How to deal with expensive friends

How to deal with expensive friends

No matter what I do to prevent it, spring budget creep always seems to take hold this time of year. Sometimes it seems as if the dollars start flying out the door the second the temperature starts to rise. And although I budget for all of our known expenses, the extra expenditures still add up — and hurt.

Part of our creep is a product of spring clean-up — mulch, new plants and flowers, and vegetable garden start-up. But the rest? It's all social — neighbors inviting us over for cookouts, dinners out and card parties. Warm weather stuff.

Still, as much as it pains me to beef up our entertainment budget in warmer months, there is a part of me that enjoys it. When we moved to a new town and neighborhood last year, we started our journey without any local friends. And as many of you know, it can sometimes be difficult to make real, true friends once you reach your 30s.

I feel fortunate that a few neighbors embraced our presence so quickly, and thankful that we get invited so often. It can be hard to say “no” to social gatherings or dinner nights when you feel lucky to get an invite in the first place.

Still, most of us need boundaries if we truly want to live within our means and stick to our savings goals. And most of us have at least one set of expensive friends — or sets of friends — to deal with. I know I do.

And, that's fine. Who am I to judge? Obviously, other people are entitled to spend their money how they want — even if it is on events or purchases others might see as frivolous. Paying $100 for dinner is enough to make me puke, but I have noticed that not everyone feels that way.

How to Deal With Expensive Friends

When it comes to our friends inside and outside of the neighborhood, our problem isn't always the expense of each individual event we are invited to, but the quantity. In winter, we often stay home for weeks at a time. But once it gets warm out, we might get an invite to a social event every weekend night.

It can be a lot, even if you are simply bringing food or making Jello-O shots for a pitch-in. Here are a few ways we cope with expensive friends while still maintaining friendships:

Offer to Whip Up a Fancy Dinner at Home.

We celebrated a special occasion with friends the other night, but instead of going out, we made an epic dinner at home. I'm talking crab legs, avocado egg rolls, spicy cauliflower, and all the extras — and all for less than $30 in ingredients.

That's a lot for one dinner, sure, but the same meal could have easily cost $200 or more in a nice sit-down restaurant. Splurging is okay sometimes, but it costs a lot less to splurge at home.

Plan a Pitch-In.

As long as someone is willing to host, a pitch-in is the perfect way to hang out and enjoy a meal with friends. Not only can it lead to huge savings, but you can also take your time instead of rushing out of the restaurant once you are done. And since we bring our kids with us to cookouts and pitch-ins, it also helps us avoid hiring a babysitter.

Suggest Activities First.

This is my favorite trick when it comes to dealing with expensive friends. Any time we have tentative plans with someone, I'll suggest an activity first. My go-to suggestion is something cheap like a pitch-in or cookout and, of course, I offer to host. Most of the time, it works.

Pick a Weekend Night to Stay Home.

Sometimes the easiest way to save money is just to stay at home. Easier said than done when the weather is beautiful, but it is a good strategy nonetheless. I actually find it rather exhausting to have plans every weekend, so we have been trying to stay home at least one weekend night — usually Fridays. Not only is it nice to save money, but it is also nice to have a family night with the kids.

Say “No” When You Really Don't Want to Do Something.

There will probably come a time when someone invites you to something you really don't want to do. It could be a sporting event, an expensive dinner out, or something else. It doesn't matter. Occasionally, you just have to stick to your guns and say “no.” We have done it before, and it hurts — but it was definitely the right thing. Our noes usually involve invites to expensive restaurant dinners that are late at night. I hate eating at 8:00 p.m. and can't fathom the idea of overpaying for a meal I wouldn't enjoy. So when a situation like that arises, I just have to say “no.”

Tell Other People About Your Financial Situation.

You don't have to spill all of the gritty details. However, if you are truly trying to save money, it can help to let your family and friends know. So tell them. Explain your budget situation and tell them about your dreams and goals. They may not share your enthusiasm for frugal living; but if they are real friends, they will understand.

