How to Get Out of Social Obligations That Break Your Budget

What do you do when you're on a tight budget, but you keep getting social invitations to events that you know will cost too much money? You don't want to start a long conversation about your finances. You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But you also don't want to blow your budget on gifts and events you can't afford. Here are several tactful ways to handle this social spending pressure. (See also: 7 Nice Ways to Tell Your Spendy Friends You're Staying on Budget)

Do you want to participate?

First things first: when an invitation comes rolling in, assess your own interest in and desire to attend before you make any decisions. There's a social tendency to agree to invitations, as if you are obligated to say "Yes" merely because you were invited.

However, no such obligation exists. Do you want to go, or not? If you do want to participate in the event, but the price tag is above your budget, look for a way to participate without taking on the total expense. One (or more) of the tactics listed below will serve you well.

If you'd rather stay home in your pajamas and watch Netflix (always my weekend preference, honestly), you can also do that.

Use the same communication method used for the invitation

If you got a Facebook invite, you can respond via Facebook. If you got a phone call, respond in kind. If you received a hand-lettered invitation in a wax-sealed envelope, it's time to handwrite a beautiful letter.

Start with gratitude

Don't lead with the "No." Never lead with the "No." Instead, lead with appreciation for the invitation itself. Something like, "Thank you for including me in this special event," or, less formal, "Thanks so much for inviting me!"

State a clear but firm "No"

Don't say maybe if you mean no, as you'll end up having to repeat the conversation. If you're clear enough the first time around, that will be enough. Try something like, "Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend," or "We will not be able to come."

Don't give a reason

Stifle the urge to explain yourself. You don't have to, and anyone with decent manners will not press you for a reason. (This excludes your circle of closest friends, who will bug you for a specific reason until you give them one. If they're good friends, though, they'll want to support your financial goals, not destroy them.)

End with specific good wishes

Wrap up your RSVP with a wish for a great event or whatever is appropriate. The more specific it is, the more sincere it sounds. Generic well wishes sound, well, generic.

Obviously, this method is a little trickier with a phone or in-person conversation, however, you can follow the basic steps. You can even write a little script ahead of time. Stick to your guns: you're saying no, and you don't have to explain why. Be appreciative, polite, and firm.

Take a homemade gift

If you're dealing with a birthday party or other celebratory event that traditionally mandates a gift, bringing a homemade gift is a good tactic. Homemade gifts can be simple and classy, cheap, and very appreciated. Who wouldn't love a homemade liqueur or selection of luxurious bath products?

Personalization makes a gift special, so think about the recipient and try to incorporate their preferences and interests in some aspect of the gift. (See also: 25 Thoughtful and Frugal Personalized Gift Ideas)

Come late, leave early

If you control your timing, you have more control over your expenses. If the event is dinner and a movie, why not skip the dinner and show up for the movie? You still get to hang out with your friends, but you've eaten at home and saved money at the same time.

Leaving early can work the same way. Maybe you'll go to the ballgame but skip the bar crawl afterward, and go home with money still in your pocket. (See also: Being Frugal Without Giving Up Your Social Life)

Offer an alternative

Participate, but on your terms by offering an alternative to the specific invitation or activity. For example, "I want to be in your wedding, but I can't handle the financial responsibilities of being a bridesmaid right now. Is there a smaller role I could take to be part of your day?"

Or, brainstorm some alternative, cheaper activities and offer them up to the host or coordinator, such as, "Instead of going to the casino, why don't we all go to the beach?" (See also: 10 Ways to Have a Cheaper Evening Hanging Out With Friends)

Host it yourself

Be the hostess with the mostest… the mostest money, that is. You don't have to go out to get together. Offer to host your friends for a potluck dinner party. I used to have these monthly, setting a theme for each one. They're lots of fun, have delicious food, and offer stress-free, low-budget socializing.

Or host an in-home movie night, or come up with your own specific version of hijinks and hilarity, on your turf and in your budget.

Set a no-product policy

I absolutely love the idea of setting a policy for the frequent social invitations that are oriented toward getting you to spend money. You know what I'm talking about: product parties. You may love the bags, or the leggings, or the wraps, or whatever, but chances are, it's not in your budget. Instead of picking and choosing which ones you'll participate in, give yourself a blanket policy: "For the sake of my budget, or reaching my financial goals, or not filling my house with embroidered bags, I have a No-product-parties policy. Thanks for the invitation, though!"

Eat first and BYOB

If you're meeting friends for the evening but don't want to bust your budget on a pricey meal and overpriced drinks, eat an early dinner at home before you go. You can order an appetizer or share a dessert for a fraction of the cost, or sip your drink and enjoy the conversation. Bonus points if you bring your own flask, order a single drink and top it off yourself.

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