It has always been a challenge for me to stick to my budget in December. Not because of Christmas and presents and holiday travel, but because everyone I know seems to want to get together this time of year. And when people want to get together, it usually means spending money to go out to eat.
I’m planning on traveling to visit my family in Florida, and I already have dinner plans for several nights in my 10-day trip. As much as I hate to do it, if I want to stay on budget, I simply cannot accept any more invitations to meet up for dinner this month.
But how can I or anyone say no? It’s very challenging, especially when you want to see your friends, but sometimes it just needs to be done. If you’re on a budget and are looking for ways to say no without offending anyone, here are 5 tactful tips you can use.
1. Be Honest With Yourself
You can’t be honest with your friends about your financial situation if you’re not honest with yourself first. The same goes for teaching your kids about money and letting them know about difficult financial times. Take a careful look at your budget, and see how much money you have to get together with friends this month. Using an envelope budgeting system may be helpful to keep track of how much money you have available. If you run out of cash in your “entertainment” envelope, then there is no denying that you can’t afford to go out. You can also use online budgeting tools like Mint.com, You Need a Budget (YNAB), and Quicken to effectively keep track of everything. Seeing the numbers and data first hand will help you to face reality and avoid making any compromises that will hurt you financially.
2. Suggest A Different Time
I have found that most people want to meet for dinner, which is the most expensive meal of the day. Sometimes you also end up getting appetizers, drinks, and desserts. Instead of saying no to getting together for a meal, just say no to dinner. Suggest breakfast, lunch, or dessert instead. See if you can get your friends to be frugal with you. Or if you have met your budget for the month, suggest getting together the following month when you have more money and time for entertainment purposes.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of different ways to save money while eating out. You can get coupons from the Entertainment Book or Restaurant.com and find some great local deals through group buying and daily deals sites like Groupon and Living Social.
3. Be Gentle
Make sure your friends understand that “it’s not you, it’s me.” Carefully think about how you’re going to decline the invitation and make sure that they realize it has nothing to do with them. In fact, you may be telling all of your friends this so they shouldn’t take it personally. I recently told some of my friends that I would not be able to hang out due to my tight budget, and I tried to emphasize to them that I wouldn’t be doing any activities for the rest of the month.
4. Go Small
Go big or go home. right? No, I don’t believe in that at all. It’s possible to say yes to getting together and no to spending money. For example, I’ve gone places with my friends and ordered just a water, leaving a dollar as a tip. My friends were ordering food dishes and tipping the server, so I didn’t feel bad. You can also suggest doing a potluck style dinner at someone’s home. This will save on costs and is usually more intimate anyway. Check out this easy homemade chili recipe if you’re looking to prepare something delicious on the cheap.
If you’re invited to one of those parties/shows that involve buying Tupperware, candles or kitchen utensils, try to find something that you can use as a gift for an upcoming birthday. That way, you’re not just buying something solely to fit in with the crowd. Or if you’re invited to a party with a gift exchange, try to find something around your house that’s new and unused so you can re-gift it. Of course, you’ll still want to follow proper regifting etiquette. Alternatively, simply don’t participate. There’s no shame in that. There are usually others who won’t be participating as well.
5. Just Say No
If you know for a fact that you can’t afford to go out and you can’t change the time or setting, just say no. You don’t need to explain yourself because a true friend will understand. Easier said than done, I know, but be confident in yourself and put a little trust in others that they will not hold this against you.
If saying no just isn’t your thing, look at your budget and see if you can re-adjust so that you have more money for entertainment during certain months of the year. It would be better to reevaluate your budget than blow it. And having a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time with your friends either.
How have you said no to your friends in order to stay within your budget? What was your approach?