“It is not shameful to admit I cannot afford something my friends/family ask me to do.”
Now say that to yourself when you are next asked to be in a wedding (bachelor/bachelorette party, clothes, etc.), celebrate a destination birthday, or simply attend an expensive dinner for a friend’s birthday. We have all said “yes” when we really meant “oh no!” Expenses like these can jettison a carefully crafted budget/savings plan, but we’d rather bite our tongue than admit it.
Recently, my amazing family informed me that they would be traveling to Boston in December. It is rare to meet all of them together, and I would have given my eye-tooth for the chance. But, a few quick searches revealed that the trip would cost the Grasshoppers a whopping $1,063 in airfare alone. Alternatively, it would take well over 15 hours to drive there. I’m not sure if you have ever driven long distances with a toddler, but there is an entire ring of Hell built just of such road trips.
I could, of course, cut the cost by flying to visit the family alone, but let’s all admit that they really just want to see Baby G. I could leave Mr. Grasshopper alone in December – our month of birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and New Year’s – but that would cause heartbreak all around.
Not very long ago, I’d have sucked it up and bought the tickets. The cost would have stung, but not so much as admitting to my family that I – a successful professional – balked at dropping a few grand to meet them. This time was different. Chanting my mantra (“It is not shameful to admit that I cannot afford something my friends or family ask me to do.”) and newly imbued with all the good ideals of charting our route to Financial Independence, I informed them of the cost and told them it was not something we could afford. And then, a miracle. Of course they didn’t sneer at me (have I told you how cool these folks are?). Instead, they started spit balling alternatives.
- Would we like to meet them somewhere else where they could rent a house for the whole family? We could!
- Would that drive be any MORE achievable? It would!
And just like that we planned a perfectly affordable alternative to achieve the same goal. This is a happily-ever-after story, but it may not always be so. There may be times when you are simply left out of the fun unless you can scrimp and save to afford the expense. In either case, the answer (IMHO) is being honest, and being adaptable.
The people in your life will likely surprise you by being willing to bend with you.
Mr. Grasshopper recently served as the best man in a very elaborate wedding. For the bachelor party, the boys wanted to go out-of-town. While the glitz of NYC or LA certainly beckoned, I was impressed when they chose instead to carpool to Nashville, Kentucky. While it was certainly a less traditional destination, it turned out to be no less fun for them. Ultimately, it is your friends and family that you want to spend your time with. The where and what of it is negotiable.
In looking around the inter-web to inform my post, I tripped over a couple of handy posts that address how fellow Frugalites handle invitations to engage in money-suck activities. Here are a few that I really liked:
- From the Blog “And then we saved where saving doesn’t suck” – http://andthenwesaved.com/the-high-cost-of-being-a-bridesmaid-and-what-to-do-about-it/ Anna writes about the costs and considerations of being a bridesmaid on a budget. I especially liked her 8 questions to ask yourself when you are asked to be in a wedding, and the alternative ways you can help if you politely decline the honor.
- My Alternate Life – http://THE DARK SIDE OF FRUGALITY Interestingly, Jordann suggests “declining gracefully” and not telling folks you don’t have the money or cannot afford the expense. She raises a good point. For the penny pinchers among us, that is rarely true. We do have the money, we are just counting our pennies for a different purpose. I like the option of saying “That’s not in my budget right now.” I know a worry – certainly one of mine – is that the friends may stop asking. I wonder if proposing an alternative location (like a Netflix movie night instead of going to the movies) might help keep the relationship alive. Of course, your friends might just really want to see the movie right when it is released and if that’s the case don’t hate them. Send them off with love, and invite them to a low-cost/no-cost option the following weekend. I wonder if that might convey to your friends/family that you very much would like to spend time with them, but just not in the way where both of you have to spend $$$$