When you’re young and impressionable, parents are always concerned about the company you keep. As any parent can attest, my wife and I are already thinking some of these same thoughts for our son in the coming years. Which of his friend are polite? Who does he play well with? Who does he seem to be easily influenced by? Who is the most helpful when cleaning up the toys, or dishes after a meal?
As adults, your circle of friends and acquaintances (including co-workers) can also impact the person you are – both good and bad. I’m going to spare you the parent-to-child lecture, but I want to consider the financial impact these folks can have on us. Think now about your own circle of friends. Are there any that lead you to spend more than you’d like? When you get together with them, is it always over a fancy dinner? Are you envious about the car they just bought, or the trip they just took?
I’ve written numerous times about the danger of trying to keep up with the Joneses (by the way, did you know this was an actual cartoon that ran daily for 25 years in the early part of the 1900s?). We all fall victim to it from time to time, but it can be even harder to keep from doing it when it involves your close friends, and not some celebrity you see online.
The $500 dinner
A year or so ago, my wife and I were invited to a sushi dinner with a couple of other couples that we knew from our kids’ school. Each of the other couples enjoys going out to dinner regularly and, since we don’t eat out very often, we thought it would be a nice treat. We’d been to this restaurant before and had a general idea of what we could expect to pay. Since one of the couples is in the restaurant business and knew the chef at this place, we let them take the lead on ordering for the table.
Round after round of outstanding sushi and sake made its way to the table and we were all having a great time. When the bill finally came, however, it’s hard to put into words the shock of seeing the tab for each couple: $500. $500 for two people for dinner. Let me say that again - $500. There’s a lot of good that I can do with $500.
To make matters worse, we were still hungry after the dinner! On the way home, we had our Uber driver stop at the Wendy’s drive-thru, and that $10 dinner did more to fill us up than the sushi we’d just spent half a grand on!
They’re still your friends
I’m not telling you to go kick your money-spending friends to the curb! I’m simply reminding you to think about how your close relationships potentially impact your finances if you aren’t already aware of it. Perhaps you are aware of it, but don’t want to say anything for fear of embarrassment, isolation from them, or missing out (the ever-present FOMO).
Don’t be afraid to tell your friends that you’re trying to better manage your money and would prefer a less expensive option to the usual big night out. If they’re really your friends, I promise they’ll understand.
In fact, you may find that they are more open to less expensive options out than you realized! There have been countless times when my wife and I proposed ways to get together with our friends that didn’t break the bank. Once we did, everyone else commented that they’d prefer something like that anyway! Too many times, we get used to going back to the same thing.
Especially with the holidays coming up, it shouldn’t cost a fortune to spend time with the ones you care about. Let your presence be the present and save the money for other things that might also be important to you.