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The Broke Person's Guide to Hanging With Friends
You know what is great? Friendship.
But occasionally friendship requires spending money. And if you have lesser financial means than your friends, especially if you are paying off student loans or dealing with other personal finance challenges, things can get awkward fast.
Just imagine: One week your friends tell you that they have decided to meet up for a caviar bar crawl. You could maybe afford a single small tin, but they will be expecting you to drop a lot of money on multiple tins at each new location, so you make up an excuse about having to stay home and wash your hair.
Next week they invite you out again. This time they are planning to have a Mazzerati demolition derby and each of you will be expected to provide your own car. You obviously cannot afford this, so you tell them you are still washing your hair and will not be able to join them.
Week three rolls around, and now they want you to join them in a game of space polo. You heard them correctly: They are going to put a bunch of horses in space suits and then wear space suits of their own and ride the horses in space while trying to score goals by knocking a ball around zero gravity. Not only does this sound like animal abuse, but you definitely cannot afford it. You tell them you are still washing your hair, but now they are just going to stop inviting you to hang out. Who wants to hang out with a friend who has such dirty hair, after all?
So what can you do if you want to keep your friends but you are on a tight budget? Instead of taking out a personal loan to afford your social life, here’s what you can do.
Suggest the activities
If you are the kind of person who waits for someone else to suggest the group activity, maybe try being a slightly different kind of person and suggest the activity yourself. Even if your friends have more disposable income than you, they probably will not make a big deal out of occasionally spending less on a fun group activity.
“If your friends have a tendency to be a little lavish, consider suggesting less expensive or free activities,” says Leslie H. Tayne Esq., founder and head attorney at Tayne Law Group, a firm that focuses on debt relief for all types of financial situations, including personal debt and student loans. “Days in the park, hikes, and bike rides are fun free things to do, especially in the nice weather.”
Tayne also recommends dining at less expensive restaurants that are more budget friendly. Low-cost eateries may not get the same buzz as the fancy restaurants, but a good Google search or keeping an eye on social media may turn up tasty, affordable options.
Kelan Kline of The Savvy Couple finance blog echoes the benefits of affordable physical and outdoor activities: “One of the best ways to hang with your friends and not break the budget is to choose an activity other than going bar hopping on the weekends. These tend to add up very quickly, and before you know it, you have dropped $50 on alcohol and a bad headache the next day.
Instead, she suggests finding some similar interests when it comes to physical activity, such as basketball or ultimate frisbee. “These activities are essentially free besides the gym membership,” she says. “A good game night, campfire, or even a camping weekend can be very cheap entertainment with your friends.”
Invite your social circle to your home
You can go one step further than just suggesting activities; you can bring the activities into your home. Hosting is a great way to entertain your friends at little additional cost, and when you’re done, you are already home!
Holly Wolf, director of customer engagement for SOLO Laboratories, but also someone who is passionate about personal finance, shared one experience with us on how she entertained her group of friends. “Instead of going out to eat, we grilled lobsters at our condo. I made a salad, roasted asparagus, and offered refreshing libations. The dinner cost about $60 for four people.”
Would you be able to get an appetizer and an entree at a fancy restaurant in New York or another big city for that price? Doubtful. And, if you ask friends to bring some food and drinks, you can have a potluck and save even more.
Eat at home first
Even if you will be going out with your friends, you can take some steps to guard against spending more than you know you should.
“If your friend group is going out to a nice restaurant for dinner or a pub for snacks, and you really cannot afford it, than eat first,” says mindset coach Belinda Ginter. “Fill up, then you only need to chip in a few dollars to snack when you’re at the restaurant. This takes the pressure off. And if everyone is ordering an entree, you can get away with an appetizer to be more cost-effective.”
Just remember to only pay for what you ordered and don’t volunteer to split the bill.
“Most of us have had the group of friends who always want to ‘just split it evenly because it’s easier,’” Tayne says. “If you only had a salad and a water, you shouldn’t have to pay for your friend’s filet mignon and Cosmo. It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but simply remind your friends that you had less and feel it’s only fair.”
Take advantage of general personal finance strategies
General savings methods will also be helpful when it comes to hanging out with friends on a budget. You just may have to do some upfront research. Look for deals, sales, and coupons, and research any type of discount that may be available to you, such as movie tickets or museum entry prices for students or senior citizens.
Be open with your friends
At the end of the day, if these friends are really your true friends, your real friends, your best friends, or even just your good friends, they should understand and be sensitive to your budget needs. It can be tough to be open about financial issues, but if you do, it can save you a lot of headaches and make your friendships (and your bank account) stronger.
“It can be uncomfortable to talk to your friends about your financial situation,” Tayne says. “You certainly don’t have to give all the details of your finances, but if your friends continue to try to get you to do things you can’t afford, you may need to spell it out for them a little more. If they’re truly your friends, they’ll value spending time with you more than any specific activity.”
Be realistic with yourself
You may never be able to afford space polo. But when your friends understand your situation, they should be sympathetic enough of your financial goals to do some cheaper activities with you next time. And if they aren’t, maybe you need to start making some new friends.
Belinda Ginter is an industry leader in Emotional Kinesiology, Success coaching & Mindset. She is a trained emotional Kinesiologist certified in BET and Mindset Expert with over 5 years of experience with 6,000 plus clinical coaching hours, working with thousands of clients worldwide. Follow her @unstoppablebelinda_.
Kelan and Brittany Kline aka The Savvy Couple are two thriving millennials that are daring to live differently. They started their personal finance blog in September 2016 to help others get money $avvy so they can live a frugal and free lifestyle. Brittany is a full-time 4th-grade teacher and Kelan runs The Savvy Couple full-time and works as a digital marketer. You can follow them here: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Holly Wolf is an executive with over 30 years of experience in banking and healthcare.