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Frugality, Friendship, and Feeling Left Out


On my last post, a roundup of various articles about being able to afford things, Simple Tam asked:

I would like to know what you all think of the social aspect. I like to save. But my work buddies usually hang out after work or on weekends. They have expensive choices and invariably end up going out to eat or to the movies. I can avoid it for some time, but if I continue to, I am deemed a social outcast. Any thoughts on how this situation can be handled?

I responded there, but I thought it’s really a post-worthy subject. In Relatively Frugal, I mentioned a great visit we had with my SIL and BIL which cost very little.

Unfortunately, there will be times when making frugal and/or financially responsible decisions will make you feel left out. I felt very left out as a kid because I had used clothes and went to a private school with richer kids. On the other hand, I think that you can find ways to take some control of your life and avoid feeling as left out.

Obviously, it helps to have frugal friends. If you’re like me, you don’t prescreen friends. But if you can, mention your frugality to your close friends. Maybe they have some of the same ideas and were feeling embarrassed to mention it. Hopefully close friends will like you enough to respect your wishes. It may be harder to broach the subject with acquaintances.

If you’re getting together with friends/acquaintances, plan the activities yourself. Suggest having them for dinner at your place instead of going out. It’ll cost you the price of ingredients, but probably less than dinner out. Instead of going to a movie afterward, borrow/rent a DVD you’d all enjoy. Maybe buy microwave popcorn.

Go out for lunch instead of dinner. Go out for coffee or dessert. There are long lists of inexpensive but fun ways to hang out. The key is focusing on the people, not the price.

Whether you are frugal or not, life won’t always be smooth. You may not always feel close to your friends. You may disagree with them on certain points of living or philosophy. Hopefully your frugality won’t be one of the issues.

What do you think? Have you had trouble with finding frugal things to do with your friends?

photo by edcrowle

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Friends and Money |
March 28, 2008 at 11:27 am

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine Lawson January 27, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Hi Mrs M – Most of my friends are quite frugal anyway.

But, it’s interesting that you should mention education, as that is my biggest problem right now.

My biggest expense is my son’s private education and the problem is justifying the costs to my parents. He wasn’t happy at his secondary school, so I had to switch him to private school after a few months.

The trouble was, it was more affordable before I sold my last business as it was well established. And my parents have helped me out a little, but, they’ve made it clear that they’re not willing to help forever.

And they believe that it would be better to send him to a state school, and give him money when he is older instead of paying for his education.

It is difficult, as I think his education is more important than money to spend on stuff.

But, I feel like I’m under a lot of pressure right now to get this business profitable asap, so they don’t have to keep helping with his school fees.

E.C. January 27, 2008 at 10:41 pm

There are advantages to being a college student. No one expects you to have money. Most of my friends are fairly frugal in their day to day lives, with a few big splurges here and there. Evenings spent watching movies we already own and eating macaroni and cheese are the norm rather than the exception.

FourPillars January 27, 2008 at 11:03 pm

Interesting topic – I found that it’s pretty tough when you are single and want to go out and meet people, to not spend money. Sure you can stay home or do cheap things but if you are “on the lookout” – you kind of have to be prepared to spend some $$.


mrsmicah January 27, 2008 at 11:09 pm

EC, I miss that about college. I had friends where that was pretty much the norm. Very handy. I also had some friends who liked to order pizza, but I only chilled with them a couple times a month. Plus there were enough of us to break the bill down pretty well.

Mike, I imagine dating on a budget would be tough. I had the advantage of meeting my husband through his brother (who was dating my best friend) and we always had cheap dates. But finding people can be hard.

RacerX January 27, 2008 at 11:20 pm

We’ve been talking about this on my blog for the last few days. The issue at work can be really difficult in trying to fit in and be social.

sfordinarygirl January 28, 2008 at 3:22 am

It’s a tough balance. I find it’s easier to invite friends over for dinner, some board games or just to hang out. That’s my frugal way and it builds your social and professional network in a laid-back setting. And everyone has fun, at least I hope!

