When You Can’t Keep Up With Expensive Friends

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

When You Can't Keep Up with Expensive Friends photo

Does it seem your friends always have money to burn when you don’t? Friendships nor fun should have to cost a fortune. Try these frugally fun ideas when you can’t keep up with your expensive friends.

Happy Hours. Sporting events. Shopping. Concerts. Your friends like to enjoy themselves and you do too. But these expensive outings are killing your budget.

You might think your only options are to get cheaper friends, or to keep your pricey friends and just learn to be OK with being broke. But there are ways to maintain both your budget and your friendships when you can’t keep up with expensive friends.

These tips can help you continue going out with your friends without going broke.

Determine your entertainment budget.

The very first thing you need to do is to get control of your budget. The fact that you are concerned about your overspending likely means one of two things. Either you know that you are spending more on entertainment each month than you have allotted in your budget, or you don’t have a budget but know those entertainment dollars really should be going towards a better financial future.

If you don’t have a budget, make one, and figure out how much you actually can afford to spend on entertainment each month. And if you do already have a budget, determine if you can reduce spending in other categories to allow for what you’d like to be able to spend on entertainment.

Could you swap your gym membership for at-home workouts? Start taking your lunch to work more often and look for more ways to reduce grocery costs? Take a good look at other non-essential expenses on your budget that could be traded for entertainment. Or consider starting a side gig and put that extra income to having fun.

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Spend less when you go out.

Just because you go to happy hour or out dancing does not mean you have to spend a lot on drinks or food. You can sip on a red wine for quite awhile without having to worry about it getting warm as you do a beer.  By ordering a mixed drink in a tall glass, you can make that drink last twice as long. And a water with a twist of lemon is free at most places.

Also, eat before you go out, even when going out to dinner. When your friends order a big meal, you can get something inexpensive and small without going hungry or broke. No need to feel  embarrassed. Let them think you’re on a health kick. (See An Insider’s Guide to Saving Money at Restaurants.)

Just because you go shopping with friends does not mean you need to buy anything. You can tag along to help them decide whether that pricey dress actually looks good on them or not. To prevent any splurging or impulse buys of your own, make sure you already have something in the front of your mind that you’d rather spend that money on.  Would you rather go on that weekend beach trip or buy another pair of shoes? By spending as little as you can on entertainment and frivolous shopping when you can, you will be able to splurge on the occasional expensive event.

And keep in mind you don’t have to accept an invite to every happy hour or concert. Will you miss out on some fun times? Perhaps. But those fun times won’t seem so fun when you’re struggling to pay down a credit card balance or unable to put a down payment on a house or car.

Don’t assume your friends can afford what you can’t.

You might sometimes feel embarrassed about your lack of funds and worry your friends will notice you often don’t seem to have money to spend.

Guess what? It’s very possible some of your friends can’t afford the pricey outings any more than you can.

Just because they are willing to spend the money does not mean they have the money. Perhaps, like you, they are too embarrassed to admit they can’t keep up financially, or maybe they simply don’t care if they are running up their credit card balance on 2-for-1 drink specials. Either way, they might be relieved to know someone else is struggling to keep up with everyone else and welcome some opportunities for inexpensive get-togethers.

Be the hostess who spends the least-est.

Host a BYOB/potluck game night at your house or a pool party. Keep an eye out for free concerts in your area. Or plan an afternoon picnic at a lake or park complete with a game of flag football or volleyball.

With a little creativity and even fewer dollars, you can plan regular, frugally-fun gatherings your friends will look forward to and your budget won’t regret.

Consider forming some frugal friendships.

Friends, like your money, will come and go.

Our financial situations are fluid and friendships ever-changing. But as your mother likely told you long ago, true friendships will endure whether you can afford frequent spa visits or not. And anyone unsympathetic to your financial situation and unwilling to join you in your quest for cheaper fun isn’t such a good friend anyway. You might find it is time to start seeking out a few new frugal friends to replace those who can only seem to have fun when they’re spending money.

Between your new cheap friends and your old true blue friends who understand you don’t always have the green, you should find yourself with more than enough opportunities to go out and have some affordable fun. And you’ll likely see such an improvement in your finances that you’ll finally be able to afford all that pricey entertainment you’re struggling to pay for now, but no longer have the need or desire to spend on it.

I promise your future self will appreciate the bigger bank balance far more than the pricey memories!

Reviewed August 2022

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