Dealing With Expensive Friends Without Losing Friendships

For the most part, I tend to believe that it is all about striking a balance. You know you don't want to be that family — the one that never has the money to do anything fun. But you also don't want to go off the deep end and spend in a way that undermines your short-term and long-term goals.

For us, it is all about being selective and having fun in the most frugal way possible. It's not always the easiest choice, but I know it's the best one. Life isn't all about having fun today; it's about saving for tomorrow too. And sometimes, you have to bow out and make the right decision for your family.

How do you deal with expensive friends? What strategies do you use to try to keep the cost of social events down?

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Travis @enemyogdebt
Travis @enemyogdebt

We have some friends that fall into this category…..and we would do exactly the things you listed above. We would suggest get togethers first, before the weekend rolled around. Because waiting until Friday Night to make plans always ends up at an expensive restaurant. 🙂 We also were not afraid to tell them that we were going to “sit out” an event if we thought it was too expensive, or if it just didn’t fit in our budget. You have to be true to your financial means, and our friends respected that. In fact, after awhile, we noticed that they… Read more »

NicoleAndmaggie
NicoleAndmaggie

Is a pitch in the same as a potluck? I’d never heard that term before.

Holly
Holly

Yes!

Fervent Finance
Fervent Finance

I couldn’t agree with you more. Everyone wants to meet for dinner and/or drinks outside in the city once it gets nice out. I definitely enjoy doing this but not all the time. I’ve learned to just say “no” when I don’t want to do something. At first my friends gave me a hard time, but now I just don’t care 🙂 What I want to do comes first, especially since I have my FI goals.

Scooze
Scooze

In the summer months, we picnic all. the. time. At least once a week, if not twice. If we had a patio we would grill at home but that’s not our reality. We also go to outdoor cafes a couple times a month on the most beautiful days. I create my budget for the entire year on January 1st. When I put in the groceries and eating out line items, I purposefully put more money in the summer months because I know I will be eating out more and picnicking more. To balance the budget, we eat out less during… Read more »

Laura
Laura

I like your approach about budgeting. I figure that no matter how much I’m spending on eating out in the summer, it’s nowhere near as much as we pay for heating oil in the winter. 😀

PJ Ryan
PJ Ryan

Learning to say no was a huge game-changer for my life. I’m a people-pleaser by nature and always found myself unhappy at various events or even resenting my friends for pressuring me into attending. Finally, when dealing with a friend who isn’t very perceptive at taking hints, I just sucked it up and said, “You know, this just isn’t really my thing. It sounds great, though, and I hope you have a wonderful time.” I don’t know what I was so scared of this whole time! It worked like a charm, and no one was offended.

Sam
Sam

I have a couple of very wealthy friends. I very much enjoy them and their vacation homes. No, seriously, I love to meet up with them at their vacation homes and live like they do for a couple of days. I find it bizarre to shop at Louis Vuitton, but I enjoy the free champagne and the spectacle. I’m not going to buy anything at that store, nor do I want to (logo fashion is not my thing at all) but I love my friends, enjoy spending time with them and I’m happy to engage in their favorite activity (shopping)… Read more »

Jordan
Jordan

These are some great tips! I have a few friends who really just do not get the value of money at all – they’re rich and are going to stay rich, so when I tell them I’m budgeting I get blank stares. These are some great ideas so I can still hang out with them while not blowing my budget!

Lisa
Lisa

Timely topic. I never thought about amping up my social budget during Spring and Summer but it makes sense.

Speaking of rich friends and tiny budgets, I’m hoping to get some ideas here on how to entertain rich friends in a tiny house. I’m moving to one in August and very concerned about how I’m going to handle my social life! Bringing people out to eat is not in the budget. So… book club, date night… Hmm… living without a living room is going to be interesting.

