What About Your Friends? Caviar Friendships With a Tuna Fish Budget

All my life I have been blessed to go to the best schools. While much of their childrearing was haphazard at best (Purple Rain should not be your three year old daughter’s favorite movie), my parents were deliberate in the choices they made for their children’s education. Not only did they move from a hood adjacent apartment to the best suburban school district in the region, they even bought a slightly unaffordable house zoned to the highest performing elementary school within that district.

Mom and Dad were pit bulls when it came to ensuring we sucked every resource from our schools. My dad even claims that he went down to my elementary school to demand I be tested for the gifted program. His advocacy paid off. From the second grade onward I was on a trajectory that took me through enrichment classes, accelerated courses, and half the Advanced Placement catalogue, then plopped me down in the Ivy League.
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Birds of a Feather

I’d say that I met 70% of my friends and associates through either undergrad or graduate school. Another 29% I met through organizations and companies tied to all this edumacation. Right, wrong, or indifferent the schools I attended tend to crank out graduates who eventually make up a disproportionate share of the upper middle and upper class in this country. When it comes to education and socioeconomics my social circle is pretty homogenous.

What this means is that while I may be a down to earth, around the way girl with bamboo earrings (at least two pair), my friends are bougie AF (not to be confused with boujee, which is really just boughetto). Think Whitley Gilbert, Hilary Banks, Régine Hunter, or Kenya McQueen’s parents. And as we all know, bougie people like nice shit. When my friends suggest New Year’s Eve celebrations nine times out of ten the plan requires a flight across an ocean.

I’m not going to front like I haven’t sometimes been the one to suggest doing nice shit. Real talk, I won’t go to a concert unless I have floor seats within the first ten rows, and I firmly believe that pro sports are meant to be watched from box seats. For years it was nothing to spend $100 or more on a non special occasion dinner (or even brunch). But that was then. This is now… and right now I can’t afford my friends.
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Not Even Trying to Keep Up with Those Joneses

I could go out and get new friends, but I don’t want to. My crew has been thoroughly vetted and there are no holes in the roster. Plus I’ve gotten them all used to my chronic lateness that stems from high levels of melanin. It’s not easy to find people who will still love you even though you’re 30 minutes late for life.

Since, I’m not getting replacement friends and I don’t want to be more of a hermit than I already am, the only alternative is to hang out with my peeps differently. Living off of my savings means that I now have vastly different budgetary constraints than my social circle. It’s imperative for me to find ways for us to spend time together that don’t require me to make it rain.

Initially, I thought it was enough to just tell people to pick affordable venues. However, when my favorite HBS grad took that to mean a place where the snacks were $20, I realized that the word affordable is relative.

To avoid situations like splitting the brunch tab with friends with an affinity for oysters and Russian vodka, here are the five things I do so I can have my friends and my money too:

  1. Be specific with the budget – As I said before what’s expensive to one person is chump change to another. When planning an outing with a friend I give a max dollar amount I am willing to spend. That’s what I did for New Year’s Eve 2018 (or is it considered 2017 since Dec. 31 is actually NYE?).There are two things you can always count on when it comes to going out for New Year’s in New York City. It will be cold. It will be expensive. This year I decided that I wanted to do my hair, put on a dress, and brave the elements to ring in 2018. However, I did not want to spend my whole severance check to do it. I told my bestie to find us some place with music, food, reserved seating, and free drink for under $150. She came through with all of that, plus bowling, more than $30 under budget. That’s friendship.
  2. Take control of the plans – The easiest way to keep spending in check is to be the one who says, “This is what we’re doing!” I was supposed to spend time with one of my grad school friends while I’m in NYC. He suggested lunch. I countered with a free museum outing. Not only did I get to polish off all the yummy leftovers in my best friend’s fridge to fill up before leaving the house, I also got to spend an afternoon cocking my head to the left while gazing at great works of art, noticing the use of shadow and light. I’m so fucking cultured. In many cities it’s not too hard to find low cost or free events and activities. Chicago is a veritable playground of cheap stuff. There are five free events and ten for under $10 for the month of January listed on Eventbrite. I’ll likely pass on the lecture about understanding and using trauma informed teaching practices, but I could convince a friend or two to come with me to a live music event on the Southside.
  3. Stay home – Or just go to theirs. Either way, a night in can be quite social when friends are invited. The world’s greatest ex-roommate and I have Bachelor and Bachelorette parties every Monday from January through August. We order in or pop a frozen pizza in the oven, and watch very basic White people find a temporary fiancé(e).
    corinne bites rose
    I have been in New York since before Christmas and have only been to one restaurant. That is unheard of for me. I haven’t been sitting at home though (well I was the first week). I’ve simply gone a’visiting instead. My friends have been wonderfully hospitable, opening their homes (and refrigerators) to me so we can spend hours talking, laughing, and catching up on all of the adulting we’re doing. And unlike going to a restaurant, it’s perfectly appropriate for me to undo the top button of my pants and pass out on their couch after eating.
  4. Groupon – Do you know what the actress Tiffany Haddish does when she hangs out with Jada Pinkett and Will Smith? She takes them on a Groupon swamp tour.

