How to Keep Your Friends and Your Budget, Too

Why is it so hard to have a social life on a budget? I mean, it starts with a friend calling to ask if you want to go to dinner. You look at that well-planned budget, and suddenly you are willing to toss the whole thing out the window, because you already spent your eating out money this month, but you really don’t want to miss out on the fun.

We’ve all been there at one point or another, wondering how to keep our friends and maintain our budget at the same time. Today we’re chatting about how to do just that, so if that’s something you need, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started.

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How to Keep Your Friends and Your Budget, Too

Well hey there and welcome to this episode of the Financial Fix Up Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Brumley, and I’m happy you’re here today as we jump into this topic of keeping your friends and your budget, too.

This one’s a doozy of a topic because we all want to keep our friends and our lifestyles as we’ve come to know them, but when the finances don’t match up or our goals require the sacrifice of things such as eating out or recreation-type activities, it can be a challenge to maintain relationships in the same ways we did before.

Trust me, I know this well – so today I want to spend some time encouraging you as you navigate your friendships and maintaining a budget at the same time. Ultimately, it’s about creating boundaries, but boundaries can be really hard to adjust once the relationship is already established. To do so, I actually have five steps to take or at least consider as you work your way through this process of achieving your goal of financial freedom.

Sound like a plan? Well, let’s jump right in.

Step #1: Be Honest About Your Budget

The first step might take a small leap of faith on your part but start with honesty. You never know when you’ll come across someone else who needs to keep their budget as well.

My sister and I both got married right about the same time. We both found out really quickly that the lifestyles we’d been used to, (i.e. dinners out with drinks and dessert) no longer fit into either of our budgets. It was a while, though, before we could actually admit that to each other, and I cringe when I think of how many meals went on credit cards just so we could have fun together and save face. It isn’t worth it, folks. We found that when we were honest with one another, all of the tension faded away and we were able to find an alternate, inexpensive activity. Truly, what we wanted, was just to spend time together.

Start with something simple: “I’d love to go out with you, but as a family we are working really hard to pay down debt this year, and I just don’t have the money in the budget to make it work this month. Perhaps we could find an alternative because I really do want to spend time together.”

More than likely your friends will want to help you achieve your goals and will ask additional questions, so before you engage in this type of conversation, make sure you know the answers:

  • Why is it important that you stick to your budget?
  • What end result do you hope to gain?
  • What are you choosing to sacrifice to make it happen and why?

After all, this budget isn’t a bad thing – it’s just a tool that’s helping you get to where you want to be financially. That’s something to be celebrated!

Be honest, it’s worth it.

Step #2: Have a Fund for It

While I know it’s not possible in every budget, I highly recommend having a line item in your budget for recreation or time spent with friends. We have an eating out budget, but we do our best to save that money for times when our entire family can go out to lunch or dinner or Justin and I can have a date night.

In addition to that, however, we have a recreation fund with a small amount of money budgeted for each month. Because we tend to host our friends in our home, this line item is typically enough to cover a six pack of beer, a bottle of wine, and some snacks or dessert-type items. Obviously, if we know we plan to have multiple visitors over the course of the month, then we try to ration that money to cover each occurrence.

No matter whether it’s you hosting the event or meeting up with friends outside of the house, to the best of your ability, plan ahead so you don’t have to scrap the entire financial plan to make a night out work for you.

So, step 2 is to have a fund for it.

Step #3: Say No

Another approach you might need take is to just say no. This is definitely the hardest one, but sometimes it’s the most appropriate – especially if you know there’s no extra money in your budget and you have no ability to create a fund for recreation at this time.

I remember when we first started budgeting. Of course, we had almost no money at the time to start with, but when people would invite us to do things, even the gas money to get there was a challenge. It felt stupid to say no to events and gatherings for that reason, but in order to keep our budget in place and get out of the hole we’d dug ourselves into – that was exactly what we had to do.

Sometimes saying no is the best choice, even if it feels disappointing in the moment. But today I’m offering you the freedom to do just that.

So, step 3, if necessary, is to simply say no. It won’t be a no forever, but consider it a no for now.

Step #4: Consider Alternatives

Step 4 is to consider some alternatives. And this is important because even if you do have a little extra money or the ability to put together a recreation fund, there might just come a time – or it might be now – that you know you can’t afford the same level of recreation that you’ve had in the past. If that’s the case, not to worry! There are alternatives you can use to still have fun with friends, without breaking the bank.

