How to Maintain Friendships With Non-Frugal People

In response to yesterday’s post about fun, Erin wrote the following (adding my own emphasis):

Whenever I do things with friends, they seem to always want to include eating out with the activity. Or they want to go shopping. When I suggest that we go out, but not eat out or that shopping is not of interest to me, or that to drive to the nearest metropolitan area for entertainment costs a lot in gas (I live in a small town), I immediately hear their moans or get that look that says how boring my suggestions are.

We all make decent money, but I choose to save mine. I enjoy being with my friends, but I don’t enjoy spending what I consider too much money on entertainment and I do not want anymore “stuff”. Some friends either don’t have anything saved for retirement or, even worse, they do not have any retirement money and have a lot of credit card debt. They do not see anything wrong with this.

How do people maintain friendships with good people they care about, but still maintain a frugal lifestyle?

This is an extremely challenging question, but it’s a vital one.

For many people (myself included), becoming financially aware and adopting frugal habits results in a significant shift in how one sees the world. For me, it didn’t take long to start seriously questioning how I was spending every dollar and drawing some new conclusions about the things that I participate in.

Yet, when the epiphany happened for me, most of my friends were not on board. My best friend was already rather frugal to begin with, but most of the rest were still firmly on board the spending train. How could I maintain these friendships without alienating them or selling out my own beliefs? Over time, I came to several conclusions.

First, sometimes a change in your values will reveal some sad truths about some of your friendships. I wrote about this at length in the past, when I lost a friend over frugal choices (I’ve seen Dave once since this post, when he came over to borrow golf equipment which hasn’t been returned or even mentioned since).

What I learned from this experience is that some friends value you and others don’t. Quite simply, there are people out there who build friendships based on the social role someone can fill in their life. It might be a drinking buddy or a golfing buddy or a gossip friend or a shopping friend, but once you decide to change those behaviors much at all, your friendship will vanish.

Once you switch over to a frugal mindset, you will find that some of your friendships fall into this cateogry, and there’s very little you can do to maintain that friendship unless you just allow yourself to act out old habits in their company. That’s a call you have to make as an individual, but I found that it wasn’t worth it to maintain that kind of act.

Second, don’t shove your value change down the throats of others. Sure, it’s great that you’ve figured out your finances and all, but most people don’t want to hear about it on a regular basis. If you feel the need to talk to people about personal finance, post comments on The Simple Dollar or visit an appropriate messageboard.

Third, be proactive in suggesting frugal activities, but don’t pitch them because they’re frugal. One good approach is to look at lists of fun activities that don’t cost a ton of money, identify ones that fit well with the dynamics of your friendships, and suggest those when opportunities come along.

Similarly, if your friends are willing to do frugal stuff with you, be open to some activities with them that do cost money. If you do a potluck supper and also play disc golf at the park, don’t hesitate to go out for a shopping trip with your friends (just keep your own wallet in check). My best friend likes miniature golf, so we often do that – it’s not very expensive and most of the other stuff we do is free (or close to it).

In short, your financial changes will reveal to you who your true friends are – so don’t batter those true friends with the changes you’re making.

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