Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Be upfront with people if you're trying to save money

I know people who either made the decision to not spend any money (to either get out of debt or to save) or in a couple of cases who have had the decision made for them (prolonged unemployment, which is scary).  They've been pretty upfront about things, and because their friends know what the score is everyone is happy to make allowances and to open our minds to doing other things.  I hang out with my friends for their company, not to spend money, so even when I was flush I didn't quibble about stuff like that.

But it is awkward to be the one person who cannot afford to do X (or unwilling to get into debt to do X).  Some people will feel the need to give you a lecture about How You Only Live Once or they will offer to pay (and not realize that this is going to be more than a one-time thing for you) or if you're unemployed/in dire straights, lecture you about The Right Way You Should Be Doing Things.  People like that lecture you because--well, who cares why?  They're being tiresome.  You  could have done everything wrong to get into the position you're in, but at the end of the day the laws of physics win out.  If you don't have it, you can't spend it and good on you for taking steps to either fix or mitigate the problem.  (And if you are running up debt, that's just going to invite another lecture down the road, so save your ears from bleeding and jettison that tiresome jerk.)

Most people don't want to hurt or alienate their friends, however, so being upfront is helpful.  And you will help your own state of mind if you learn about and think of alternatives you can suggest or you can take the initiative to arrange.  (Granted, there are people who just refuse to listen and will bulldoze ahead, and in that case, you have every right to get verbally Medieval on them.  People who refuse to listen are not people I want in my life.)

Things to say if you don't have the money--or are trying to save money--and your friends want to do something expensive:
  • I can't right now, that's out of my price range.
  • Do you want to come over to my place for dinner instead? I'll make dinner and you bring the salad/dessert/wine.
  • Let's go for a walk instead.
  • I hear they're showing free flicks at the city park, want to do that?
  • I'd rather not go shopping, but I can meet you for coffee later.

Things to not do if you don't have the money or are trying to save money:
  • Not actually be honest about what you're doing. 
I know it's awkward when your friends either have the money to spend (or have the comfort level with credit card debt) but your life will be a lot easier if you are straight with people.  This is especially goes if the people you hang out with go out to eat/to bars/to do costly thing X all the time or split the bill in ways that will leave you paying for people who ordered more expensive things than you did.  If this is the way they always did things, it's not fair to them to keep quiet about what you're doing and then get stroppy that they didn't read your mind.  Yeah, I know it's awkward.  It's also really awkward to expect people to read your mind.  So tell them.  "Hey, I can't afford dinner there--I could do an appetizer.  Would you all mind if we got separate checks?"

You will either a) make them more comfortable with saying no to things they can't afford or b) separate the wheat from the chaff among your friends.  Because let's face it, if your friends are going to slag you off for wanting to get out of debt or save money or not spend money you do not have, they aren't worth having.  I'd advise you to find a more compatible set of friends.


  1. Maybe it's because we're all only just out of uni, but my friends are very understanding about money because at some point or another we all have the No Money problem!

    I do feel bad saying that I can't go to a friend's birthday in London this month, but really it's a long way from Cornwall and they're going to a theme park, then a meal, then for a night out! It would end up costing an arm and a leg!

    Lovely to be invited, and I can't even really offer to have them visit me because my parents don't really like people staying here. Ahhh, when I have my own place!! I can dream I guess!

  2. When I divorced, I met many women in the same boat. However, they wanted to take weekend trips to resorts, drink lots, and generally spend money. Most of us had mortgages from the divorce. I told them I could not afford to do things. They had to have the nightlife! Pretty soon, I was not invited to go anywhere and they quit calling. Here, 30 years later, I have paid my mortgage. ALL of them lost their homes to foreclosure or just sold OR married someone for support. I got two BAs and MA. They work in retail or in other low-paying jobs. (nothing wrong with retail)

    It is hard for people to see what the future will be, based on what they are doing right this minute. I did. I was not going to be in debt. I have never owed more than $1K on a credit card. Oh, yeah, house and car are paid off. I owe nothing except monthly bills.