A friend of mine was lamenting her inability to gracefully bow out of events and outings that she can’t really afford.
“When my friends invite me out to dinner at a pricey restaurant or out to the movies, I hate to say no, but things are so tight around here that I can’t really afford to go,” she said.
I told her that it was better to decline and save the money than to go and end up beating herself up over the waste.
“I know, but I just don’t want them to know that I can’t afford it. I don’t want them to know how much we’re struggling.”
That was the crux of the problem. Not being able to go was one thing, but having to tell her friends that money was tight was the bigger problem. Being honest was what was tripping my friend up.
I can understand. It’s not fun to be the one who can’t go out and it’s even less fun to admit that you can’t go because you can’t afford it. That opens you up to, perhaps, unwanted sympathy or pity form your friends, and it makes you a topic of conversation when you’re not there. “Oh, Sally couldn’t come because they’re having money problems,” begins the gossipy conversation. Of course, some “well meaning” friend will tell you about this conversation later, making you feel even worse.
The thing is, honesty is often the best policy in these situations. If you say, “Oh, I can’t go tonight because I have other plans,” your friends will likely invite you to the next pricey event, too. If you decline that invitation because you again have “plans,” it’s not going to be long before your friends realize something is up. They may end up thinking you’re just blowing them off because you don’t want to spend time with them anymore. Ultimately you may find that your friends just give up on you altogether.
If you’re honest and say, “That’s a little out of my price range right now,” and then suggest a reasonable alternative such as a cheaper restaurant, a matinÃ©e instead of an evening movie, or even a potluck dinner at your house, your friends will be more likely to understand and try to accommodate you. They won’t think you just don’t want to be with them. Honesty gives the relationship a chance to continue instead of dissolving in hurt feelings and the thought that you just didn’t care anymore.
Being honest doesn’t mean you have to divulge every detail of your finances. You don’t have to tell them your debt level or exactly how much trouble you are in. If you don’t want to give details, you don’t have to. But letting it be known that you can’t afford something gives your friends a chance to include you in less expensive activities. They might even be relieved that someone else said it, first. You might be surprised to learn that some of them have their own problems and would like to scale back on the spendy activities. Who knows? You might be able to lead the way in coming up with frugal entertainment ideas.
Of course, some people won’t care that you can’t afford something and they’ll take pleasure in ridiculing you for it, likely behind your back. They won’t try to scale back or make an effort to include you. They may shut you out of the group altogether. In that case, you have to ask yourself whether these people were really friends to begin with. Most people, though, will understand because maybe they’ve been there, too, or because they’re just good friends. Be honest about your situation and give them a chance to work with you. You’ll probably be surprised by their willingness to help.
(Photo courtesy of sakanami)