    If Will and Jada can have fun on a Groupon then my friends sure as shit can too. At the very least we can choose restaurants with Groupon+ cash back deals. 35% off can make dining out an affordable option.

  5. Spend someone else’s money – No, don’t be a mooch and have your friends paying your way everywhere you go. Instead of alienating friends by being a leech, mystery shop instead. The best thing about secretly surveilling businesses is that I almost always get to bring a friend with me. Baseball games, restaurants, museums…I am usually required to not go alone. This lets me enjoy more pricey activities without it affecting my budget.If you’re trying to get everything for free be sure to let your plus one know the parameters before arriving to the location. Review prices ahead of time and decide who will order what so you can ensure the total tab with tip comes in under the assignment reimbursement limit. The added bonus is that I pay for everything on my rewards credit card and get all the points while someone else pays the bill.
    jim office yes
  6. (BONUS) Just Say No – There are some activities where even a 90% discount will still have you spending thousands. If you ain’t got it like that (or simply don’t want to), it’s perfectly acceptable to take a pass. Yes, FOMO is real. I’m still hearing about the Kilimanjaro climb I didn’t go on. However, some of my best memories with my friends didn’t come from our most expensive times together, rather I most remember nights dancing until the wee hours at no cover bars with $2 beers and slumber parties spent talking until dawn. Missing one trip or concert or conference or dinner won’t change that.

Those Who Matter Don’t Mind

When everyone you know has gone to the same schools and has the same types of jobs it’s easy to spend the same money too. Even if you’re not funemployed like me, you likely have financial goals that aren’t helped by dinners at BondST and front row seats to the 4:44 tour. While we cannot expect our friends to get on our budget, we can definitely adjust the expectation that spending time has to mean spending a lot of money.

The easiest way to do that is to be open and talk about how you’re prioritizing your funds. I’ve found that my friends aren’t just understanding, they’re actually interested in learning more about what I’m doing and why. There’s also no pressure to participate in anything I deem too expensive or judgement for not doing so. Ultimately, the foundation of our friendship doesn’t sit on how much money we can spend together.

What about you? Are your friends big spenders? Is it difficult to spend within your means when hanging out with certain people? Have you mastered the art of inexpensive socializing? Hit the comments with your thoughts. In the meantime I will be trying to find a cheap way to go to Coachella.

 


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25 thoughts on “What About Your Friends? Caviar Friendships With a Tuna Fish Budget

  1. I have definitely not mastered the art of inexpensive socializing, but I’m getting old and lazy so going out less is helping 😉 When I do go out I have expensive tastes; nice dinners, concerts, cocktails, etc. but I try to combat that by saving money in other areas and not making it a common habit.

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    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate you taking the time.

      Going out less is life! I spent good money on my couch and mattress so I like getting my money’s worth with them. I often need to force myself out of the house. We’re a lot alike in the fact that when we do leave the house we like nice stuff. I just lined up a mystery shop at a nice Italian restaurant so that I can get my fix for free.

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  2. I feel you on this one! I have a similar education background and some friends who are pulling in seven figures. So sometimes I get to sit in their corporate box seats at football games or stay in their multi-million dollar lake house, and I love every minute of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can I hang out with your friends too? My crew isn’t quite at the multimillion dollar lake house level…yet. Some of them have parents who are so it’s always nice to get an invite to mommy and daddy’s.

