How many of you read this title and were able to relate to this at one point in your life? For me, this relates directly to college when I was on a strict budget, but had friends who would travel at every opportunity or go on shopping sprees on Michigan Avenue. My parents graciously paid for my college education and supported me throughout, but they were adamant (and rightfully so) at teaching me about budgeting and instilling in me the practice of prioritizing.
Sure, I could go on a shopping spree or book a trip, but I wouldn’t be able to afford my books for that semester which would in turn give me the grades I needed to move forward. I’m beyond grateful for this, but it doesn’t make it any easier to be put in that situation time and time again, especially if you’re someone who suffers from a major case of FOMO (the fear of missing out) — which used to be the case for me. These days I’m all about JOMO (the joy of missing out).
This reader’s question was something that I replied immediately back with, “such a great one, and I’m positive each of us has encountered at some point.” Because we have. Even if we decided to wing it and hope for the best — buy that plane ticket we can’t actually afford, but in our gut knew that we were taking a major risk — you can still relate to this question.
Having the tools to be able to turn down an invitation or alter the situation to work in your favor
is one that we should all have in our back pocket. So let’s dive in.
Question from the reader:
“How do I handle being asked to do things that I can’t afford? The people in my life make a LOT more money than I do, and I’m living paycheck to paycheck with student loans. I don’t want to miss out on making memories, and it’s embarrassing to have to share WHY I can’t come along time and time again.”
i. Adjust your finances.
Let’s start here because first and foremost I want you to understand that you CAN do anything that you want to do, you just have to build a plan first. If you love to travel or shopping is a passion of yours (say you have a fashion blog that you need to contribute to) or you want to be able to go on those frequent coffee runs during the week with your work-friends, start a separate savings account for this. (I recommend looking for a high yield checking account, which is what I have).
Each paycheck, put a small portion (even if you have to start at just 3%) into this account. Now before you say to yourself “I can’t even afford to give up 3% of my paycheck” — I’m going to bet my life that you can. Think hard on all of the things you buy in a week or a month. A few lattes? A couple of cases of La Croix? (guilty!) A new makeup product? If you need to start tracking your expenses by writing them down each time you purchase something, do that. It’s mind blowing. It will show you where all of your money is going and help to show you what you can let go of, and instead put that money into savings for things you WANT to do. It may take you a bit to get to the point where you can start saying yes, but you have to start somewhere. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was your freedom. So be patient with yourself. But if you have the strong will to participate in these fun trips and activities with friends or your partner, start adjusting and being mindful of your finances today.
PS: you can download my FREE simple budget spreadsheet right here.
ii. Analyze your alignment.
If you haven’t yet figured out your alignment, grab a journal and write down what you value in your life. (you can read my post here on my alignment to figure out how to draft yours). You might be getting asked to go on all of these trips and come to find that travel isn’t even something that fuels you. So why are you stressing about not being able to go when it’s not something that puts in your alignment? In fact, it takes you OUT of your alignment.
Maybe the same goes for shopping. You might be someone who goes by a capsule wardrobe, or maybe you prefer to shop online and skip the crowds (raising my hand here) — so I can’t imagine that strolling through a busy mall buying things that you don’t really need sounds like something you align with, either.
These two things are just examples, so go deep with this practice and see what you come up with. Once you know what feels good to your soul, you’ll feel 10x less guilty passing on opportunities that you didn’t really want to do in the first place. Revisit your alignment every morning (I have mine written in my notes on my phone) as a reminder of what feels most authentic and good to your insides.
iii. Find other friends.
Now when I say this, I definitely don’t mean ditch the ones you have and replace them with new ones. What I mean is find some additional friends that value the same things you do. Maybe that’s hiking or being outdoors, going to see live music in the park, or getting your dogs together and drinking some wine on the patio.
You can absolutely keep the friends you love in your life who live beyond your means, but it’s imperative to find friends who line up with your values and how you live your day to day. Otherwise, you’ll just end up feeling lonely and bitter because you’re either:
• having to say no all the time
• saying yes and living in financial worry
It’s also important to note under this point that you should 100% feel comfortable enough to be honest with these friends of yours who (again, as examples) book frequent trips or go on shopping sprees. Tell them how you feel, because the minute that pressure is off your chest and it’s out in the open, you’ll be surprised at how much lighter you feel, and how much it comes down to them just wanting to share your company. If the response is negative, consider letting that relationship go.
Personal Example: My mom has more money than I do, and when we go shopping together you better believe I’m buying 1/4 the things she is, if I’m buying anything at all. But the point is not us spending money together, it’s about us spending valuable time together — being in one another’s presence.
While the travel example can be a bit tricky, considering it costs money to get to point A from point B, remembering these points we covered should help ease your frustration and learn how to better handle this situation when it arrises again.
So here’s a re-cap:
• Adjust your finances to work for you. Open up a high-yield savings account for whatever you keep saying no to (travel, shopping, dinners, coffee dates, etc) and add a percentage of each paycheck.
• Analyze your alignment. Know the difference between what fuels you and what depletes you, in which you’ll be able to answer the question: did you really want to go anyway?
• Find other friends with like-minded hobbies. If your life-long friends like to plan trips and go shopping, but you either a) can’t afford to or b) don’t have interest in those things, find a group of friends who share what you like. This way, when you can’t go on that shopping spree, you can call on a friend to go hiking (bonus: it’s free)