Are Your Friends Costing You?

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Peer pressure is no longer just for kids – it’s also a very adult and very real social problem.

When the economy was roaring along, it wasn’t such a big deal to spend a little extra on drinks with coworkers, vacations with relatives, or concerts with friends. Now that times are leaner, it’s hard to tell your peers that you feel pressured to spend money you may not have.

As I mentioned in the video above, a poll by Bankrate.com found that 46 percent of us sometimes feel peer pressure to overspend. So what can you do to save money and save face at the same time?

Realize you’re not alone

You’ll feel better about your predicament when you understand just how widespread it is. It affects new college grads, African-American women, and even women halfway around the world. So it’s quite possible that within your social group, you’re not the only one who wishes you could dine somewhere cheaper, or see a matinee, or hit a Happy Hour with better drink prices.

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that most in your group feel the same way – even those who are well off. A Washington Post article talks about Americans who have money but feel guilty spending it, because they don’t want to be judged harshly by peers who have less.

This should make it easier to tell your friends, without embarrassment, that these mean times call for lean entertainment options. They might actually thank you for it.

Find intriguing alternatives

You can also be proactive and seek out interesting things to do that don’t cost a lot. If there’s any silver lining to recent hard times, it’s that many venues – ranging from nightclubs to museums – are offering deeply discounted social activities. Here’s one idea: If you regularly go out after work with your coworkers, check out the casual dining chains like Chili’s and TGIFriday’s during Happy Hour. The recession has wreaked havoc with this category of dining establishment, so after-work Happy Hours are now cheaper and longer.

For instance, near where I live, the local Champps restaurant/sports bar features a 4-7 p.m. Happy Hour with half-off appetizers. It’s not unusual to see coworkers coming in for one adult beverage, split several appetizers, and then head home only $10 lighter. Let’s face it, you don’t go out with friends to eat as much as socialize, and this is an economical way of doing it.

Tell a little white lie

This one comes from Wisebread.com, and it’s probably effective, albeit a bit devious…

It’s hard to suck up your pride and say to your friends, “I can’t go out because I don’t have the money.” So fib a little. Tell them you’ve committed to spending more special time with your partner. Tell them you’re cutting back on the bar to train for a race. Tell them you’ve joined a book group and have reading to do. Sometimes replacing one excuse (broke) with another (working on physical fitness) is easier because you’re not as emotionally tied to it.

A better idea, though, is to create financial goals and stick to them – then telling the truth will work just fine. Simply say something like “I’d love to go skiing in Aspen with you, but I’m committed to saving the down payment for a new house, so I simply can’t right now. “

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