sticky because you don’t want to feel like a mooch, you feel guilty for saying ‘no’ to their offer of a fun time, and you’re not confident you could definitely pick up the tab next time. You also don’t want to lie and say you’re busy when you’re not.
Generally, your friends likely fall into 2 categories:
1) The friends who are frugal and on a disciplined budget like you are, and;
2) the friends who are living on credit, debt be damned, and regularly have $120 bar nights and take yearly beach holidays courtesy of Mastercard.
You may also have friends who make a lot more money than you do, and aren’t on a strict budget. Maybe $30 for dinner isn’t a big deal for them. They likely aren’t trying to be insensitive or make you feel awkward by suggesting expensive activities, they just don’t have to consider their budget as much as you do, so it’s not on their mind.
Regardless, I would suggest taking the same approach for every type of friend.
Politely but firmly say something along the lines of “Yeah, you know what, I’ve had a lot of expenses lately so I’m just trying to rein it in a bit. But…” Then make a suggestion for some activity that doesn’t cost much (or anything!), such as:
1) having a house party or a campfire instead of going out to a bar
2) hosting a potluck dinner with a few friends. It can be fun to set a theme night, like Mexican, Italian, top-your-own-burger, pizza night, or a wine and cheese. Check out my entire post over here: How to Host a Cheap Dinner Party
3) stay in and watch a movie with air-popped popcorn (or my Easy AF $2 baked pita chips!)
4) suggest breakfast, lunch, or just coffee instead of dinner, if that’s a better fit for your budget
5) a games night with something super fun that will get you laughing, like Cards Against Humanity, Buzzword, or Catan
6) invite them over to your house for breakfast/brunch instead. By good etiquette they should bring a contribution, and this plan will be WAY less expensive than going out – you can make pancakes and coffee for cheap!
7) if your friend wanted to go to the movies on Saturday night, suggest going on the cheap night instead, when tickets are half price
If your friend pressures you, accuses you of being a cheapskate, or pulls a “YOLO!” on you, just chuckle and shrug and hold your ground. However, resist the urge to get preachy about over-spending or criticize their habits. It won’t accomplish anything and will likely just spark an argument. A good friend will read between the lines and respect your decision. They should want to spend time with you, regardless of what you’re doing together.
It may be tempting to just say ‘yes’ and promise yourself you won’t spend anything next week to make up for it. But I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve told myself that – PROMISED myself that! – and failed. It’s just too easy to keep pushing back your responsibility to the next week, and the next week, and the next week. Before you know it, you’re working to pay off credit card debt from nights at the bar. Paying 18% interest on money you literally pissed away. Just say NO!
Whether it’s silencing your inner fashionista who really wants that dress, or smoothly renegotiating expensive social plans into something more affordable, be proud of yourself for the effort. It’s not easy to stick to a budget, especially when it comes to treating yourself to something nice and having fun with your friends. But when you clear your credit card bills every month, balance your books and see black – not red – trust me, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and seriously thank yourself!
What strategies do you use to make sure your social life doesn’t blow your budget? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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