Many studies have shown that we tend to do things based on the examples set by our friends. When our friends overeat, we overeat, and when our friends overspend, we feel like it’s more acceptable for us to overspend too. If your group of friends has gotten into a rut where you’re not comfortable with the amount you spend or the financial priorities of your group, you can help lead the way for others by making changes of your own. Making moves to change for the better can inspire your friends to take a look at their financial life and start making changes of their own. Here are 5 great tips to help spur some change:
1. Be honest with your friends
If you’ve had changes in your life recently that have affected your finances, it’s important to be up front and honest about these. Losing a source of income or having other expenses go up is a perfectly valid reason to reevaluate how you spend your money – and so is having an epiphany that paying only the minimum will keep you in credit card debt until you’re ten thousand years old. Being frank and funny about it helps steer your friends in the right direction, so that they’re less inclined to see you as a pity case and more inclined to agree with you that these are good priorities.
2. Be a cheerleader for the cheap activities
You can help get the ball rolling by actively searching out and suggesting things that are both fun and inexpensive to do. And don’t try to immediately turn every hangout with your friends into an inexpensive one; by slowly replacing expensive outings with inexpensive outings, it will become a much more natural change. It’s like the old trick of switching your kids off whole milk by gradually diluting it with 2% – if the change is slow, you won’t notice it at all. On idea is you can suggest having them over for dinner instead of going out on a night you’d normally eat at a restaurant; you can easily feed four at home for the price of one at a nice restaurant.
3. Be the new normal
You can set a good example for your friends by showing them that there is another way to live and have fun without spending a ton of money. Become the living example of the new “normal.” You can help them see by your everyday habits that they can change their spending patterns and still have a full and wonderful life. If you’re having a great time packing your lunch, and aren’t showing a hint of being sorry for yourself, they’ll get used to your new habits.
4. Be honest about what you can’t afford
It’s likely that some of your friends will be inspired to follow your example – but it’s scary to do so if you’re the first person in your group to say, “You know, I’d rather not spend everything in my wallet on drinks tonight.” Being up front about not being able to afford something – again, in a funny and light-hearted way to avoid pity parties – gives others the opportunity to chime in and say, “Yeah, I can’t either.” As long as you have another idea or solution to propose, it will keep the tone from going dour. You want to avoid giving your friends the impression that your new money-saving plan is to sit at home and do nothing at all.
5. Mention scary words like “budget” or “saving”
This again is an example of making others feel at ease by being the first to volunteer. If you casually mention that you’re trying not to run over your “clothes budget” this month, or that you’re putting extra money towards saving for a down payment on a car, this will make it easier and less weird for your friends to mention they’re doing the same thing too. One of my friends recently said, excitedly, “I know you’ll be so proud of me! We’re going to save my salary this summer so we can buy a car with cash in the fall.” And I was indeed proud of her – but she knew it was safe to brag to me about this because I’d mentioned I was myself saving up to buy a car in cash.
Have you struggled with trying to stick to your budget because your friends have more spendthrift lifestyles? Have any strategies worked for you to get them on board with more budget-oriented spending habits? For more related tips on the topic, check out my earlier post on how to be a good friend while broke.