Last month I taught my second course in How to Find a New BFF. In Friend Finding 201, we discussed the importance of saying yes. As I explained back then, becoming a “yes girl” (except for the one time I said no) has led me to fortune tellers and birthday parties and sushi dinners galore. Since then, yes has also earned me a spot in an improv class, many more blind friend dates, and some delicious dinner dishes (pork belly!) that I would never have tried alone. Yet all this yessing comes at a cost. Literally. Sushi is not cheap. Neither is pork belly or improv or psychics (in fact, a fortune teller is remarkably expensive, but should you find yourself in need of her services, haggle. You can talk her down).
When I wrote the post, commenter Darlene wrote a thoughtful note in response: “In these times, I can’t possibly be the only who has to decline plans because I can’t afford what’s being suggested—but I feel like I am! … I’ve tried suggesting less expensive or free entertainment instead of whatever’s being proposed, but people usually aren’t interested. They want to go to the fancy bar, the expensive concert, the hot new restaurant, etc. So I often end up sitting at home because I just can’t come up with the cash. It’s a sticky situation because on one hand I don’t know that I want to discuss my finances with potential friends I don’t know well. On the other hand, I don’t want people to think that I don’t want to hang out with them.”
Darlene’s comment inspired a whole chorus of yesses of a different kind. As in “Yes! You’re exactly right! What choice do we have but to say no?”
There’s a great episode of Friends (yes, I know I’ve referenced my favorite show a lot lately, but it’s relevant! I swear!) in which Phoebe, Joey and Rachel are upset because the other three are always planning fancy and expensive outings. Says Joey: “They’re always saying let’s go here, let’s go there. Like we can afford to go here and there!”
The obvious solution is to suggest less expensive options—instead of going to a restaurant, do a potluck or a make-your-own-dinner party (I like to host fajita nights. A few easy ingredients from the grocery store and everyone can make their own); instead of coughing up for a movie, settle into the couch for a TV marathon (TV nights are better anyway since you don’t have to whisper and can drink alcohol); pass on the blockbuster concert tours, instead scope out the free outdoor entertainment that’s abundant this time of year (approach finding the coolest option as you would any great challenge, you’d be surprised what you can do on the cheap)—but as Darlene notes, it’s not always so simple. Sometimes people are determined to try out the new hot spot. And sometimes it’s just uncomfortable to tell people you hardly know that you can’t afford their suggestion.
One commenter suggested going to said fancy dinner, having a small meal or just water, and making clear that it should be a pay-for-what-you-get outing. But I don’t know. I’ve found that pretty awkward too.
These days I’ve decided to save money in other areas, like bringing breakfast and lunch to work so I feel less guilty about eating dinner out. And I try to look at this whole friend search as an investment—more friends now means more money later, right?—but I’m lucky to have that luxury. I don’t have kids to support, I still have my job in this tough economy, and I’ve got a gainfully employed husband who saves us money by eating home every night while I’m out making friends (according to Charles Schwab, my financial fitness is “middle of the road.” I’ll take it). Like I said, I lucked out.
How have you handled this sticky situation? Any tips for saying yes, but keeping it light on the wallet? Is there a graceful way of explaining that while you’d love to hang out, you just can’t afford the latest club/play/concert ticket? Advise below!
Disclaimer: This post is part of the 20SB Blog Carnival: Friends & Money, sponsored by Charles Schwab. Prizes may be awarded to selected posts. The information and opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the views or opinions of Charles Schwab. Details on the event, eligibility, and a complete list of participating bloggers can be found here.