15 Ways to Stay on Budget — Even With Your Spendy Friends


We all love spending time with our friends. But if you find yourself dipping deeper into your pockets than you'd like for get togethers, you might wonder how to cope. I, too, am on tight entertainment funds. In fact, now that I'm a full-fledged adult, I thought it would be prudent to put myself back on an allowance to stay in check. (See also: Build Your First Budget in 5 Steps)

Thing is, it can feel awkward or even embarrassing when I'm asked to take part in an activity I can't afford or don't want to find room for in my budget. If you find yourself in a similar boat, consider these tips for how to diffuse the situation.

1. Try Honesty

First are foremost, I find it's best to be upfront to avoid uncomfortable situations in the future. If you are close enough with your buddies, they should understand why you want to scrimp and save. Often, you may even discover that they — too — would rather find less expensive things to do.

2. Suggest Alternatives

If you don't feel honesty is the best policy, you could also take control by offering up some suggestions within your price range. Some ideas:

You truly can have fun on a dime (or for no money at all).

3. Make Yourself Responsible

There's little reason to decline invitations to go shopping or out to other activities that don't involve a cover or ticket charge. Instead, make yourself the responsible party for keeping your dollars in your pocket. Don't bring your credit card, "forget" cash, or just try old fashioned restraint. You can still enjoy the time together without all the swag.

4. Open Your Home

One of the best ways my husband and I have found to save money going out is to invite people into our own home. Instead of going out for a pricey dinner, we ask friends to all bring a dish to share and enjoy a cheap potluck with bonus game night. (See also: Host a Dinner Party for Under $20)

5. Crunch the Numbers

Many people don't realize how the little things add up to something big. In this case, even going out to lunch three days a week could add up to $30 and a staggering $1,500 over the course of a year. Explain you'd rather pack your brown bag now and take that fun vacation later.

6. Blame Your Budget

Along with being honest comes telling friends you are indeed on a budget (shouldn't we all be?). If an invitation catches you at the wrong time socially or financially, you could always just explain that you've maxed out your entertainment funds for the week or month. By doing so, perhaps you'll start a productive conversation on personal finances and inspire your friend to try your saving ways! (See also: Should You Talk to Friends About Money?)

7. Share Positivity

You can even go a step beyond bringing up budget to sharing a recent success with paying off credit card bills or other debt through being frugal. Say something like "You know, I can't go this weekend because I've been paying off X bill, and it feels so good to see my balance getting closer to $0!" You might inspire a friend to do the same.

8. Make a Healthy Excuse

Rather than outright lie about another commitment as your excuse to not do something, come up with a healthy reason to skip out. Lies won't work in the long run anyway, and it's easy to get caught in your own game. Consider saying something like "Well, I would love to — but I just have to get my run in that day. Would you join me?" Or "I've been too sedentary this week, would you like to take a walk instead?"

9. Sell Quality Time

You can also be quite convincing by sharing the benefits of time spent doing nothing at all. Often, going to movies, concerts, loud restaurants, and other costly events mean there's little time to actually connect. Instead, suggest meeting over a warm cup of tea or glass of wine and having a nice, long chat to catch up.

10. Plan Ahead

If you know your pal likes to go to expensive concerts or games, why not get on some forward thinking? Ask your friend if he or she would like to attend one of these events with a date in the future. That way, you could save up your pennies slowly, but avoid that awkward spur-of-the-moment conversation entirely.

11. Set Schedules

For everyday invitations to lunches out, for example, take control by setting a specific day of the week or month to indulge. Remember, you can still treat yourself on occasion and still stay on point for your financial goals. If you have a friend who is routinely asking you to go out and splurge, go back to honesty.

12. Just Say "No"

You don't necessarily have to give an excuse or reason for why you can't do something. A simple, but polite "no" should do well to decline an invitation. If you're pressed for details, you can always just say you're busy (saving money!). (See also: 5 Ways to Say "No")

13. Play the Busy Card

However, if your "busy" ploy is falling flat, write up a to-do list and make it legitimate. The next time you're asked to do something out of your budget, say you're busy. Then go item by item on your list and get productive with your time. Can't go to that five star restaurant? Finish painting your bedroom. That weekend away too extravagant right now? Clean your house from top to bottom.

14. Reevaluate

If you're continually feeling the pressure to keep up with the Joneses, you might alleviate your stress by taking a step back. True friends should truly understand the value of your friendship versus flashy purchases or a fine restaurant bucket list.

15. Reciprocate

On the flip side, if you're in good standing with your budget and find yourself to be the one making all the invitations, be understanding. We all cycle through different periods in our lives and with our money and goals. Before you ask your buddies to do something extravagant, consider if there's a thrifty alternative that isn't going to exclude anyone in your circle.

How do you tell friends you can't (or won't) spend money?

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