Carol
Carol

Lisa, Time to get creative! I live in a small condo (750 sq.ft.), though I do have a nice-sized living room. When I host my book club (up to 12 people) in colder weather, I usually do a soup-salad thing. It can all be prepped ahead of time, then served buffet style. I set up the LR with the extra chairs needed to sit on, then alternate with TV trays. My large coffee table, and a side table are also within reach. Put a folding chair between two seating spots and you have a table. I use my desk as… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff

Depends on if they worked for their money or had it handed to them: the former tend to be easier as they were like you in the past and are appreciate any sort of hospitality.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM

Can you build a little patio? Some pavers and a few chairs should do it.

Linda Vergon

(This comment came from Jason, a reader of our daily newsletter.)

I like the idea of choosing one weekend night to stay in. Anything stand out to you?

Chelsea @ Broke Girl Gets Rich
Chelsea @ Broke Girl Gets Rich

It’s definitely difficult to have friends who don’t share your concepts of money.

Especially with the friends who know they earn less than I do – they don’t get why I’d rather take the time to cook when certain takeout places are so “cheap” or why I prefer not to pay entry fees into night clubs.

Anyway, in the end, it’s all about doing what’s best for you.

Michelle
Michelle

Luckily my friends are all pretty frugal just like I am. We go out a decent amount, but we are good at hanging out on a budget. Just as much fun!

Lynnvanz
Lynnvanz

Don’t have friends, don’t have to worry about it.
Friends all moved away in my latter 30’s, don’t much care for those who have little kids since my kids are grown, just didn’t want to make new friends. Don’t invite, don’t get asked, it all works.

Kalie
Kalie

I think being generous but thrifty is a good balance to strike. It sends people the message that you’re not “that family” who is stingy about fun, but you’re not extravagant either. I think your ideas are great. Also, offering to help out with babysitting, yard work, or lending tools can be a good way to communicate that you appreciate the friendship, even if you have to decline some pricey activities.

Jason @ Debt Departure
Jason @ Debt Departure

I have a few friends who love to go out drinking after work. I’ve cut back quite a bit since I’ve started on my debt free journey. It feels good to get your priorities in order.

akoilady
akoilady

I have a friend who just doesn’t seem to “get” it, even though she has often told me how she and her now deceased husband never bought something they didn’t have the money for. As I’ve stated elsewhere on this site, I’m just beginning to get my financial house in order. Of course part of that is paying down the debt I’ve accumulated over the years since my divorce. In the past, this friend and I have traveled, and I would end up putting most of the costs on the card and not be able to pay it off at… Read more »

Nick
Nick

Do you have any idea how long it will take you to work on your debt? It might help your friend if she knew clearly: no travels with akoilady until August 2017. Then she knows where she stands with you and doesn’t have to ask any more. Of course it would be very relaxing for you if she could respect your situation and your decision.

akoilady
akoilady

Nick, I don’t have a timeline for my debt payoff. with my medical bills it makes it difficult to project. At least I haven’t figured out how to project one. I’m finding all the information posted on this site to be very helpful, and have the credit card debt at 0% interest into next year. It’s the consumer loan that is the challenge! I’m building up my emergency fund (goal $2000) and I should reach that soon. Then I will be able to tackle the consumer loan with extra payments. I’m not following the debt snowball exactly, as I’m paying… Read more »

Rail
Rail

Good for you Akoilady. Just tell your friend what you are telling your friends here at GRS. You have taken the steps to get yourself out of debt and going the right way, don’t let yourself get sidetracked on your journey. You can and you WILL get your finances in order and have the peace of mind your looking for. Good luck. Cheers!

Janette
Janette

I dream about travel a lot and talk about traveling with my friends- but we don’t travel right now. We traveled a great deal when we were first married and have seen so many things. Now it is my sister’s turn to travel. Here is the line I now use: “I cannot wait to travel again, but I refuse to be one of those people who cannot afford a place to live in my old age because I only lived for today!” My travel season is over for a while. I hope it returns. I hope more that I will… Read more »

Waverly
Waverly

All good points.

