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You swear you are barely spending money, but somehow at the end of the month you have nothing to spare and possibly some damage to the credit score.

It seems simple to "cut back," but many people refuse to actually cut out most of their unnecessary spending, not for lack of common sense, but out of fear that their social lives will suffer. Our fear of loneliness means we don't want to be left out, but don't fall for the myth that socializing is "supposed to" cost money. Your finances can take an especially hard hit if your circle of friends include people with higher incomes than you.

These changes to your social life can save you hundreds of dollars from monthly expenses.

A Simple Night Out: Three obvious ways friends of varying ages and genders like to socialize would be to, "grab a drink", "grab a bite", or "see a show". Lets pick the seemingly cheapest of these options, 'grab a drink'. Friend A, lets call him Alan, is on a budget and thinks he is saving money by suggesting "just a drink." Friend B, lets call him Bryan, is not worried about money and is completely unaware that Alan is trying to save money. In addition, Alan didn't mention it because come on, it's completely unrealistic not to be able to afford to "grab a drink" right? Pay attention to the word "grab," it insinuates casual, low key, with cost-saving potential. Bryan suggests "a little hole in the wall" in a "chill" neighborhood. Alan is excited because it sounds like a cheep night, and he gets to see his friend.

Fast forward three hours, and Bryan's "hole in the wall" is a boutique whiskey lounge and the "low key" drink options range from $14-$17 and there is no way Alan can have just one drink if his friend has thrown back three already. So Alan starts the night $30 in the hole and now Alan and Bryan are both hungry, are out on the town surrounded by takeout options raging from $8-$18 and likely need to pay some amount to get home ranging from $3-$25 depending on mode of transport. Before he knows it, Alan's cheep night has turned into at least a $45 night and likely more like a $65 night. Lets say he only finds himself in this situation once or twice a week. That's a minimum of $180 a month and say max of $520. That could cost Alan anywhere from $2100-$6200 a year.

Low Key Nuptial Celebrations: This is likely inevitable. Your friend invites you to a bachelor/ette party. It's a good friend and you can't possibly say no. That would be "so rude". You were hoping to save some money this month but your friends assured you this is a "wicked cheep weekend". (Ok, just your friend from Boston said that). You are immediately stressed by the invite, but you don't even consider not going. You assure yourself you will do it "on the cheep." You book the cheapest airplane ticket you can find ($299), rent the cheapest room you can find ($87/night and you are only paying for one of the nights), and take a Lyft Ride Share from the airport ($15).

You chip in for beer and Pizza ($40) the first night, move on to a dive bar for "cheep" late night drinks ($20), grab a "cheep brunch" at a greasy spoon the next day ($22) and on your last night get some street tacos and beers ($15). Before you know it, you're taking another Lyft Share back the airport ($15) and are back home eating ramen, with over $500 on the credit card and that doesn't even include the upcoming wedding. How many bachelor parties, weddings, showers, elaborate birthday parties, ect do we attend each year? 2, 6, 10? And not all of them are on the cheep. That's anywhere from $1000-$4,000 annually and could of course be much much more.

A Simple night in: You plan a cheep night in, friends coming over to watch a game or movie, or whatever. You think that the night is basically going to be free, but realize you should probably get some pizza or takeout for your friends ($25) and some wine or beer ($20). You spend about $45. If you only do this once a month, that's around $540 a year. Twice a month, that's $1080.

Quick Lunch Out: You have been packing your lunch most of the week, but you are exhausted and you are meeting a friend for lunch out. She requests sushi, you rationalize that lunchtime sushi should be cheep. Your personal total comes to $28. If you eat out like this once a week, runs about $1,300 a year. Twice a week would be over $2600.

Just Coffee: You friend at work suggests you get out of the office for a late morning coffee. You love late morning coffee and you have been staying in, cooking meals, the least you can do is grab a coffee and get some air. You "snag" a latte for $4.50. If you buy coffee out just three times a week, it will run you about $576 a year. Do this once a day, and it will run you over $1300/year.

