When you have friends who have a lot of money or who just spend more money than they should, it can be hard to say no to a fun night out. We all want to spend time with our friends and feel like we are taking part in group activities and events, but saying yes to everything can get very expensive.
You also may spend more than you normally would when you are out with your friends. Saying no is hard enough when you are missing out on an activity, but it is common to feel the need to compete or match your friends’ spending when you are actually with them. However, there are several ways you can say no to excessive spending without missing out on all the fun.
1. Make an alternate suggestion
If your friends repeatedly go out to bars or restaurants and you can only afford to do this every few weeks, suggest something else. If it’s nice out, look over the community calendar and see if any bands are playing a free show; many communities offer concerts on the lawn during summer months. Depending on the venue, alcohol may or may not be allowed (it is allowed at many private vineyards or other private venues), and obviously you would have to be courteous to other concertgoers, but you would save a lot of money by bringing your own drinks.
Many friends enjoy progressive dinners, where you go from one house to another for different parts of the meal. If your friends like fancy dinners, throw a progressive dinner into your schedule once in a while. Or simply get together at someone’s house, hang out, and watch a television show finale or a sporting event. Suggesting alternatives will show that you want to spend time with your friends, even if your wallet can’t handle the same amount of spending as theirs can.
2. Justify your frugality
Although your initial feeling might be that your friends could care less about why you want to save money, you’re probably wrong. Most people will understand if you explain that you are saving for a house or saving money for a trip. If you just have to cut back your spending, explain your priorities (like paying your bills). You don’t have to share your personal finances, and you shouldn’t, because how much you make and how much you spend on bills shouldn’t be your friends’ business. Still, just sharing your own goals can help your friends understand.
If your friends really give you a hard time about saving money, they might not be great friends. More likely, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that your other friends have wanted to save money, too, but were too afraid to say so. Plus, each individual person has to make allowances for differences in life — if you have two kids and your best friend is unmarried, you might have to explain to her just why you have to be more careful.
3. Set a budget and stick to it
How much you choose to share with your friends about your own situation is up to you, but you should have a set budget either way. It’s easy to think that you will only spend so much before you go out, but it becomes more difficult to keep to your goal if you see that your friends are ordering expensive dinners, purchasing fancy clothes, and so on.
Your best bet is to include social spending in your budget, and when your social spending is gone, don’t spend any more money. There are many free budget templates online; simply find one you want and use it. You can also alter available budgets or make your own: Just make sure you include social spending, particularly if you regularly struggle with it.
Once you have a useable budget, make sure you stay with it. If you find that it is just too tempting to spend more than you plan when you go out, bring cash. If you know for a fact that some activity is just going to be too expensive and too tempting, don’t go.
4. Be confident enough to do the embarrassing thing sometimes
This is one of the hardest parts about saying no, because you don’t want to offend your friends or embarrass yourself. But sometimes you will just have to say no to spending. If you often get caught up in the pattern of one friend paying for lunch for everyone each week, this can turn into a big bill. If everyone was fair and spent about the same amount each week, that would be fine, but that rarely happens.
The same is true of splitting a group check: You shouldn’t have to pay for part of your friend’s meal if he ordered a steak and a glass of red wine, and you had a dinner salad. You certainly don’t want to be too stingy, but if repeated spending habits make you uncomfortable, say so.
If you really need to, ask the waiter to split the check before he or she even asks. You may risk your friends thinking you’re a penny-pincher, but if you can’t afford to pay for their meals regularly, you will have to either speak up or skip the meal. Also, be aware that if you are attending a business meeting or if you invite one person out to dinner, different rules may apply.
5. Be honest with yourself
You should be honest with your friends, but you should also be honest with yourself. If you struggle with wanting to keep up with your friends and you try to have whatever they have (whether it be a fancy house, a nice car, the newest tablet, or an overpriced meal), you will struggle with saving money. Although almost everyone feels some competition to match their friends, you might need to really think about your spending and determine if your friendships are detrimental to your savings (or perhaps, if you yourself are).
Unless your friends literally tell you they won’t be friends with you if you don’t spend a certain amount (and who needs friends like those?), they are not the ones making you spend money. If you set limits and stick to them, your friends will understand, especially if you still make an effort to see them.
Some people would suggest that you should spend less time with people who spend too much, and while that is a valid consideration, if you enjoy your friends, you should make it a priority to find ways to spend time with them without spending too much money. If you want or need to cut spending, then at some point you will have to be honest with your friends. Don’t ignore invitations or skip every single event that will require money. Make a budget, talk to your friends, and find ways to get together that don’t cost a lot. Some of your friends might even thank you for it.