I just want to take a minute to explore the other side, though. It can be downright exhausting to have broke friends. Friends that can never go out to dinner or to happy hour or the movies because of budget constraints.

I enjoy saving up my money for stuff that’s important to me, too, but people who consistently say “No I can’t, because I’m broke” soon stop getting invites from me.

Nick
Nick

I too have broke friends. As they are really precious people to me, we concentrate on things that are free or very cheap (long walks, simple cooking, sharing a DVD at home). Every now and then I invite them somewhere else and pay for everything, but not too often. We don’t want them to feel awkward, and I’m also quite frugal. I think it was important to have an open conversation about this in the first place.

Mel
Mel

I used to have issues with friends who couldn’t afford to go to a movie, even at the second run theater, community events with small entry fees, or 2 for 1 day at the mini golf course. Strangely, these same people usually had money for beer and cigarettes. It was the strangest thing…

lmoot
lmoot

I’m glad someone brought that up. I struggle more with broke friends than I do with expensive friends. I do have a friend who earn a great income who has taken it upon herself to be a travel agent of sorts for our group and is currently rallying everyone up for a trip to S. America this year. A couple years ago it was New Orleans, which was actually pretty cost-effective. I don’t mind once a year/ couple times per year things as we all live in different states and it’s a way to get together (which would be expensive… Read more »

Janette
Janette

That is the best way to handle it.
Then again, if something goes terribly wrong and you become broke….
It happens!

Sabz
Sabz

Going through a lean patch due to a job loss, we are making use of free outdoor events to socialize. Everyone brings a dish for a picnic lunch, we grab our folding chairs and make an afternoon of fun and some great socializing. I’ve had to say no to some very tempting ticketed events because even an afternoon can easily run into $100+. But it’s easy to do if you plan ahead and use free local resources otherwise. Great article!

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}

I think I’m lucky in that as an expat most of us are living where we are so that we can travel. So, we’re all on the same page of saving money to be able to do that. But I’m also blessed in that when I’m in the US, my friends know they make more money than I do usually we all hang out at home, parks, festivals, etc. If they want to go somewhere expensive (I never initiate *those* get-togethers; I always offer for coffee or movies in or something) they generally precede the invite with “our treat.” I… Read more »

Saint jose
Saint jose

Great article, thanks for sharing & Keep Posting….

Nick @ Millionaires Giving Money
Nick @ Millionaires Giving Money

I always explain my circumstances and my attitude to money to all my friends so they know what to expect from me. By explaining my position from the outset I can determine who will be a real good friend. Great post, thanks for sharing.

Harmony @ creatingmykaleidoscope
Harmony @ creatingmykaleidoscope

My friends and I all have young children. The difference between us? They are all spenders. It’s usually not that much of an issue when we use tactics like the ones in this list. We do have a problem with the birthday parties. I’ve seen the hundreds of Lego sets in your son’s room . . . I’m not going to spend over $50 to buy him another set, or some expensive brand name clothing. But then they show up to our kids’ parties with big presents, even though I try to give them suggestions for cheaper items. Our only… Read more »

Elizabeth Vega
Elizabeth Vega

I suspect the reason that our core group of friends has settled into one with similar spending styles is that the folks at the farthest ends of our little bell-curve probably don’t enjoy spending as much time with us. But even if we don’t see those friends with very different money habits quite as often, we remain friends because we have enough common ground and shared interests to make it worth stretching our comfort zones (in either direction) occasionally!

Ashley Narcisse
Ashley Narcisse

I live in Southern Cali and the weather is always warm and there are a lot of “expensive friends.” We’ve learned to be completely honest about what we can and cannot do, and eventually you weed out the true friends. At the end of the day, your expensive friends aren’t going to pay for your vacation, your new home, or your kid’s educations!

BeSmartRich
BeSmartRich

I found letting people know that I am trying to save helps. If they are good friends, they would listen and find some activities that aren’t costly.

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