Picture this. It's 4:20 PM on a Monday afternoon. It has been a long day and your friend emails you asking if you want to get a few drinks after work. You go to your favorite spot and since it's close to dinner you decide to grab a bite to eat as well. You are laughing and having a great time, and before you know it, you've spent $60.
Flash forward to Wednesday 3:00 PM, when you get a text from a friend you haven’t seen in forever. She tells you that there is a wine tasting close to your work and she would love to meet up. Before you know it you, you've racked up another $60 bill. Does this story sound familiar?
Budgeting can be very challenging especially if your friends are interfering with your goals. Friends that interfere with your goals can be referred to as toxic. By definition, toxic means acting as or having the effect of a poison. When it comes to your friends, this might not mean that they are negative people but rather that they might be negatively influencing your wallet. Whether they don't have the same financials goals as you or have no financial goals at all, the pressure to keep up with their lifestyle can do more than enough damage.
Rather than play defense, turn to these six suggestions for protecting your budget from toxic friends:
1) Take the initiative
Be the one to take you and your friends outside your comfort zone and find new (and less expensive) activities to fill your free time. You could do anything from an outdoor picnic to attending a networking event. Being frugal can still be fun, and mixing it up can even strengthen your friendships. When doing new things in unfamiliar places, you and your friends are bound to learn more about each other.
Find social events that are free or fit into the budget. When you're the one to suggest the agenda, you'll know exactly how much you're going to spend and less likely to rack up a big bill.
2) Get active
Spending your time after work exercising or being physically active can benefit your friendship as well as your health, and is a great alternative to sitting in a dark restaurant.
I live in Ohio where the weather doesn't permit a lot of outdoor activity. One of my closest girlfriends and I loved to go to dinner after work but I came to realize this routine wasn’t good for my wellness or my pocket book. We decided to mall walk as an alternative. (I know you are picturing me speed walking in a matching jogging suit but I promise it's not that questionable). Mall walking allowed my friend and I to catch up and get in our cardio without spending money or having to brave the cold.
Maybe mall walking is not your cup of tea, but anything active is a better option than emptying your savings at the bar.
3) Get your friends involved
Rather than keep your financial goals under wraps, let your friends know what you're saving up for or why you want to cut back spending. You might be surprised at how encouraging your friends are once you fill them in, and how many of them will be inspired to do the same. Sometimes people just need a little push in the right direction, and there is always motivation in numbers.
Sticking to a budget can be difficult; therefore you will need all the support you can get. If your friends are on board it makes budgeting less of a sacrifice and more of a journey.
4) Set boundaries for gift giving
If the holidays were a rude reminder of how much money you spend on gifts for friends, get wise before the next celebration or birthday rolls around. Set limits on gift exchanges, whether it be monetary or form. For example, make it a mandate that gifts don't exceed $20 or, rather than something you can wrap, agree to make a donation to a charity in each other's name.
Get creative, and remember that holidays are about showing people how much you care not how much you can spend.
5) Plan in advance
Half the battle of making a budget is planning in advance and sticking to it. Being able to apply this same strategy to your social interactions can be extremely beneficial. If your favorite band is coming into town or your friend is getting married, put money aside incrementally so you're not scrambling for cash right before.
If you work big events into your budget in advance, you can guarantee that you'll be able to attend and won't have to worry about how the extra expense will impact your financial responsibilities — like rent and food money.
6) Celebrate together
The best part of budgeting and setting goals, is achieving those goals — and your achievement is worth recognizing! When balancing your social budget be sure to include rewards for reaching your goals. For example, if you plan to save $100 a month for retirement, allow yourself a night out at the end of each month if you hit your mark.
Each goal achieved is a step towards your larger vision and celebrating the little milestones makes the process rewarding. Even better is sharing your success with your friends. No matter how small the accomplishment, it should be celebrated with the ones you love.
Budgeting should not be about staying in every night and having no social life, it's about balance and planning. Follow these suggestions, get your friends involved, and encourage each other to make financial goals that will help you achieve the life you want.