Get over your FOMO and forget keeping up with the Joneses. Socializing while paying off debt means setting boundaries and a budget.
We live in a consumer-driven society, and many of the ways we are used to socializing have to do with going out and spending money. We go on dates at restaurants, we meet with our friends at trendy bars and spend money on drinks. We buy concert tickets and movie tickets and even shell out cash for parking spots just to be there.
Socializing is expensive, especially if you have children to bring to some of these events, which is why it often feels incompatible with financial goals like saving money or paying down debt. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s the guide for your finances and your social life to live in harmony.
Decide how much you’ll spend on extracurricular.
Just because you’re paying down debt doesn’t mean you can’t spend any dollars towards fun. You just have to decide how much you’re willing to spend towards socializing instead of towards debt for every paycheck—and stick to it!
Your plan may depend on the type of debt you have—loans with a short due date may need to be paid off faster.
If you like going to the bar for drinks, for example, you can designate a certain amount towards your tab. This may involve getting one drink every time you go out instead of three, but it’ll be worth it to stick to your budget.
Common budgeting advice is “every dollar has a purpose” and that applies especially well here. Make the decision about where your dollars will go and it will be easier to stick to your financial goals.
Don’t forget to budget for birthday and holiday presents—that’s one that tends to throw people off at the last minute.
Be honest with your friends and family.
Sometimes we spend more money on socializing than we meant to because of pressure from our family and friends. When we turn down expensive activities, or decide not to purchase more than a little bit at a bar or restaurant, we’re told, “Let loose! Have fun!” or “You deserve to treat yourself!”
People in our lives might even be offended by restrained financial behavior, especially if they’re used to that person going all out on a night in the town. They may believe that person doesn’t want to spend time with them, or isn’t having fun.
That pressure can get to budgeters and cause them to no longer stick to their budget. That’s why it’s important to be honest and communicate with people in our lives when we’re working towards financial goals.
When you’ve decided to put most of your money towards paying down debt, go ahead and let your closest friends and family know. Tell them you might be more selective about how often you go out in the future.
Your most trusted friends might also want to know what kind of debt you have. You can also mention might be planning some low-cost hangs soon (more on that later).
Hopefully, the people in your life will be receptive and support you in reaching your goals. The best kinds of friends will respect new boundaries.
Sometimes people may find your new goals difficult to understand and continue to pressure you to spend more money than you want to. In these cases, it’s important to set firm boundaries and get used to saying no. If someone continues to be rude about your new budget, it might be worth considering if you still want to spend as much time with that person and use your precious socializing money on people who support you.
Research has shown that the financial habits of those who surround you can influence your budgeting and spending habits. It might be time to start spending more time with your financially wiser friend groups and spending a little less with enablers of bad habits.
Get over your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
Because of social media, a lot of us have developed FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. It’s so easy to see one thousand amazing-sounding events on Facebook, or to see your friends out in the world, that it becomes a state of being to be afraid of missing the good times that everyone else is having.
Combating the FOMO takes some serious introspection. What kinds of experiences do you value the most? What do you fear you’re missing out on, truly, when you don’t go to a certain event? Do you really need to spend money with your friends to stay connected with them? Are there ways you can get the things you value out of socializing with less money?
Prioritize what activities (and people) are most important to you and put aside any feeling that you might need to “have it all” when it comes to your social life. If you restrain what you spend money on to only your priorities, then you might even find that you appreciate what you love even more. This will make it even easier to spend money only where it counts in the future.
Plan low-cost, creative ways to spend quality time with others.
Once you’ve figured out who you care about spending time with, and what you want to get out of that time spent together, it’s possible to then plan budget-friendly ways of spending time together.
For example, if you realize that you like going to the bar with your friends for the conversation, consider inviting them to your home to drink instead, which cuts down on cost. If you realized that you like going to see new things in the world, try to find creative, low-cost ways of doing that such as finding local hiking trails and state parks or going on a short road trip. If you love movies, borrow DVDs from the library instead of going to the theater. Or maybe even look into film club memberships. Here are some ideas for finding low-cost local activities outside of the house:
- Research state and national parks near you, as they have relatively cheap admission, especially for families with children
- Look into free city activities. Often, cities have free events for residents such as movies in the park or free concerts. This is especially true around holidays or the summer season. Check the city calendar.
- Find out if local museums have free admission days.
- Ask about the resources at your local library. Sometimes libraries have not only books and movies to check out for free, but they might have free classes and activities for both adults and kids. Some may even have free passes to local attractions, like the zoo or aquarium, that can be checked out.
- Find your local senior center for free or cheap activities and classes.
- Check the Facebook “events” section to see if local establishments are hosting events with free or low-cost admission.
- Research on Groupon for great deals on local activities and establishments.
- Find a volunteer opportunity for a cause that your friends and/or family would care about. Invite them to spend some time volunteering with you.
- Public swimming pools often have low admission rates, and memberships are even cheaper; look into the cost of getting a membership for you and your family.
Socializing while paying down debt requires a shift in thinking, but it’s not impossible. It might even be rewarding to put some effort into more mindful spending habits around socializing.
Budgeting is partially an evaluation of what you truly value, and that’s especially true when it comes to deciding on how to spend money in your free time.
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