Knowing How to Deal With Finances and Friends is a valuable life skill. Money is such an uncomfortable topic for so many people and when you mix it with your social life it can get even worse. Especially if you are having to say “no” for financial reasons.
Check out my tips for How to Deal With Finances and Friends.
How To Deal With Finances and Friends
Always Ask For Separate Bills Up Front: While most restaurants won’t allow this for parties of eight or more, some will, especially if I am with a bunch of couples. When this happens, there are several joint checks and we likely end up with fewer than eight. The wait staff will usually work with me since I asked right up front.
Offer a Cheaper Alternative: I love planning activities with my friends and most are happy to let me do it. So if I am in charge, you can bet we won’t break the bank. Offer to take the lead and you can pick something in your budget. I love a good game night and potluck dinner.
Looking for more money saving tips? Check out Buying a Car Without Getting Ripped Off!
Do Your Research and Set a Budget Before You Go Out: If you know you are meeting friends out to eat, there is a good chance the restaurant will have the menu online. Set your budget before you go and know exactly what you are going to order. Skip the alcohol and desserts if your budget doesn’t allow for them because that is where the big markup is. That way there are no surprises when you get the check. Also, please still be a good tipper. If you can’t afford to tip go somewhere without a waiter.
Eat Before You Go: Over the last few years I have made health a priority and dropped some weight as a result. Since most of my social life revolves around eating with my friends, I had to learn how to eat at home before going out so that I could maintain a specific amount of calories. Easily 90% of my friends were perfectly fine with me ordering a water (or on a splurge night a Diet Coke) and being good company for them. I do have a few friends who won’t go out with me if I don’t eat, so we have had to come up with other activities or go out in larger groups. I still usually drop a dollar or two on the table in tip, but I generally walk out with no check.
Pick Frugal Activities: Odds are most of your friends are as cash-strapped as you are (which is really the whole reason I wrote this book), so you can find a community that isn’t living an extravagant life. My friends and I do a lot of potlucks, movie nights, and free outdoor concerts. But even grabbing a six pack or chipping in for a pizza costs a little bit of money. You need to budget for that.
The Wedding Budget: My least favorite words in the English language in my 20s were “Will you be a bridesmaid?” For some reason you really aren’t allowed to say no, and I have rarely escaped from that situation for less than $500. If you are in your early 20s, just start putting money aside for it now. Plan on $1,000 each for the weddings, depending on location and circumstances.
I will give you one tip I managed to use to avoid being a bridesmaid: I can sing and play the piano. Several times when I was asked, I offered instead to do the music for free. If you play an instrument, sing, bake cakes, do calligraphy, or have some other skills you can offer, you might be able to skip the expensive dress/tux, hair and make-up, and give something helpful you actually enjoy doing.
Stand Up For Yourself: Sometimes you just won’t be able to do things and that is okay. I have had friends do ski weekends or expensive days at the spa, and I had to turn them down. My long-term financial goals are more important than fun right now. This way, I can pick and choose the extra things I want to do. Personally, I am far more likely to plan a weekend out of town for less money than a spa day. This feels like better bang for my buck in my case. If it means you need to grab the bill at dinner and split it up by what people actually ate instead of splitting it evenly, take the lead. I have discovered that most people are fine with that if they don’t have to do the work themselves.
Laura M. Oliver is the author of Singles: Take Control of Your Own Financial Journey. It is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.