How to Be a Frugal Friend without Being Rude

by Melanie Lockert · 10 comments

When you’re on a budget or paying off debt, there are certain sacrifices you likely have to make. For me personally this means going out to eat less and being mindful of my spending when I’m with others.

When you’re with your friends it’s easy to spend more, because you want to be agreeable and go with the flow, or maybe even be generous — even if you can’t afford it.

I know I’ve been there. I’ve been in situations where I was invited to dinner at a restaurant that was way out of my price range. Quietly I’m freaking out, scanning the menu, looking for the cheapest item. This is not a fun position to be in.

Not only that, but I tend to spend more with friends because when I’m in the groove of having fun, it’s hard to say no. Another drink? Sure! Want to go somewhere else? Of course!

All of these scenarios with friends, while fun, have made me deeply uncomfortable because they aren’t choices I would make normally. I feel like my budget gets the “friend pass”, but secretly is causing me to commit a cardinal sin. While I think it’s totally worthwhile to spend money with and on friends, I believe there is a way to be the frugal friend without being rude.

From my previous experiences of feeling uncomfortable but learning to speak up, I’ve gleaned some ideas. If you want to be a frugal friend without being rude, here are some tips.

Initiate the Invitation

This one is easy, yet it took me so long to realize that this one powerful switch can change everything. The key to being a frugal friend is to initiate the invitation, with terms that align with your budget.

I tend to invite friends over for dinner at my place, or out for happy hour. I also enjoy going out for walks, hanging in the park, or going for coffee or tea. All friendships are different, but those are my frugal standbys and help show that I want to spend time with my friends, without spending a lot of money.

Be Honest and Upfront

I’ve found that if you’re honest with your friends about your financial situation, they can meet you where you are. It can also serve as a good opportunity to bond over finances and shared goals!

Now, some of my friends aren’t in debt like I am or don’t really care about budgeting. And that’s fine! In no way is being honest about your finances a judgement on theirs. It’s simply a way to set expectations and be clear with your friends what you can and cannot afford.

If you get invited to something that seems out of your price range, you can respond with, “That’s a bit out of my price range right now” or propose something else altogether.

Know When It’s Time to Say No

I learned the hard way that you can’t say yes to everything — and by not saying yes to everything means you have to say no sometimes. “No” is hard to say to friends, especially when you don’t want to hurt their feelings or come across as being rude. But saying no can save your sanity and your budget!

If something doesn’t feel right in your gut, say “No”. If you feel like you will be uncomfortable or regret making a certain decision, the word no is a good bet. Say no graciously and turn around and invite them to do something else at a later date.

Connect with Your Values

Friendship doesn’t have to cost money. I’m the first to admit that I love going out with friends, but what I really love is the hours of conversation. I can do that for a fraction of the cost when I get creative and host a potluck, or invite people over.

I also find going on walks with friends is a great way to stay active and catch up. If you’re feeling strapped for cash because of your friendships, begin to connect with your core values and what friendship really means. True friends are based on so much more than activities, so if you’re feeling strapped, connect on what really matters.

You can be a frugal friend without being rude! Just be sure to set expectations, take initiative, and do what feels right for you.

How do you practice being a frugal friend? How do you set boundaries without being rude?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • cally says:

    Why not suggest a wine tasting where each friend brings their own bottle of favorite wine…set a price range and have fun. Coffee tasting is catching on also…bring their favorite brand, and you can provide some nice biscotti. Or, make the dinner invite a chance to help prepare a new or unusual dish…everyone in the kitchen. Perhaps, you could ask friends to bring a small portion of their favorite [any course would do, appetizer, side dish, dessert] and give them a chance to shine. Makes for a great conversation about how/where you found the recipe. You could always ask guest to bring a handful of photos/iphone shots and have fun remembering adventures together…or better yet, some old family photos of each of you as babies and youngsters. Have a more portable dinner/finger friendly so that you can eat and share.

    Small city or metropolis, you could always prepare a modern version of treasure hunt, where you prepare a list that takes your group to interesting/hidden/unusual places. Pack a quick dinner for each guest and just nibble along the way. Be sure to let guest know you plan so that they can bring appropriate allergy/diet food if needed. Or, how about an adventure to toy stores in your area or toy departments of big box stores. Take photos of your childhood favorites, or ‘wish they had that when I was growing up” and compares/discuss photos over pizza or take out Chinese. Speaking of photos, suggest each guest bring photos of a spot in your town or city and see if guests can identify the place. Of course, this could also be favorite places in well known cities/or rivers of the world where they have been/or crazy photos on any topic that wouldn’t cross any ‘political lines’ of guests.

    Just get creative…think of things that normally come up in conversations or on line/blogs and then set up an evening with some adventure involving these topics. There are so many everyday topics that everyone would like to hear others’ thoughts on, but they probably wouldn’t come up at the local bar or noisy restaurant, but might in the quiet of your home with a conversation starter.

  • Kayla @ Everything Finance says:

    Great post Melanie. I do tend to over spend when I’m with friends too as they don’t usually know about my financial situation. It’s not their fault, I should just try to do the inviting next time and make cheaper choices. 🙂

  • I’m a proponent of the ‘initiate the invite’ strategy or the counter-offer invite strategy. When friends invite us to go out to dinner, we typically counter with inviting them for dinner at our house. I agree with you–the goal is to spend time together, whether in a restaurant or at home. I like your ‘take a walk’ idea too, that’s a great one for us as Frugal Hound gets to tag along and sniff everyone to her heart’s content.

    And, the best solution I’ve found is to make frugal friends. We’ve been really lucky to meet fellow frugal folks and it’s so nice to make plans with friends who start their invites with “I found this free event we could go to…” 🙂

  • Heath says:

    The other way is to have kids. First, you find your friends don’t want to impose and won’t invite you out as often. If you don’t want to miss out on time with your friends, you’ll need to make it clear you want to see them. Secondly, your friends understand you need to be near your littlest ones and are willing to come to you. That could mean they come to your house for dinner or an event (party, watching a big game, or anything else you come up with). Lastly, it’s important that you can appear from time-to-time without your kids. That gets you to where you are now – spending more money than your budget allows. Here, you can cite many reasons you don’t want to spend more than x. It could be that you have a savings goal, you want to pay off a debt, or you just don’t want to spend that much money on something you don’t value as highly. Amazingly, this will open up great conversations with your friends. We all have an interest in personal finances and maybe they’re interested to hear what your goals are.

  • adele says:

    I agree completely that if you’re honest you can broach this subject and they will be fine with it. You can initiate, which is a great idea, or if they do, politely decline due to high cost and they will get the hint to choose something more modest the next time. People usually rally.

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