Valerie January 28, 2008 at 5:18 am

Speaking of dating on a budget…my 18 year old son is a high school senior. Since he’s an excellent honor student, soon-to-be Marine Corp Reservist, and an athelete, he does not have a regular job. He earns spending money from us and his uncles. He’s dating a nice girl, but, to put it in his words, he’s “not cheap, but poor”. They played laser tag on their last date. He’s asked me for several frugal dating ideas (besides going to the movies). Maybe your readers would weigh in on a future blog post?


fathersez January 28, 2008 at 5:52 am

I have rated as getting the correct peer group as one of the most important lessons I can give my children.

Yes, we will feel left out if we are frugal and hang out with nonfrugal friends. Not only that, sooner or later, we shall be outcasts anyway.

It’s much better to recognise this way upfront and seek out friends who are birds of our same feather.

Simple Tam January 28, 2008 at 6:38 am

I’m planning to try the give and take strategy as far as this is concerned. Some expenses are just unavoidable. The month I spend more on say movies, I am going to try and cut down on say my netflix membership. Might not be a balance, but is a start.

Mrs M, finding frugal friends is a solution. But the friends you already have, and who have been used to you splurging on the same stuff they do, are a bit difficult to handle. I guess an intricate balancing act is what is called for. Thanks for the post 🙂

Amanda @ Me vs Debt January 28, 2008 at 7:14 am

I’ve been trying to write about this very situation for a couple days now. Its hard to really capture the disconnect that can develop (even between close friends) because of how we spend our money.

Feeling like a social outcast sucks, but we have to keep our values in mind. Its never good to break the bank to fit in to a crowd — thats a long term recipe for disaster.

vh January 28, 2008 at 8:28 am

It’s not easy when others are spending lots of money and you’re trying not to live on the cuff…which is what most of them are doing.

One of my dearest friends has thought for a long time that I’m keep myself on way too tight a leash. But when she stepped down from the chairmanship of a program at her university and had to forego the stipend that went with it, suddenly she was earning just a little more than I do.

Lo! The cleaning lady has been laid off. The dinners out have been cut way back. The gym membership is canceled. And what did I hear her say yesterday? “I don’t have any money!!!””

She has generally accepted me for what I am, and that’s why she’s remained a friend even though I don’t spend the way she and her partner do. It’s a good idea to look for friends who earn a bit less than you do — they’re less likely to habitually outspend you. And look for people who share your values.

deepali January 28, 2008 at 1:11 pm

I don’t really think I’ve had this problem, but I also have more than one circle of friends. I have no problems declining expensive events. And if someone wants to hang out, I suggest various cheap options (ie, dinner at home, movie, etc). For the most part, my friends know I’m on a budget and it doesn’t seem to bother them. Of course, I also work full-time and school part-time, so I don’t have much of a social life to speak of. 🙂

Ian Denny January 28, 2008 at 1:50 pm

I’m really fortunate to work with a gang of people who came with us through a business failure together.

But I do empathise. It’s especially difficult when it comes to business networking. It’sa kind of grey area where you have to kind of do some of the fraternising on your own money.

And it’s a difficult business expense to reclaim and justify. However it’s essential to keep your name and face out there.

I’m having to ration it severely and stick to lunches which just last for an hour or so and involve buying a couple of soft drinks.

The thing is though, you have to build in some social life to a budget. There has to be a line in frugality which you draw in the sand. It’s no good living an utterly frugal existence without some reward for achieving tartgets.

And if one of those treats in enriching your social life, then perhaps other areas can be de-prioritised in favour of a life?

Maybe do without a car (granted, that’s easier in the UK), cut the clothing budget or whatever.

But if you need the social aspect to keep you motivated, I would try and do away with the guilt and keep it in the budget as a way of staying motivated.

Easier said than done though!

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