Friends and Frugality

Most of us are being more careful with our money these days as the recession bites. But do you sometimes still feel pressure from friends or family to spend money you don’t have, or that would be better spent on something else? Despite my efforts to be frugal, sometimes other people can leave my best laid plans in disarray and it can be difficult to steer a frugal course without offending them or making them feel guilty.

Last month I met up with an old work colleague. It was great to see him as he’s good company and the fact that he’s changed careers and now earns five times my annual income has never really been an issue before. He’s not the kind to brag or make me feel like a lesser human being because I’m not a hot shot earning a fortune. And usually we only meet up for the occasional drink because of his busy schedule juggling work and family.

But this time he’d decided to book a table in a trendy West End bar for us to have dinner. I looked at the place online and decided that while it was a bit pricey, the bar menu wasn’t too bad and I picked out a couple of dishes I could have that weren’t too expensive.

However, on the night I discovered we weren’t in the bar area but in the expensive Thai restaurant section. My heart sank as he waved to me from a swanky looking table by the window. My head told me that I should ask him if we could leave and go somewhere cheaper. But he’d already made himself comfortable with a glass of wine and some crackers. Plus he had such a smile on his face as he leafed through the menu that I couldn’t find the guts to utter the words.

Yes, the company and the food were good, but the thought of the bill that was coming spoilt the evening a little. I managed to dodge dessert, but the bill was still more than twice as much as I’d expected to pay. Not only did I feel a coward for going along with it all, but I felt foolish for not taking the frugal initiative in the first place and suggesting we went somewhere cheap and cheerful.

Somebody asked me recently for my top piece of frugal living advice. I said that, from what I’d learned from writing this blog and from all your comments, above all else it was reviewing your finances regularly and planning meals and activities ahead so you could control the cost. I also now think that sometimes you have to be brave. It takes courage to go out on a limb and tell your friends that, no, sorry I don’t want to spend my money on this activity, or to complain and demand a refund for something you’re unhappy with. Sometimes it can seem easier to grit our teeth and stay silent, but we only come to regret it later on when we’re caught short financially.

Are you sometimes pressurised by friends or work colleagues to spend money you can’t afford? How do you deal with it? Have you ever fallen out over money?

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6 Responses to Friends and Frugality

  1. Bill says:

    As a non-smoking/non-drinking, working class, always on such a tight budget out of sheer necessity, I find that any form of social life is extremely limited.I now have a small measure of capital, but with no hope of any mortgage, it is not much use to me. Despite this, as also out of habit, I find it impossible to relax the purse strings for any venture, however small, which is not designed to bring some form of profit, or at least break even. I still yet believe that, if I wait a little longer, a useful/worthwhile opportunity will appear. One can even back horses in this fashion, placing 25% of the available bank on each of two runners, both each way, in the same race. One should at least break even, or sustain no more than minimal loss. One should exercise maximum discipline, when one repeats the same in the following race, with only 25% of the "original" bank, on each runner, or 12.5% if one has suffered any loss, halving the % stake after each subsequent loss, in order to stay in the running, as a means of eventually recouping the loss, & finally breaking even, possibly, in the long term hitting a substantial profit. Any excess above the original bank should be removed to safety immediately, as "net" profit, before it can be sucked back out by the "ebb-tide".Constantly ploughing all profit back, to increase the original bank, is so tempting, extremely greedy, & equally fruitless, as it comes in on the flood-tide, only to be consequently lost again on a bad ebb-tide.I find such a cash hungry, high maintenance social circle a basic waste of space, as also effort, they are of no value to me, & are even less long term value to themselves. Many such people are a one day wonder, they spend their entire lives right on the edge, living from hand to mouth, extremely high risk. They live in the hope that their group will bail them out when they inevitably go under. A prime case of wishful thinking.In reality, the group simply abandons those who go down, with immediate effect, in an attempt to avoid infecting themselves. As a type, they are extreme paranoid.I am not anti-social, but stick to my own level, & well within my own means. My "class" sometimes share a homemade brew together, or even a flask. We sometimes assist one another; even share problems, or chores. We do not leave the afflicted/disabled to die, sink or swim, but assist them to survive, in the hope that they would return the favour, as/when necessary. We have far more faith in their good conscience than we could ever have in that of the "high-flyers".Good/clean conscience is not available to "purchase", such a commodity has to be earned, the hard way!

  2. Anthony says:

    hi i have been following ur blog and find it v interesting as i too live a frugal life though in my case it is not wanting to waste things. I agree with u that it is best to be honest with ur friends when they suggest eating out in places u cannot afford or do not want to afford. However, there is an added advantage to being honest with them . Since they invited u, they might turn round and suggest they give u a treat and pay for u. That would be great wouldn\’t it?

  3. Christine says:

    I suspect that you can train your real friends to do meals at home and visit places that everyone in the group can afford. It was certainly like that at the last place I worked – we all knew that we had other commitments, were maybe the only working member of our household, were helping children through further education or similar. If it looks too expensive, then you are best to be honest as Anthony says. I know, I know – temptation is a great thing and good company can be fun. But if you really are committed to being frugal then you have to speak up and say sorry but not at that price – will meet you with sarnies outside the Tower if you must do central London (yep it\’s a lovely place in sunny weather). You didn\’t even take into consideration the travel when you said yes to this invitation did you? Oh Piper whatever shall we do with you she says laughing.

  4. piper says:

    Most of my friends have been trained to do so but some still occasionally catch me out. The thing is that what seems frugal to them isn\’t always frugal to me! It\’s a sad thing but perhaps it\’s easier to hang out with people on a similar budget. As for the travel, I have an oyster card and I factor into my month\’s budget a trip into London off peak. Good idea about the treat, Anthony!

  5. Christine says:

    It\’s not sad but practical to hang out with people on a similar budget. I\’m afraid that if you want to move up a budget group, you have to move up the equal amount in your own private pay scale. Else you end up in debt and that is no place to be. The old saying about cutting your cloth according to your means still holds true.

  6. katherine says:

    i keep up with a number of friends who have stayed in high-earning jobs. if it\’s one-to-one, i choose, i pay; they choose, they pay, or if it\’s dutch, we discusswhen i choose, i opt for (i hope!!) flair over money – for example, i live near the raf museum, which makes for a cheap but fascinating lunch – a similarly impoverished friend often opts for the british library canteen – if wealthier friends want to treat me to something grander, i accept graciouslyif it\’s a group event – i only go if it\’s drinks – if it\’s a meal, i plead a prior engagement. like you, i\’ve slipped up /been caught out occasionally – these are all learning experiences – we just need to shrug our shoulders, then use them to adjust future strategies

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