How do you deal with peer pressure spending?

We’ve all experienced peer pressure spending before. And for me, one of the most frustrating things about trying to pay down debt, save for a goal, or trim that monthly budget, is having to say no to spending money on occasion. I was so used to saying yes to everything, and while I had fun and felt included, it came with a steep price tag.

Saying no is not usually easy. You don’t want to miss out on the fun things that your friends are doing! But you need to make sure you don’t lose sight of your goals and why you’re trying to spend less in the first place. Sometimes your friends won’t understand, but your friends aren’t the ones in control of your future.

Here are a few techniques I’ve used in the past to try and spend time with my friends – without breaking the bank:

Suggest a different activity

Sometimes someone suggests a certain activity simply because it was the first thing they thought of. So if you’re asked out for a late dinner, suggest meeting up at a coffee shop instead. Or, better yet, you could throw on a pot of coffee, fix up some snacks, and invite them to your house instead! Instead of spending an evening dancing at the bar, try taking a drop-in dance class at a studio or gym instead. Or, instead of paying $10 to go to the gym, grab your friends and go jogging outside – or put on a fitness DVD and invite them over to your house instead.

This is especially effective when your friends want to get together to watch “the big game.” Instead of heading out for beers and greasy pub food, offer to host everyone at your place instead. Your friends will bring the food and alcohol – all you have to do is clean up after they’re gone. And if you’re lucky, a few good friends will stay behind to help you with the dishes. :) I once had an acquaintance help me scrub my kitchen floors by hand after a particularly rowdy get-together the evening before.

For every expensive activity your friends suggest, there is a cheaper activity that can be just as fun. Use your imagination and see what you can come up with!

Create a challenge and invite your friends to participate

I love a good challenge, and a great way to deal with peer pressure spending is to create goals you can achieve together as a group. Challenge yourself to bring your lunch to work for an entire month, or instead of heading out for a $5 latte in the afternoon, try drinking the free coffee in the break room for as many days as you can. Once you’ve decided on challenging yourself to a specific goal, ask your friends or co-workers to join you. That way, you’ve eliminated the chance of peer pressure spending, you can support each other in an effort to save money, and you can be social with them at the same time.

Spend less money

This might seem like an obvious thing to do,b ut sometimes when you’re with friends, you can get caught up in the excitement. Before you know it, the bill comes and you’re out $60. There are plenty of ways to save money at restaurants, such as ordering a bowl of soup instead of a meal, splitting entrees with friends, skipping the alcohol, or leaving out appetizers and desserts.

The same goes for when you’re traveling – sometimes you just have to say no. Especially when there are things your friends want to do that you just don’t want to spend money on. On my trip to NYC last year, I opted to skip out on spending $75 to see a Broadway show (it’s just not my thing). When traveling Europe, I’ve elected not to pay to see certain things because they just don’t interest me. And that’s okay! If there’s something you really don’t want to do, it’s okay to say no. Believe it or not, your friends will understand.

Find other ways to contribute

If you are invited to a party or a potluck, but can’t find the money to buy a bottle of wine, or a specific dish you’ve been assigned to bring, ask if you can bring games, a few DVDs, some music, or even offer to help clean up after everyone leaves instead.

Be honest with yourself and your friends

If your group of friends are always doing activities that are out of your price range, sometimes being honest is the best approach to take. You don’t have to go broke or into debt just to get a little social interaction into your life. Your true friends will understand and be sensitive to your financial situation. Chances are, they’ve been in that position before, and might even be able to suggest cheaper alternatives to the activities they have been used to doing.

For me personally, peer pressure spending is harder now than it was when I was broke and trying to get out of debt. At least then, being in debt was something most people could relate. But now my friends and family know how much money I make, and they know I can afford most things if I really wanted to. But just because you have the money doesn’t mean you need to spend it. :)

How do you deal with peer pressure spending?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

19 comments

  1. My friends and I almost always opt for coffee or lunch instead of dinners out. Another thing we’re big on is board games – we all go to somebody’s house to play board games for a couple hours, everybody brings something to eat or drink. Easy, fun and practically free. Now that I’m on mat leave and the weather’s getting nicer, my friends who are also moms and I are all about taking walks with the babies!