Adult Birthday Parties: You know how this goes. You are invited to go to dinner to celebrate your friend's birthday. You don't know most of her other friends, but you don't want to be rude and say no. You found her something at a thrift store months ago, it was only $7 but you know she will love it. Birthday present is taken care of, and you write a really nice card. You plan ahead of time to not order allot, you even have some string cheese and wine at your apartment before you go. You get to the dinner, order one drink and a salad, about $18, plus the $7 birthday present, so your total cost that night, $28 with tip, or so you think. You finish your drink and just sip on water as you watch her friends order several more rounds of "tinis" and "ritas'. You are shocked that they are able to pay for multiple rounds of $14 drinks, but whatever. You know what happens next. Yup, your friend heads to the bathroom and all the other well-imbibed guests total the bill, divide by 9 and BOOM, you are struck with a $65 "chip in". Do this once a month, $780 a year.

I just identified $7000-$15,000 a year in social costs…and I was being reasonable. We all know this number could be close to $20k if not more.

You get my point. I also hear you screaming, SO AM I NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE A LIFE!? 'You Are! You Are!' I shout back! BUT, you are not supposed to be able to afford everything the people you hang out with can afford. You are also not supposed to value the same things your friend's value.

That's the problem with middle class culture and spending habits. I haven't even touched on the overpriced apartments we rent, our clothing budgets, and our desire to travel far for "real experiences." I want to enjoy my money and I want you to as well, but I also loath the idea of spending money simply to adhere to social norms I don't actually value. I don't believe one should acquire debt for the sake of friendship. I don't think one should be guilted into a "fiscal norm."

I also question the depth of our friendships, if they require so much spending. So many of these costly events don't actually leave me feeling close and intimately connected to my friends. We often set out to fulfill our basic human need for social interaction and closeness, and instead are left feeling disconnected, not wealthy enough, and in debt.

Let me tell you a few examples of what I have said 'No Thank You' to recently:

1. No, I can't be in your wedding or attend your bachelorette ($300-$2500)

2. No I can't make your Birthday dinner ($50-$80)

3. No, I wont be able to meet you in NYC that weekend ($120-$800)

4. No, I can't meet for lunch ($12-$30)

5. No, I can't attend your fundraiser gala ($75-$600)

Let me tell you a few examples of what I have offered to do:

1.Would you like to stay with me when you are in town and catch up? ($Free)

2.Would you like to meet for a late morning hike? ($Free)

3.Can I take you to lunch for your birthday? ($35)

4.I have to do some grocery shopping, want to come along, we can tackle your list too? ($Free- Already in budget)

5.Would you like to cook together/Brew Beer and split the cost? ($Free- Already in Budget)

6.I already donate online to causes I really care about, but would be happy to share your fundraiser info with my friends ($Free)

7.Want to come watch a movie/eat popcorn/drink wine at my house? ($0-$12)

8.Want to meet at the gym and catch up on the treadmills? ($Free)

And before you tell me that those ideas are boring/silly/unrealistic, I am here to tell you that I have done every single one of them, and most of them a million times… but only with my REAL FRIENDS. And I promise you I have REAL friends. The kinds of friends that I don't have to get dressed up to see, the kinds of friends that I can cry in front of, or share my deepest darkest shit, and the kinds of friends who have tried on pants, at Cosco ,while I created a makeshift dressing room out of beach towels and tried not to pee my pants out of laughter. My cup runneth over with REAL FRIENDS.

There is nothing that makes a human feel closer to another human, than tackling the humanity of "just being" together. We can stop believing that the only way to find value in an experience is to pay for it. We can stop spending the money that we don't have and start spending time on the real friendships that we do have.

By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.

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Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.

What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.

The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.

There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!

Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.

Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”

While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.

That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying

the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.

This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.

Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.

That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?

Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."

In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.

We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.

As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.

What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.

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Did you hear about the Great Resignation? It isn’t over. Just over two years of pandemic living, many offices are finally returning to full-time or hybrid experiences. This is causing employees to totally reconsider their positions.

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