“We’re totally financially fine…until you add other people to the mix,” is what my husband and I always say. Maybe you can relate to that. You have your budget on point. You have your food budget, which allows for a few restaurant outings, along with your entertainment budget, utilities, rent, car payments, etc. And as for now, so long as you stick to it, you’re actually doing pretty well saving. But it all goes to hell the moment other people enter the picture and ask you to do, well, basically anything. It’s very rare that two friends or two couples are on the exact same spending plan. And financial pressure to keep up with the Jones’ is a real thing, as one Credit Karma survey found that 40 percent of millennials overspend to keep up with friends.
It happens all of the time. You ask a friend if she wants to come over for dinner, and she suggests you go to a restaurant instead. Suddenly, your budget just went up for the night. You invite another couple on a trip, but they aren’t pleased with the hotel you found –they want the slightly more expensive one. It can often feel that the wealthier friends’ budgets set the pace for everyone else. Nobody likes to speak up and say, “I can’t afford that…” and we can’t expect our richer friends to be aware of our monetary constraints. That’s what makes it so stressful when these social obligations come up.
It all starts with the mail. If you open the mail, you’re bound to find bills. Your day can be going very well until you bring in the damn mail, and find bills. Some bills come disguised as something else, but they’re still technically bills, and these are baby announcement. A baby announcement is a friend’s way of saying, “I have made a little human who will require about two million dollars between now and death to make it through this life and I’d love it if you’d help me start funding it.” A baby announcement is a request for a gift. And the thing with baby announcements is that, you just have no idea when they will end. What if all of your friends have four children? And you’re giving $50 a kid? You’re shelling out $200 for every friend pod, and you have like eight friends in that group, so…$1,600 on this?!
Wedding invitations are one of the biggest bills you can get in the mail. If it’s a destination wedding, the bill just quadrupled. A destination wedding doesn’t just mean you have to get to a place via an expensive plane ticket, but it also means you need to pay for accommodations while you are there, and you must take days off of work – days for which you may not be paid. While you’re at the destination, you need to find ways to feed yourself for every meal that’s not at the wedding, and eating away from your own kitchen isn’t cheap. So when you get an invitation to a destination wedding, you just got a bill for anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. Yaaaaay! And let’s not forget the expensive wedding gifts.
On the one hand, you’re flattered that the bride considers you a close enough friend to invite you to the bachelorette party. On the other hand, this is a second, smaller bill associated with the wedding invitation. WeddingWire reports that the average cost for a two-day bachelorette trip is $579. And that’s what everyone is doing now – a trip. A simple night on the town just isn’t good enough for anybody, anymore. Every bride wants you to use your vacation days on her bachelorette party. So that’s accommodations, plus the limousine, the strippers, the party favors, and everyone paying for the bride’s meals all weekend because that’s the etiquette.
When did everything have to become a whole weekend? When did every birthday start to require travel? Can’t we just have lunch and cake? Nope. Everybody wants everybody to go with them for a weekend in wine tasting country or to a beach house on the coast or to a ski cabin in the mountains. Judith is turning 40, so get ready to spend 20 percent of what’s in your savings account on her birthday. How are the budget-conscious lot of us supposed to keep up with the expectation that every birthday now calls for a hotel room and a train ticket?
A birthday dinner doesn’t seem too expensive. It’s much better than the birthday trip. The trouble is that you have a massive group bill situation, and nobody keeps track of who bought what. Everybody orders like there is no tomorrow. So even though you might have just had the burger and a beer, you’re on the hook for a little bit of that couple’s sangria pitcher, a little bit of that couple’s fondue appetizer, a little bit of that couple’s extremely expensive steak dinner, and a little bit of that couple’s cheesecake. Your share would’ve been $20 but now it’s somehow $60 because somebody shouted, “It’ll just be easy if we split the bill evenly!”
Being a bridesmaid
Being a bridesmaid is incredibly expensive, and deserves its own slide. Just because you’re invited to the bachelorette party, doesn’t mean you’re a bridesmaid. Sometimes, friends can just pop in for that and enjoy it. But a bridesmaid must pay for a dress, and will likely help pay for the bridal shower, as well as the bachelorette party. The other bridesmaids might get together and decide it would be nice to treat the bride to a spa night the night before her big day, and guess who is paying for that? Then there is the bachelorette party gift – that’s a thing. And you must get your hair professionally done. The bride probably isn’t paying for that. David’s Bridal says all in all, being a bridesmaid can cost $1,500.
Visiting a friend
A good friend moves across the country, or even across the world. The standard for being a good friend used to be seeing her once a month for lunch. Now the standard has jumped to buying a plane ticket to visit her. And you know it’s true, because she trash talks the other friends who’ve never visited her. “Did you know Chloe hasn’t even visited me?” she says, with so much stank. And you know if you don’t get around to visiting her, those comments will be about you. So because your friend decided to move to London, you’re now required to go to London at least once every five years to be considered a good friend. That’s not really in the budget for everybody.
Hosting a friend
Even having a friend visit you gets expensive. Sure you aren’t the one on the hook for a plane ticket, but what happens when a friend visits you? First, you have to take work off, which is financially impactful if you don’t get paid time off. So you’re losing money, and now, you’re about to spend money on days you’re not making it. Your friend wants to see the sights. She wants to dine at restaurants – not in your kitchen for five days. She wants to be a tourist, and being a tourist is expensive. Turns out your city doesn’t let locals into all the attractions for free, just because they live there. You have to pay $40 for that tour your friend wants to take, too.
You may think that a $200 gift card is a welcome sight to a person on a strict budget, but it’s actually just another form of a bill. Now we feel pressure to give that person a gift of equal value when their similar occasion comes up (birthday, wedding, house warming etc.) Even when someone on a tight budget is just sick, and a wealthy friend sends them a hundred dollars’ worth of soup and medicine, that can be stressful. What was our plan for when that friend got sick? Bringing over one vat of homemade soup and some Gatorade. So now we just feel bad about our generosity because it doesn’t match up.
Supporting a friend’s event
Your friend’s independent film that she’s been working on for a year is finally out. Your friend’s painting is in a huge exhibit. Your friend’s clothing line was finally picked up by a store. But, tickets to the film festival that your friend’s movie is in are $75. Tickets to the art exhibit where your friend’s painting is are $45. The simplest item of clothing from your friend’s clothing line is $65. Supporting friends can really add up. But when supporting a friend requires buying their product or purchasing tickets to their event, there is really no non-monetary way to get around that.