One of the biggest challenges I faced in my college and early professional days was dealing with friends who were always encouraging me to be involved in expensive activities. We’d go out to eat at expensive restaurants, go to the new release movies (two or three a weekend), and go electronics and book shopping on an extremely frequent basis. It didn’t take much of this for my wallet to be drained.
When I finally recognized that I needed to get my finances together, I was worried how this would impact my relationships with my friends. I won’t kid you: it did have a negative impact on some of the relationships, but I was able to easily maintain most of the valuable friendships and have built up new ones since.
So how can you start convincing your friends to do less expensive activities? Here are five tips for bridging the gap.
Start some discussions. Many people say that it’s not polite to talk about your finances, but you can easily get around that if you frame it the right way. Ask about what everyone plans to be doing in five years, then state what your goals are (like buying a house) and why you need to save for it.
Drop hints. When you see opportunities for being frugal, talk about them. I found this worked especially well when eating out – “I just learned how to make that myself at home! How about you guys come over some time and I’ll make it?” – or when indulging in entertainment shopping – pick up a DVD you’ve already got and say, “This was really good and I’ve already got it… I think I’ll watch it again.”
Set an example. If everyone goes shopping, you can tag along, but don’t buy anything. If they ask you why, tell them, but don’t bring it up on your own.
Be a leader. Most groups are like sheep; the first person who champions an idea usually winds up getting his or her way. So be the first to suggest something, and suggest something that’s easy on the wallet.
Don’t be inflexible. It’s okay to splurge sometimes; don’t be completely inflexible on occasionally doing expensive things or else you’ll drive people away.
Need some ideas of fun things to do that aren’t expensive? Here are some ideas to try.
Have them over for dinner – and suggest a rotating dinner. Instead of eating out, have a rotating dinner at home, where each person cooks something at home for everyone. If that won’t work, start having rotating pot lucks where everyone brings a dish.
Play a game. We do this with friends about once every two weeks or so. We just pull out one of our board games and play it along with conversation and drinks. Lately, we’ve been enjoying Ticket to Ride a ton; it was originally given as a Christmas gift, but we’ve played it with friends over and over again.
Go on some model home tours. These are fantastic fun for a day out with the gals; these places are loaded with home decorating ideas, plus it’s a great way to talk about what you like and don’t like in home decor.
Start a book club. Book clubs are cheap ways to have a lot of fun if the people in your group have a similar mindset. Have a weekly meeting to talk about the book – but let that conversation evolve from there. A friend of mine got a book club started with a bunch of her friends; they read one book a month, but meet weekly to talk about it on a rotating basis at each of their houses. The only costs for an afternoon a week of great conversation with people with similar interests is a book once a month (which can be checked out from the library or shipped to you for pennies online) and snacks for a small group about once every two months.
Go for a drive. Look for interesting local places to go that might be free or cheap. Ever been to the local art museum? How about to the top of the mountain outside of town (a great place for a picnic)? Is there a local historical place of interest? Instead of going to worship at the shrines of consumerism, take a drive to something else that’s interesting.
Watch an old movie. There are so many great films I haven’t seen, so we’ve started having evenings where we watch a bunch of great old movies, like Lawrence of Arabia and Goodbye Mr. Chips and such. These can be rented for pennies at the local video rental store and they provide hours of entertainment.
Plan a camping trip. We started doing this with friends a few summers ago. A whole pile of us would converge on a state park over a long weekend (some of us would take Friday off) and we’d camp together, eat together, and enjoy the outdoors and catching up with people who live out of town. Best of all, with everyone chipping in on costs, it was pretty cheap, too. Here’s a great list of cheap camping tips.
Get involved in a youth activity. My oldest brother has gotten really involved in coaching a youth baseball league – and he got a lot of his friends involved, too, coaching other teams. It fills up a lot of time on the weekends with his friends, plus he’s actively involved in helping the community and improving the lives of a lot of children.
Go high-end window shopping. If you really must go shopping, try window-shopping at really expensive stores. If you like electronics, focus on the high-end gadgets that you can’t possibly afford and drool on them; if you like clothes, go to the most expensive clothing stores and marvel at the cuts. This way, you’re much less tempted to drop $500 on a single item than, say, $30 on an item.
Have a giant yard sale together. All of you have extra stuff, right? Get together and have a single giant yard sale or else get together to take a whole lot of extras to consignment (if no one owns a home or has a place to do the yard sale). You’ll be able to spend the weekend together, clear out a lot of junk you no longer want, and come up with some extra cash. Be sure that you have a clear plan for how to split up the income, though, before you start.