Let’s face it, many of us would be great at saving money and staying within our budgets if only the rest of the world were on our side. If only the grocery store didn’t tempt us with those delicious looking displays. If TV commercials didn’t show us and our children all the products we just “have” to have. If that favorite clothing store didn’t have such a good sale once a month. But at least we can count on our friends and family to support us, right?
Sadly, absolutely not. The problem is that our friends and family don’t necessarily have the same financial goals we do and almost certainly don’t have the same income level. I more often find that my friends encourage me to “loosen up” and spend poorly. How can I keep my friends and keep to my budget at the same time? The following are some things I’ve learned along my journey to a solid budget.
Set a budget
Before you go out with friends, decide how much you will spend. If you’re going out to eat, remember to include a good tip in your calculations so you don’t have to choose between going over budget and tipping your waiter (hint: tip your poor waiter!). If you have trouble setting a limit and sticking to it, take only as much cash as you want to spend: when you’re out of cash, you’re done spending.
Try being honest
Discussing money can be awkward, but if you’re close enough to the friends in question, try being frank with them. Just say, “Hey, I’m trying to save some money for a new car so I don’t have to keep driving my rusty old clunker. So help me try not to spend so much.” Just be prepared for the occasional awkward moment when friends are animatedly discussing plans only to stop and say, “Oh. I mean… can you do that? Is that too much money?” in hushed tones while staring at you.
Suggest cheap entertainment options
Just don’t always say “cheap” when you suggest them, unless your friend is on the same money-saving page as you. If you constantly harp on about saving money, your friends will get tired of hearing it. But if you and your friends are throwing out ideas for something to do, by all means suggest activities that won’t cost you a thing.
Keep a snack in your car
Your friends call you right after work and suggest going out; you’re hungry, but you don’t have a lot to spend. This is the situation in which most people throw their budgets out the window and satisfy their immediate desire for food with a large meal they shouldn’t have bought. This is where your snack comes in to take the edge off your hunger, help you make a smart choice, and save your budget. Ladies, your purse is also a great place to stash an emergency snack.
Make drinks at home
Buying drinks out is fun, but the mark-up on alcohol in bars and restaurants is truly frightening. So learn to mix your favorite drinks at home, and share the responsibility of buying the supplies among your group.
Expand your social circle
This may sound a bit mean, but if your friends are always spending more than you’ve made it clear you can afford, and they don’t want to consider other ways to be together and have fun, then maybe you need to expand your group of friends. I’m by no means telling you to cut out people you’re close to, but if you can only afford to hit the town once a week you shouldn’t keep going out three or four nights a week. Consider that your interests might be diverging and you’re growing apart; continue to go out the one night you can afford with your old group and find something else to do on your other nights.
Probably the best way to stay on budget with friends is simply to keep a level head on your shoulders. Lame as this sounds, the advice your mum gave you as a child or teen is still the best in adulthood: don’t jump off a cliff just because all the other kids are doing it. So if your friends are helping you down the road to financial disaster, don’t give in to peer pressure.
Category: Frugal Living