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socializing so expensive

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One of the great things about being 30-something is that I am financially in a better place where I can afford to treat myself to a little luxury every now and then. I can spring for the cute themed boutique hotel instead of a sharing a hostel bathroom with strangers. I’ll spend a little more for balcony seating at a concert that’s listed “Standing Room Only” if it spares me some back pain the next morning. A better budget also means top-shelf liquor only because I don’t have time to fight off a hangover with a four-year-old for the whole weekend. But what are these things if you can’t enjoy them with the people you love? A recent Bustle article asked a question that is all too real for my generation: Why is it so hard to be social without spending money?

In the piece, author Suzette A. Dorrielan asks why fun with friends always seems to come with such an expensive price tag. She shares that between concerts, vacations, birthday parties and brunch it seems as if her wallet can’t always keep up, and it may be causing a wedge between her and her closest pals:

“This all left me wondering: why does being a good, present, friend often seem to require frequent expenditures of money? Socializing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is America’s second favorite pastime — right after television. Friendships improve our mental and physical wellbeing, and they’re even linked to living longer. They’re essential to a healthy, happy life — so why do they so often seem at odds with one’s financial health? Are there ways to both maintain your friendships and your budget?”

Don’t get it twisted, neither me or the few friends in my circle are exactly ballin’. For some of us a side hustle is the only thing keeping us from living check to check. For others, an income tax return and a few child tax credits can take us Chicken of the Sea to Sea Bass. And occasionally, a few of us are able to get by with a little help from Visa and Mastercard. It can be hard to fight off the urge to live your best Instagram life. So maybe we won’t be frolicking on the beaches of Ibiza looking like Angela Simmons, but if Frontier is having a sale on flights to Miami we can make a girls’ getaway happen at least once a year.

I’m typically that friend that wants all my girls to have a good time. Why go to “Drake Night” at the local club when we can go see the man himself on tour in a city we’ve never visited. This past summer I dragged my BFF to a weekend trip to Chicago not just to catch “Aubrey and The Three Amigos” but to have a girls’ weekend away from our kids. The trip turned out to be the highlight of the summer and was filled with memories of drinking Fiesta Margaritas at noon and making my bestie get on a Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier for the first time. I try to be that friend that doesn’t go nickel and diming my friends when things are tight financially. I don’t lend money I can’t afford to lose, but I also don’t mind fronting a friend’s air fare and letting her Cash App me at a later time. I’m also just as quick to schedule a night of Netflix, Chardonnay and Grub Hub as I am to pull out the passport.

But I get it, not everyone always wants to look at their besties as just another bill payment in order to have fun and Dorrielan discusses the awkward moment when you have to bail on friends for events that simply aren’t in your budget:

“In general, some people may worry that turning down invitations can lead others to think they’re a flake, or to stop inviting them to functions all together. The sting of hearing ‘you won’t come anyways’ is a sting that hurts even if you weren’t going to come, and more so if you wanted to, but couldn’t because of finances.”

Thankfully, my BFF’s are usually spared any suspected flakiness or awkward declines by just being open about our situations. If I can afford to cover a friend’s tab, I’ll offer but I’m not offended if I’m hit with a, “I’m good, love. Enjoy,” if they’re simply not in the mood for the extra debt. We’re also not afraid to express some brutal honesty when it comes to things we simply can’t afford and we don’t look at one another any differently because of it. It’s all about striking a balance that works for everyone’s budget. Sure we can save money with a six hour bus ride, but we’re staying in a hotel, not an Airbnb where I’m expected to cook on vacation. Fancy dinner downtown? Cool, but how about we walk instead of paying for parking.

My friends are so much more than their credit scores and remaining bank balances. Although living our best lives can be pricey at times, the memories we’ve created together stand out more to me than what airline we flew on. No one should be paying overdraft fees just to spend time with their friends, and if socializing with the people who are supposed to be helping you relax and have fun is doing nothing but stressing you out every pay day, Dorrielan says it’s your friendships you might want to reevaluate, not your finances:

“So as hard as it may be, it may be worth evaluating the value your friends bring to your life. The ones that truly enrich your life, whatever form that enrichment takes, are the ones you won’t mind making the sacrifices for — whether that sacrifice is time, emotional labor, or money.”

Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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