      One of the great things about my job was the occasional invites to corporate events and getting to sit in the box. I enjoyed a Carrie Underwood concert from the comfort of an air conditioned box on a 90 degree night. I don’t miss working full-time, but I do miss the perks.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There is an episode of great episode of “Friends” about this topic. Ross, Monica, and Chandler ordered entrees and drinks. Joey, Phoebe, and Monica ordered water, appetizers, and side salads. Ross tries to divide the bill evenly 6 ways when the check came. Whole episode ends being about different budgets between the friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugghh!!! The Rosses of the world are the worst. I don’t drink and have friends who are straight up lushes. Alcohol will easily make $100+ of a bill, not a sip of which I’ve drank, and they’ll still be on some “split it evenly” mess. I got got with that a couple of times so now I’ll ask for a separate check if possible. I’m not stingy but I call a flag on that play.

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  4. It is easier for me. None of my friends are that rich 🙂

    These days, my newer friends have kids my son’s age so that they don’t bother us. Most of those families are single income by choice, and are on strict budgets too.

    My best friend is single, but wants to live alone (costly!) and has a student loan from her MBA. She is happy when we meet because I make her spend less than what she would spend otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aahh another MBA with a student loan. I can’t front. I’m single, have a student loan from my MBA, and have chosen to live alone w/ a “pricey” mortgage. However, I don’t mind spending more for housing as long as I’m not spending more everywhere else. Thankfully I have friends who are pretty grateful when I give them on opportunity to NOT spend so much money.

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  5. I love your suggestion of saying “no.” I have become very good at this as I have gotten more control over my finances throughout the years! My circles have also began to shrink (on purpose) as I have gotten more a hold of my finances. Gone are the days of automatically saying “yes” before I looked at my bank account. I don’t feel pressured by friends, or even family anymore to go out of my way and spend MY money.

    Thanks for the honest and insightful share!

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    1. Hi Sean! So glad you stopped by and took a second to comment 🙂

      I think life naturally takes away from some people and towards others. Thus far I’ve been able to maintain most of my friendships and the ones I haven’t are due more to distance than different budgets.

      I won’t say no to everything, but if I’m saying yes it’s because I really, really want to do it. Even then I’m going to find a way to do it for less.

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  6. I was once dragged to haunted house at forty dollars per ticket. Monsters grabbed at my boobs and screamed in my face, and that was the last time I spent money going out with friends….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Have to make sure you have a social life and balance the checkbook. What I have learned is my friends that are into spending a lot partying or whatever it may be I don’t hang out with as much. Sad but true just have to make sacrifices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey DM! Thanks for reading and commenting. I find it’s not just the partying that spends money. My friends are in the weddings and baby phase and since everyone is pretty dispersed most of the nuptials require a plan ticket to attend; then when someone gets knocked up everyone just assumes $100 is a doable contribution to a group gift. I’ve had to excuse myself from the cabal recently and give my tokens of congratulations in my own way.

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  8. No. 6 always works best for me. I have this magical ability to use that word very often and It makes me feel so good inside with mini celebrations and stuff…Loved the post and the realness in your delivery…!

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  9. I have my bougie friends, who are my kindred spirits, and then my others friends who like to do drunch but on a budget. I’m not about that life lol but friendship is about compromise. This post did remind me to go back to my drafts and finish my post on my overpriced spring break trip. I easily spent $600 on foolishness because I didn’t say no. That is life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love #3. I stay telling people to just come on over. My home is great for entertaining and I can’t beat the commute. Best part is that my friends always stock my bar cart because they never leave home without alcohol.

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  10. The saying no part is a bit difficult at time but it must be done. I went to several weddings last year and one of them was out of the country and it costs over one thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money considering.

    My boys are going to their boys trip this weekend to Georgia and I really wanted to go, but spending that money right now can’t be done. I had to bite and said “next time”. They’re my boys and I’ve known a couple for more than 10 years. We will be alright.

    Your posts are well appreciated. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Let’s just say they’ve never had any problem with the ladies, though I tell em to stay away but they don’t want to take my advice.

        (Feeling some kind of way didn’t even ask about me lol)

        They’re going to air bnb in buckhead. I looked at the price in that place and thought they were crazy. Definitely want to visit there but I can’t hang with them right now.

        Remember I posted about an emergency that I set aside? Welp my car gave up on me. It wasn’t anything expensive but to fix it it will cost me more than I purchased it. Now I’m wondering if I should get me a decent car that can last me for a while? Problem with cars there is not much guarantee. Then again I can lease one. But that too is not something I want to do. Funny how Life happens.

        Will you do qna in the future?

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