Peer Pressure Spending in the Twenty-Something Crowd: Save Money and Keep Your Social Life (Part 2 of a 2 Part Series)
I love my friends! I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive group of people in my life. Even though a bunch of them aren’t queer, they have become loyal readers of Queercents, and they even provided me some touching responses to Part 1 of Peer Pressure Spending in the Twenty-Something Crowd:
Friend 1: “If you’re up for inexpensive nights, let me know – I’m always fond of saving money.”
Friend 2: “There is definitely a pressure to socialize outside in a public venue where spending is inevitable. I struggle all the time with the simple but honest statement,”You know what? I’d love to, but I cannot afford it.” Splitting final dinner tabs evenly is the worst, especially when not everybody ordered things in the same price range. You order a salad and drink water so you can save a few bucks but then you’re hit with the even split, causing you to pay for your neighbor’s lobster. It’s not an issue of being cheap at all, but that seems to be a common negative perception.”
Interestingly, Friend 1 is someone I’ve known for a few years now. Friend 2 is a newer friend whom I’m going to make stick around. Their comments inspired 3 points I’d like to address in combating peer pressure spending.
1: Surround Yourself with People who Appreciate You
Making friends is hard. Keeping friends is hard too if you have to keep declining invitations to pricey nights out, or if you’re going broke just to keep up with their socializing. It’s been my experience that maintaining a situation like this is sure to create hard feelings on your part or your friends. I don’t want to sound preachy, but rather a very loud voice of reason. Ask yourself: Do I have to keep spending just to maintain this friendship?
Friend 1 really delighted me with his response to my last post. He rewarded my honesty about spending concerns by proposing alternative ways to enjoy each other’s company. Considering that Friend 1 and I became friends through our mutual interest in good music and seeing live shows, I’d say that Friend 1 and I don’t spend much money to hang out these days. The fact that he offered “inexpensive nights” really shows that he appreciates me.
I make this point to apply towards a nasty but wonderful truth about your twenties. Going out and socializing is a large part of free time for many of us. If we’re not out at a bar or a club, or eating at the latest hot spot, we’re out shopping or maybe working out to look good for our nights out. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your youth and having people admire you for it. I have no regrets of having taken advantage of every ounce of my youth. I do regret the debt I’ve had to pay down to keep up with people I realized were only my friends for superficial reasons. When I started to burn out on bars and clubs, a former group of friends turned their back on me. What they really wanted was a reliable group of people to go out with and create an exclusive and beautiful circle. Have you seen the movie Mean Girls? Adults should not act like that.
2) Speak up, Speak up, Speak up
Friend 2 rewarded my honesty with her own story of similar frustrations and struggles. I am glad to know she thinks about spending the way I do, and because of that, I’ll be sensitive to her concerns. If we didn’t have this honest discourse, how would I ever know? Money isn’t easy to talk about with your friends, especially newer ones, but facing whatever awkwardness associated with it provides greater returns. Friend 2 and I also now have plans to hang out in ways that don’t require money, which to me would be just as good as anything else we’d do.
She also brings up the example of the uneven tab split that we’ve all had to face. Honest communication about your spending concerns would help raise sensitivity among your friends in a situation like this, and most likely, a fair split will be made. But let’s say you are dining with friends that you’re not quite comfortable enough with yet to share this information. It seems you have a couple of options (but please share whatever tips you have).
The first is the pushy one, in which you memorize the cost of what you ordered from the menu, add tax and tip, and assertively and elegantly place it on the tab before some disorganized discussion starts to arise about how the bill should be split. I’ve used that trick, and people seem to naturally follow suit, and a fair split is made.
But then there are occasions in which you’re going to have to do an uneven split, which brings me to point 3.
3) You Know You’re Going to Have to Spend It, So Budget It
At a time when I was making very little money, I dated a nice and successful fellow who was going to celebrate his 30th birthday with friends at an expensive French restaurant. It was a prix fixe menu, starting at $65. We’d have to pay for him of course, since it was his birthday, and drinks weren’t included. Even though money was tight, I didn’t want to miss out on the special occasion.
My friends argued that I should skip the expensive dinner and join the after-party. After much debate, I concluded that I’d be upset about his absence if I were in his shoes. For that reason, I felt I made the right decision to attend.
There are just no ways around a situation once you make your mind up. You’re going to have to spend money in tricky situations, or at least give deep thought about whether you should avoid them. If you’re lucky enough to know that you have a big expense coming up, you can survive the blow if you budget it. After having to shell out $175 for the birthday tab, I had no choice but to cut corners on spending on other things elsewhere.
But why wait for a whopping tab to limit your spending?
I have a pretty tight budget with a savings plan in mind. I also know that I lead a fairly active social life. In order to be prepared for outings in which I’ll have to spend a little more than I’d like, I add an extra $50 per month to my entertainment budget. If I don’t spend it, I save it.
According to a recent New York Times article, perhaps we’re all pre-disposed to spend the way we do, so why bother fighting? I agree. I’m a nice guy, and I spend money like a nice guy, but I do it within my budget. The saying about nice guys who finish last is simply referring to nice guys who haven’t made a budget yet.