As life progresses, so does your income, but not everyone’s income grows at the same rate. Friends that shared the same broke instant ramen or cheap pizza at uni may have moved on in tastes.
“Of course we all want to feel part of something,” financial advisor Peter Horsfield says. “However, overstretching yourself to keep up with the Joneses is both an emotionally and financially risky strategy.”
If your incomes are disparate how can you keep your friendship, without the $25 cocktails? Here are our tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with your friends and your wallets.
Take control and be honest
If you’re in financial strife or trying to rein in your spending, it’s up to you to ensure whatever you do with your friends is budget friendly. Simply complaining about it or refusing to partake won’t suffice.
“To avoid resentment, you need to be the proactive one and be honest with you friends to let them know the reason you can’t do something is financial,” Alex Wilson from savingsguide.com.au says.
Get in first and suggest something that is both fun and budget-friendly.
If the weather is nice, there’s no reason to pay extra for the privilege of sitting in a restaurant or bar.
Mr Wilson suggests exploring your local beaches, parks and wildlife reserves. Often many of them will have an in-built BBQ and picnic shelter that you can book in advance free of charge.
Alternatively, plain old picnics with a blanket and a basket of food are the cheapest – and most fun – way to socialise. Or you could do something that really matters like a charity walk.
This also allows you to focus on the thing that really matters – bonding with your mates. This will set a precedent for later catch-ups and help you break the cycle of spending.
If you have children, once of the priciest parts of an evening away from home is the cost of a babysitter.
If you don’t have family members who are willing to work for free, suggest to other friends who have kids that you split the cost of a babysitter.
Drop your kids off at their place with a babysitter then split the fee at the end of the night when you pick them up.
Use a cover charge system
If you decide to venture out to a restaurant for dinner or drinks, decide on a price limit before you get there.
“Have a cover charge of $25 for everyone,” Mr Horsfield suggests.
“Choose what to order based on that and anything left over is a tip for a waiter. It takes away all the antisocial stress of bill-splitting.”
Always carry cash
If you do split the bill, it pays to be prepared with cash and change,” Mr Wilson says.
“Be prepared with the right amount of change – five, tens, twenties, coins – that way once you know your portion you put the exact amount in.”
Avoid drink rounds
Don’t go into the rounds situations, Mr Wilson warns.
It’s easy to lose track of your spending and often the last person standing is left with a hefty bill.
If you must, Mr Wilson suggests buddying up with just one other person and splitting a bottle of wine throughout the night.
Embrace potluck suppers
Hosting a dinner party where everyone brings a plate is a cost-effective and fun way to catch up with a group of friends.
“Get everyone to bring a different dish their parents or grandparents used to make for them,” Mr Horsfield suggests.
That way, the dinner will have an interesting theme and people will feel more obliged to get creative, rather than just bringing a salad.
Plus, you can use the leftovers for school lunches or dinners through the week!
If you like to hit the town with a certain group of friends, have a steadfast rule that none of you are allowed to buy anything new to wear for the night out.
Instead, promise to swap clothes and shoes to temporarily update your wardrobe.
Be generous – only if you can afford it
Lending friends money can lead to tricky situations. Ideally it’s something best avoided.
If it’s a small amount, Mr Horsfield advises you to trust your instincts.
“Being generous is part of our society’s social fabric,” he says.
But if your friend asks often and doesn’t pay you back – you might want to reconsider.
If a friend is really in debt and asks for help, Mr Horsfield suggests talking them through their situation and potentially seeking outside financial advice.
“Have they refinanced their credit card? Are they on a savings plan to pay it off? What’s their budget?”