  2. I definitely subcumbed to spending peer pressure last night. A group of my friends and I went out for ice cream. Usually I would join and not buy anything, but the ice cream looked so good even though I wasn’t hungry. Luckily spending $4 on ice cream didn’t put a huge dent on my wallet.

  3. Thankfully my friends are generally in the same place in life as me (aka broke and paying student loans). So we always try to come up with cheaper things to do.

    We still go out a lot but our main thing we do now is weekly dinners at Chevys, during happy hour.

  4. My best friend is worse off than I am, so we tend to do things on the cheap normally, which is good for both of us.

  5. I have a few friends who tend to let costs spin out of control. A simple evening turns into drinks and food, plus a hotel room for the night…it’s crazy. Lately I’ve been taking a hard line and just saying “I can’t afford all of that”. They read my blog so they know I’m in debt, the terrible thing is, most of them are in debt too, they just don’t care.

  6. So if you host your friends at your house you expect THEM to bring the food? Next you are going to say that if you supply the food you are going to charge admission!!!

    • It’s a potluck! :) Everyone brings food to share.

      • “Your friends will bring the food and alcohol – all you have to do is clean up after they’re gone.” –

        Thats not a potluck!! you providing appetizers or dessert would be a potluck. Just because you clean up doesn’t make it a potluck!

  7. Urgh… You speak the truth. I was a peer pressure spender for years, until I sat down and took a long look at my account history. It wasn’t pretty.

    Dave Chilton says it again and again in ‘The Wealthy Barber Returns’: “I can’t afford it”. Those four works are tough to say initially, but they’ll keep you on track in the long run.

  8. I’ve found that I have different types of friends – some are very peer-pressure like with spending, others are easy to adapt and willing to find cost-reduced ways to have fun on a lower budget.

    In situations with those that are more including to spend, I often use food allergies/ sensitivities to my advantage. It might sound bad, but my bad stomach ca n be a blessing in disguise! For example, I’ll eat before going out to dinner so I can order a smaller portion or just have drinks while everyone else eats. It’s weird, but because I have a lot of dietary restrictions it eases the social pressure of also ordering full dinner along with everyone else without blatantly telling them it’s about saving money. No one feels guilty for a bad stomach!

    Additionally, when it comes to going out for drinks, I have realized that sipping one drink (or switching to water after that first beverage) over the course of the evening is a nice way to save costs but still be social.

  9. I try and go the suggest another activity route. I find it doesn’t usually work out too well if I try and go along and just spend less (it’s not really fun for my friends if they’re enjoying a whole dinner out and I’m done my meal in two seconds since I just ordered an appie), but as long as I can come up with a fun sounding idea then my friends are usually on board!

  10. This is a great point that you make with this article. It is hard to not keep up with the Joneses when going out.

    I try to suggest more affordable restaurants when eating out or even suggesting a meal in.

  11. THe part about spending less is really important. SEriously dude, it’s easy when everyone’s talking and having a great time to sorta forget and order another drink or buy dessert or say that you’ll split the bill evenly even though you only had a coke and eveyrone else had full entrees. Gotta be mindful and keep on top of that stuff!

  12. Not much peer pressure spending for me. Luckily, my friends have very similar spending habits and interests. We get together at each others’ homes for potlucks and BBQ’s etc. Lots of outdoorsy stuff too.. that’s free.

  13. Well sometimes handling these of pressure becomes a habit with a person has already inherited.

  14. I mostly enjoy shopping by my self. Rarely do I ever take anyone with me, simply because I don’t want to deal with the pressure of having to buy something if they do. Great topic Krystal! :)

  15. Jessica Allintone

    Well I follow what my heart say so… no matter what people tell me to do… That’s how it goes no pressure at all…

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