Allen recently attended a family wedding that put a hole in his budget. He wonders how to cope with societal pressure to spend:

How do you deal with social situations where you have to spend? I just had to spend $300 to go to a cousin’s wedding. I couldn’t not go — it’s family. But I couldn’t get in wearing what I own, because it wasn’t “good enough” and I couldn’t just go rent something because:

  1. It wasn’t that much cheaper, really.
  2. I only found out the day of the wedding that my clothes were not “good enough” to even get in to where the wedding was held.

These sorts of situations are awkward. What’s the best way to handle them?

This question goes beyond the common problem where you feel pressured to have a drink after work, which we’ve covered before. Allen’s question is more about deeply-ingrained societal obligations to spend, like weddings, graduations, birthdays, and anniversaries.

His specific example involves big numbers, but these sorts of things occur more frequently on a smaller scale: the endless cycle of children’s birthday parties, passing the envelope at the office, school fundraisers, your sister-in-law’s candle party. Last month, Betsy Teutsch shared a guest post about wedding registries that touched on similar emotions.

What can you do when placed in these situations, especially if money is tight? Can you simply say, “I can’t afford it. I can’t come.”? Can you budget for social obligations? Or is it best to believe that things will “come out in the wash” eventually — that one day it’ll be you hosting a child’s birthday party, hosting a tupperware party, or asking guests to wear fancy clothes to a wedding?

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