A Reflection of Your Closest Friends

It’s often said that people are reflections of their five closest friends in many ways: behaviors, income levels, values, and so on.

Five years ago, almost all of my closest friends spent money like it was water. They were constantly doing things like playing poker, pushing each other to “one up” the rest with better gadgets and other material things, going out for drinks all the time, making fun of each other for looking less affluent, and so on. To put it simply, if you didn’t show many signs of material affluence, you were made fun of and ridiculed. You felt like less of a person if you weren’t spending money hand over fist.

Today, all of my inner circle of closest friends are pretty happy just spending an evening together playing cards or a board game. Instead of constantly going out on the town, we go to each other’s homes and hang out, watching each other’s DVD collections or playing each other’s games. We’ll make meals together and eat them together instead of going out for dinner all the time. Instead of talking about who has the latest gadget, we talk about who’s developed a better strategy at a well-played game or what sort of things we’ve been doing to improve the property we already have.

In that same time frame, my own feelings about spending money changed drastically. I went from spending rampantly to being careful about my money. I started spending more time at home rather than out and about, focusing my energy on getting good at a smaller number of things instead of chasing the new.

Perhaps most interestingly, I went from feeling pretty awful about myself to feeling pretty good about myself.

Look at your close circle of friends. What do you see? Chances are, you see something that looks much like you.

If you like what you see in your circle of friends when you look at them from a detached eye, you’re probably doing well for yourself. A good circle of friends is supportive and reinforces your best attributes.

On the other hand, if you don’t like what you see there, you’re probably struggling. A poor circle of friends brings each other down and reinforces one’s worst attributes.

To put it simply, if you want to find success beyond what you’re able to find right now, you may want to look at your circle of friends.

I’m not saying “ditch your friends” at all. Instead, my belief is that people change and grow over time and that growth is often reflected in who you choose to spend your time with.

In my own case, I observed my friends gradually shifting over time. The first major shift occurred when I had my first child. Since I was no longer nearly as available to go out on the town, some of them stopped emailing and calling me. Some of the rest continued inviting me to do social things, but I found that we had less and less to talk about because they weren’t genuinely interested in my life.

After my financial epiphany and, later, my second child, this became even more stark. The things filling my time were my family and my work, so when I would do anything with these riends, we would have very little to talk about. I couldn’t talk about the latest movie or much of anything else, simply because it was no longer any sort of priority in my life.

Over time, I found myself digging deeper into friendships with people who were either going through the same experience I was or were at least supportive of the things I wanted to do. I actually re-established some close friendships from an earlier period in my life and, today, my circle of friends once again reflects me. A single, introverted, frugal guy who loves to play games. A married couple where the husband loves gaming and works at home and the wife is kind, frugal, and has a quirky sense of humor. These are the kind of people we socialize with today.

To put it as bluntly as possible, this change in friendships was in large part responsible for many of my personal changes for the better over the past few years.

What can you do if you don’t like what you see? If you don’t like what you see, it likely means you’re growing as a person in a direction away from some of your friends – and that’s fine. Simply seek out others in your life that reflect your current values better and work on establishing a relationship with them.

You are a reflection of your closest friends. Do you like what you see in that mirror?

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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