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5 Ways to Resist Financial Peer Pressure and Still Keep Your Friends

Written by
Samantha Rose
Samantha Rose is a personal finance writer covering financial literacy for OppU. Her work focuses on providing hands-on resources for high school and college-age students in addition to their parents and educators.
Read time: 5 min
Updated on July 31, 2023
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Is FOMO draining your wallet?

College is hard work. But it’s also a lot of fun. And that fun comes at a cost: nights out, restaurants, ride shares.

It all adds up.  

For students looking at a packed social calendar, saying, “No,” might be a smart financial move. But relationships are important, and financial peer pressure is real.

So how can students hold onto their cash without sacrificing friends? 

We spoke to five financial experts about navigating the financial side of friendships in college. Here are some of their top tips.

No. 1: Suggest budget-friendly alternatives

How can students start a conversation about money? 

Should the moment come to have a conversation about money, I suggest being honest. Few people in college are bringing their own incomes to the table, so they will probably understand if you do not feel comfortable asking your parents for money.

[S]uggest activities or meeting points that you have already predetermined are free or meet your budget. This is a better solution than waiting for a friend to suggest an activity that is expensive and having to say that you can’t afford it.

No. 2: Discuss your financial background

What can students do to avoid peer pressure while still keeping their friends? 

You need to be clear on your own budget, income, and expenses. If you don't know what you can really afford, it's more difficult to make decisions on the spot.

How can students start a conversation about money? 

Be aware that not everyone comes from the same financial background as you do. College is sometimes the first place that students develop friendships with people of very different means, and they may not know how to navigate it.

If you're the one who's always short on cash and your friends don't seem to understand why ... understand that they're not being jerks on purpose; it legitimately may not occur to them that you need to work if you want money. Explain your situation with kindness.

Expressing something about your own financial background is the easiest way to bring up a financial conversation. 

You could start by commenting on how all your friends from high school had jobs, or talking about a friend who couldn't afford to attend college, or making a comment about your student loans to set the tone and send the message that you don't come from a place of unlimited money.

What financial advice would you give students? 

If you can't afford something, you can simply say it's not in the budget. If someone is insensitive after that, consider whether that's someone you want to keep in your life.

No. 3: Be transparent about your budget

What can students do to avoid peer pressure while still keeping their friends? 

Making your money situation clear and transparent to your friends is a great way of resisting financial peer pressure and maximizing saving and budgeting across many aspects of your personal life.

How can students start a conversation about money? 

By letting your friends know of your budgeting plans, they are less likely to try and pressure you to do things that fall out of your projected budget. Not only does it set the bar for the goals you set for yourself, it draws clear boundaries your friends will know not to cross.

No. 4: Stay true to yourself

What can students do to avoid peer pressure while still keeping their friends? 

Being true to yourself is one of the best gifts of self love and nurturing you can give yourself. Find your spiritual self and surround yourself with those who are supportive and genuine. 

If you can’t honestly tell a friend that you can’t afford to do something, then maybe that friend really isn’t a true friend.

How can students start a conversation about money? 

They can start a conversation ... by saying, "I am living within my means and I need to follow my monthly budget; let me see if that works into my budget this week or month."

What financial advice would you give students? 

Try to avoid debt for school. If you need to spend two years at a community college before transferring and getting a university degree, then so be it. The goal is to borrow as little as possible. If you do need to borrow, find out how much you will owe and how long that will take to pay off. Pay off your school loan debt as soon as possible so that you can build wealth for your future faster.

Research your desired future profession. Make sure that your degree will yield a great return on investment (ROI). 

Write down your goals. This will be the start of getting you where you need to be. Have your roadmap in a place where you see it constantly. Have a vision for your five- and 10-year self.

No. 5: Pick friends who share your values

What can students do to avoid peer pressure while still keeping their friends? 

The bottom line is that [students] cannot fall to peer pressure. Your real friends are not going to judge you on what you wear, how you look, and where or how you spend your money.

It is immature to spend money just to impress your friends, so nip that in the bud immediately. This isn't high school; you are in college and you want to develop great [financial] habits.

How can students start a conversation about money? 

When you sit down with your friend, you can share your values about what is important to you. Most people spend their money on what they value, and if you value your career, having enough to pay your rent or school bills, that is how the conversation should go.

What financial advice would you give students? 

Hang in there and try not to go into debt for the wrong items. If school is too expensive, try a community college for the first two years and then university. Do not go into debt for a four-year college that will not pay back a lucrative job.

If you do not have the cash for the extras such as pizza and beer, do not spend the money. You should make enough spending money over the summer or part-time at school for your extras.

Bottom Line

Don’t fold to financial peer pressure. With these tips, you can keep your money healthy, and your friendships, too. 


Article contributors
Kristine Thorndyke

Kristine Thorndyke is a career educator and founder of Test Prep Nerds, a company founded to help students prep better for less.

Allison Bishop is a CPA and financial coach in Portland, Maine. Bishop blogs about whatever personal finance topics are on her mind. She began her financial coaching practice in 2015, after seeing a need for unbiased personal financial advice during her 20 years as a CPA. She provides individual financial coaching and informational workshops, as well as employer-sponsored financial wellness programming.

Jacob Dayan is CEO and co-founder of Community Tax, where he has assembled a strong team of attorney practitioners, CPAs, and enrolled agents to deliver superior customer service and expected results.. He graduated from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business prior to moving to New York City, where he began his career as a financial analyst at Bear Stearns’ industry leading Financial Analytics and Structured Transactions group.

Maryrose Espil is founder and CEO of Health CEU Academy, LLC, an online continuing education provider for registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses. With her extensive registered nursing experience, she creates quality continuing education courses for others in the profession. She enjoys helping others and is a past recipient of the DNA Outstanding Community Service Award.

Jill Gleba founded Gleba and Associates, an independent financial management firm, more than 30 years ago. Gleba was 12 years old when she started investing. She has degrees from Wayne State University and Oakland University. As an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF), she specializes in business retirement plans and helping others become retirement ready. Gleba was rated in the top 7% of all financial planners in the Metro Detroit area in “Detroit Monthly Magazine” and “Hour Detroit Magazine.” She is a member of WBENC, Vistage Michigan, and a board member of Furniture Bank.

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