And I’m going to give you three of my favorites now.

Alternative #1: Consider Dessert or Appetizers

Perhaps even though you’ve been honest about your budget and your goals, your friends still want to go out. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. If you have the money for it, suggest you meet them for dessert and drinks after dinner. It’s cheaper than eating out for a whole meal, and you still get the experience of being out on the town.

Word to the wise: Just make sure to eat a full meal before you get there so you don’t end up giving in and ordering more than you planned on, thus ruining the budget and destroying any reason you had for meeting for dessert and drinks only.

The same rings true for going out for appetizers – it allows you the opportunity to get out and have a little fun, without spending money for an entire meal. Once again, though – plan ahead so that you don’t get sucked into the idea of ordering more than you budgeted for. I prefer to have a hard deadline of “we have to be home by a certain time”, a meal in the slow cooker, or some other reason that we can’t order something more or stay longer than the appetizer hour.

Alternative #2: Invite Your Friends Over

The second alternative, if your friends are willing, move the party to your place. Have everyone bring their beverage of choice and a snack to share (think chips and dip, veggies, and bite-size dessert items). Host a game night and bring out the board games or simply turn on a sporting event on television and have some fun rooting for your favorite teams. Have a BBQ and throw a football around the yard while letting the kids jump on the trampoline. The options are endless, but make sure that everyone contributes or it could end up being more expensive than that dinner out you so carefully avoided.

For us, it is cheaper to host it at our home not only due to restaurant costs but also because we don’t have to pay for a babysitter or find ways to entertain the kids. That’s a win-win situation in my book!

Alternative #3: Choose Free Activities

My last alternative for you is to choose free activities. This is for times when you don’t want to stick around the house, but also don’t want the expense of heading out on the town. Check your local listings for free events in your area. Our area typically has free art shows and movie nights in the park, and with a box of candy from the dollar store, they can be a lot of fun for an evening out. You could also choose to make a day out of it and go for a hike or walk through city-maintained gardens. Take some good pictures to document the day and fun time spent together. I bet if you looked into it, there are dozens of fun (and free!!) things you can do with friends in your area as well.

Step 5: Find New Friends

Step 5 is might seem a little counterintuitive to this podcast all about keeping your friends and your budget, too, but if you are constantly encouraged to make poor choices by the friends you have, it’s time to find new ones. Drug addicts don’t go back to the same situations they had before they were sober, and neither should debt and spending addicts. You wouldn’t recommend your teenage daughter keep the same friends that are encouraging her to make bad choices, would you? In the same way, if you’ve been honest with your friends, offered alternatives, and are still meeting resistance, you shouldn’t allow yourself to remain in a situation that is dangerous not only for your finances but for your long-term family goals. Ultimately, you have to protect the best interests of your family, and that may mean leaving relationships behind.

If that’s you today, I highly recommend you start once again with honesty: “I’d love to be able to hang out with you and do all of the things that we are used to doing, but for now I need to take a step back. I need to focus on paying off my debt/saving money so that my family can achieve our goals, and for the time being, eating out/partying/etc. doesn’t fit into that plan. I hope you’ll understand, and if you ever want to come over and play games or do something that doesn’t cost a lot of money, I’d love that. I really do value your friendship.”

Truthfully, if that person really is your friend, they are going to start taking you seriously, but if they don’t have your best interests at heart, they will be easy to let go at this point in time.

It’s Possible to Budget and Still Have Friends

So, there you have it – five steps for keeping your friends (mostly) and your budget too. Even if you had to say goodbye to a few friends in that last step, chances are you still have some that are now walking with you on your journey to maintaining your budget and finding financial freedom. Now, when you get together with your friends for a fun night, it won’t come with the stress of wondering where the money will come from after the fun is over.

And you might just find that you have more fun doing the things that don’t cost money. I sure hope so.

If you are still struggling to get your family budget up and running, I’d like to offer you a FREE copy of my Monthly Family Budget Worksheet to help you do just that. You can find it at or by following the link in the show notes.

Whatever you decide, just know that I’m cheering you on! You’ve got this!

Have an amazing day and I’ll chat with you again next time.