Don’t Let Friends Derail Your Finances

Don't Let Friends Derail Your Finances

Here's how to spend less on social activities without hurting your relationships.

Laura McMullen
March 14, 2018

Here's how to spend less on social activities without hurting your relationships.

Over the past few years, Meghaan Lurtz has had to turn down two destination bachelorette parties for dear friends. She was in graduate school and didn’t have the money to go.

“It felt really crappy, because these are people that I know and I love and I care about, and I absolutely wanted to be there,” she says. “But finances are what they are. You have a budget, and budgets have restraints.”

Lurtz is the president-elect of the Financial Therapy Association. She’s counseled people who’ve been in similar situations and said yes to both the pricey activity and, in turn, credit card debt.

After all, it’s hard to turn down fun with friends. But that fun can add up, as buddies expect you to shell out for group vacations or smaller expenses, like dinners, drinks and concerts.

Here’s how to determine whether you’re spending too much with friends and, if so, fix your finances without hurting your relationships.

Reflect on your — not your friends’ — finances

First, recognize that everyone has a unique “money mindset” that shapes financial decisions, says wealth psychology expert Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, author of the recent book “Breaking Money Silence.” Income and savings certainly play a part, but so do our upbringings, personalities, cultures and values. “What’s important to you and how you spend your money might be different than your friends,” Kingsbury says.

What’s important to you and how you spend your money might be different than your friends.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, wealth psychology expert

» QUIZ: What’s your money personality?

So resist giving the side-eye when your friend goes for those $600 boots — that’s her decision and her money. Instead, “try to come up with your own philosophy around money,” Kingsbury says. Determine what’s important to you — traveling the world, paying off your credit card debt or buying a home, for example. Then prioritize accordingly.

Kingsbury suggests scrutinizing last month’s credit card and bank statements to make sure your spending aligns with your priorities. Aim to get a broad sense of where your money is going and whether you ought to adjust your spending habits.

For example, you may want to course-correct if you spent $500 at the bars but put $0 toward that home you’re saving for. Creating a budget, if you don’t already have one, will help.

Spend less money (not time) with friends, if needed

Say you realize you’re overspending on social activities with friends. This problem is pretty common, Lurtz says, and it’s often driven by FOMO — the fear of missing out. You may say “yes” to every pricey dinner or group trip, for example, even though your budget screams “no.”

Remember that the point of these outings is likely more about spending time with friends than it is about eating or vacationing, Lurtz says. “So, if you can be with the person in a less expensive way, do it,” she adds. Here are a couple of strategies:

Believe me, you’re less likely to buy a round of shots for all your friends when you only have a $50 bill in your pocket.

Meghaan Lurtz, President-elect of the Financial Therapy Association

Use cash. Participate in the activity, but leave the plastic at home and bring only the amount of cash you feel comfortable spending. Unlike swiping a credit card, handing over cash feels more substantial and forces you to use “mental accounting,” Lurtz says.

“Believe me, you’re less likely to buy a round of shots for all your friends when you only have a $50 bill in your pocket,” she says. And you still get to hang out. “You’re out there, you’re going, but you also have the pride in knowing that you prioritized your goals.”

Focus on the friendship. You can always pass on activities you don’t want to spend money on. Fight that FOMO by spending time with friends in a different way.

For example, skip the $100 dinner with your crew and grab a $5 latte with those friends the next morning. “You’re honoring the friendship” and showing interest in spending time together, Kingsbury says. "But you’re coming up with an alternative for the connection they’re trying to have with you — at your spending level.”

Discuss money with friends

When you pass on an activity, thank your friends for the invitation and give them plenty of notice. Be honest about your financial priorities and respectful of theirs, Kingsbury says. Rather than complain about their expensive tastes, explain that you’re trying to save for a home, for example.

An open talk about your financial goals — and your friend's, if she's up for it — does more than lessen the blow of a declined invitation. It can help you become better friends.

Discussing our money and values, Kingsbury says, “increases intimacy and helps us understand where the other person is coming from.”