Managing Money-Toxic Friends: How to Keep Your Buddies From Messing Up Your Budget

Going to a concert, movie, or out shopping all are typically done with a friend in tow, but have you ever stopped to consider that your friends might be one reason your money seems to disappear? Maybe your friends have more money than you and don’t understand the concept of a tight budget, or perhaps they use their credit cards like they don’t have a limit. Whatever the case, the bottom line is you don’t have the money to spend like they do, yet you find them encouraging your spending sprees.

Your friends probably have no idea what your bank account looks like and likely don’t know they’re hurting your finances. The first step to taming your troubles is to tell your friends you’re on a budget. Try saying something like, “I’m on a pretty tight budget right now and can’t afford very many extra expenses.” That way you don’t eliminate hanging out completely, but you’ve made it clear your funds are a bit low these days.

After you’ve opened up about it, try these steps for sticking to your guns:

6 Tips for Navigating Money And Friends

  1. Deal in cash. And better yet, set aside a certain amount of cash for the “extras” part of your budget. Once that money is gone, it’s gone. This should train you to spend within your means.
  2. Say “no” sometimes. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Be honest and simply admit to your friends you can’t afford Restaurant A, but would gladly go to Restaurant B.
  3. Avoid empty spending outings. Pick and choose what events you can afford to attend. If you know you’ve maxed your budget for the week, going shopping with your friends might be a bad idea. Instead, ask them to go to a free art exhibit with you or host a cheap night in at your place.
  4. Always split the check. If you’re going to order a salad and your friend is getting a steak dinner, make sure to ask for separate checks—and do it at the beginning of the meal. (I find when I fail to do this, I end up paying at least $10 more than I would if I were just covering myself.) If you feel awkward about it, you’re not alone. Check out these ideas for being sneaky.
  5. Get a willpower wingman. Enlist one of your friends to help you stay on the path of smart spending. A frugal friend with an equally tight budget might be a better choice than a friend who tends to indulge your spending tendencies. Spendster Reality Check Challenge grand prize winner, Kelli Johnson, agrees: “I have friends who I go shopping with that are like, ‘Buy it, you’ll definitely wear it!’ And then I have other friends who are more reasonable asking, ‘Will you really wear it?’” says Johnson. “I’ve learned to pick the friends who I shop with wisely.”
  6. Be happy with the money you have. You can’t change the fact that your friends have more, but you can change the way you look at it and who you hang out with. If a friend can’t understand you’re low on dough, especially in this economy, then perhaps they aren’t as good of a friend as you thought.

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