Humans are social creatures. Deep down we all strive to interact with others – to connect with each other in meaningful and fulfilling relationships. From casual acquaintances to intimate friends, our social lives are one of the most important elements that make us who we are.
When it comes to our personal finances and reaching our financial goals, many of us strive to live a frugal life. We are thrifty and extremely mindful not to waste. Being frugal means we are always looking to be economical – extravagances are rare. In essence, we do our best to “pinch pennies.”
What happens when being frugal collides with trying to live a full and satisfying social life? What trades off have to be made? Which ultimately wins out?
When Your Frugal Ways Conflict With Being Social
We live in a consumer based society. Social activities are centered around money spending activities. Just stop and think of all the social events that, if not properly managed, can gobble up your money. Here are just a few of countless possible examples:
- Co-workers and managers regularly go out to lunch and ask you to join them
- The same co-workers always meet up for happy hour on Fridays
- Extended family likes to go out to dinner frequently (darn those in-laws!)
- Your girl friends want to go clothes or purse shopping and invite you along for the full day spending spree
- A close group of friends invite you and your significant other to go on a wine-tasting tour
Thus, a conundrum is created. If you are socially active by participating in events and get-togethers such as the ones listed above, then you are prone to violating your frugal objectives. It becomes all to easy to blow your budget and waste your money. Sure, you can try to be as fiscally responsible as possible in such social activities (and you should!), but that’s often easier said than done. Are you going to just order a $5 appetizer and water every single time you’re out to lunch with co-workers? Will you be able to say “no” to dinner when your un-frugal in-laws want the whole family to go out?
On the other hand, you can let your frugality take over and shy away from being social. This will most assuredly require you taking a hard stance which will oftentimes be difficult (and require discipline). However, in doing so, you run the risk of ostracizing yourself, not fitting in, or being deemed a loner. What’s the lesser of the two evils? Spending more than you’d like to or being on the social fringes?
Making Frugality Mesh With Your Social Life
One can certainly live frugally and still achieve a satisfying social life. There are countless ways to have fun and do so in financially responsible ways. This is particularly true when you are planning social activities for your immediate family or with close friends who understand or share your frugal ways.
When dealing with your greater social circle, including non-frugal friends and co-workers, the challenge between staying frugal and maximizing social interaction remains. So, what can you do?
One option is to make it known you are “cheap.” Of course, you wouldn’t phrase it like that! Instead, you could let it be known in a more casual manner that you are “saving up” or “trying to stay within your budget.” Depending who you’re interacting with, this approach may only be marginally effective. These particular social contacts may not understand or simply not care. It’s also possible that you might be interpreted as being “cheap” anyway.
Another tool you can use is to plan ahead as best you can. If you are going out with friends for an evening on the town, you can pre-party at home thus reducing the need to spend as much when out. In addition, perhaps you can be the initiator/organizer and plan a cheaper yet still fun activity.
Are Frugal People Inherently Antisocial?
Being frugal and socially active are not mutually exclusive. They can co-exist although it is often extremely challenging to satisfy both at the same time. It seems that, yes, the nature of being frugal lends itself to antisocial outcomes or tendencies based on how the cultural environment defines ideal social activities.
Truthfully, it is a fine line to walk. The best strategy is probably to pick and choose the specific social events in which you want to participate. Be selective. For example, maybe just go out to lunch with your co-workers once or twice a week instead of every day. Or tell your in-laws that you’d rather have a peaceful and less expensive home cooked meal rather than constantly eating out. Be sure to pass on events you know will be out of control.
As with most things in life, the key is to find a proper balance.
Do you think being frugal conflicts with being social? How often do social events challenge your frugal lifestyle? Do you have any strategies or techniques to cope?