Handling Social Reactions to Changes in Your Spending

When I first started cutting back on my spending, a significant portion of my social group took notice. They saw that I was less interested in expensive excursions like golfing and that I was sometimes skipping after-work meetups (and drinking only water at most of the ones I attended).

Quite a few of the people were supportive. They checked with me to find out if anything was wrong and often admitted to me that they were struggling with their own financial situation. I continued my friendship with many of them, some of whom I still interact with on a regular basis. At least a few of them are still regular readers of The Simple Dollar. This is the kind of positive reaction you want.

Some members of my social group were… shall we say… less supportive. At first, they were rather joking about it, asking me why I was drinking water and wondering why I wasn’t up for some expensive excursion.

After a while, they stopped contacting me and inviting me to things. Although nothing was said directly to me, I later learned that people were calling me a “cheapskate” (and various similar things) when I wasn’t around.

These are the kinds of social reactions people fear when they start making changes to their spending habits.

It turns out that quite a lot of our spending is done to maintain social appearances, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Do you go out with friends? Do you ever choose clothes using your friends’ potential reaction as consideration? Do you ever buy gadgets or other items to impress friends or put envy in their hearts?

When you start changing those behaviors, people in your life will notice – and some of them (the less supportive of them) might react with negativity.

Here’s how I dealt with it.

First of all, I recognized that non-supportive social relationships in my life were not helping me out. If a friend is treating you negatively because you’re making a positive change in your life, then that person isn’t actually a friend. I filed the people who acted negatively into my “acquaintances” folder and, frankly, I stopped paying much attention to them.

I started to deeply consider the idea that you are the average of your five closest friends and recognized that I should stick with friends who have traits that I would like to see in myself, such as supportiveness of friends who are trying to improve themselves, and avoid people who have traits I don’t want to see in myself, such as talking behind the backs of others.

Thus, I put more effort into the friends that were supportive. The friends who stuck with me were clearly the friends who cared about me and that deserved (and still deserves) my attention and care. I put some additional time and effort into those friendships.

Since my actual social activities were changing, that meant inviting these friends to engage with us in other ways. Over time, this evolved into Sarah and I hosting potluck dinners and game nights at our home, for example.

Next, I started dabbling in new social opportunities. I scaled back on activities like golf and scaled up on activities like charities in my community. Since I “scaled up” on things that I had an interest in anyway, I never really felt like I was “losing” anything. I just felt like I was trying new things and meeting new people.

Seven or eight years ago, I wasn’t really involved in any community activities. Since then, I’ve been involved with coaching youth sports and after getting very involved, I now serve on the board of a community charity. At the same time, I haven’t actually golfed in years. Do I regret these changes? Not really. If I’m unhappy with what I’m doing, that means I need to seek out new things.

These changes have resulted in a major renewal in my social circles. Most of the people I was close to several years ago are no longer in my social circle, while I’ve found new friends. I don’t regret the changes because I don’t feel bad about losing people who were playing negative games regarding my changes. Those aren’t friendships that contribute to my life – and they’re not friendships that will contribute to your life.

A major personal change reveals to you who your true friends are. It also provides an opportunity to move your social life in a new direction. Embrace that change and let go of the elements of your past that have held you down.

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