Got Bougie Friends? Here Are 5 Ways to Keep Your Own Spending in Check When You’re With Them

You know the saying “Keeping up with the Joneses?” Well, hold the thought: it turns out that Gen Z and Millennials are actually now more inclined to kick the Joneses to the curb. According to a recent Credit Karma survey, 47 percent of Gen Z and 36 percent of Millennials have considered ending friendships because of a difference in spending habits. Many, the survey finds, have already gone into considerable debt to afford their friends’ lifestyles. But do you really have to call it quits? According to Credit Karma’s consumer financial advocate Courtney Alev, no.

“In general, salary should not be a deciding factor in whether or not you want to (or can) be someone’s friend,” she says. “It will improve your personal understanding of money to surround yourself with friends who have varying incomes and financial backgrounds, as they’re bound to have unique perspectives and experiences you can learn from.”

However, we totally get it when the desire for bottomless champagne brunch and a week-long jaunt through the Italy (White Lotus-inspired, of course) don’t match the reality of your bank account. So, here are five ways to keep your spending in check when you’re with those spendthrift friends—without losing the fun or the friendships.

Meet the Expert

Courtney Alev is a consumer financial advocate and associate director of product management at Credit Karma. Prior, she was a group product manager at Intuit-owned Mint where she built new experiences to help Mint customers gain a deeper understanding of their financial situation by helping them more easily visualize their personal finance data. Before joining the workforce, Alev volunteered in the Peace Corps, working to increase the economic resilience of residents, especially women, in remote communities in Mozambique.

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1. Be Transparent About Your Financial Situation

Yes, talking about money can be awkward—especially with family and friends. But one of the key ways to avoid overspending and resentment is to communicate your situation. Who knows? Others might be in the same boat, too, and speaking up can benefit the whole group.

“Other friends might even be feeling the same way you are and appreciate the opportunity to set expectations as a friend group,” Alev says. “It’s better to have these conversations before you RSVP for that group dinner or that bachelorette trip so you don’t overspend or feel pressured to pay an amount you’re not comfortable with.”

2. Set Boundaries

Another thing Alev suggests is to communicate your personal spending limit. If, say, you’re planning a Roman holiday (à la Audrey Hepburn, of course), let your friends know the maximum amount you want to spend before everyone starts booking first class flights, five-star hotels and dinners worthy of Princess Anne.

“The more prescriptive you are, the better,” Alev says. “Sharing your budget with your friend group can also make it easier to opt out when you simply don’t have the funds.”

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

You’re not alone; FOMO is real. Another Credit Karma survey discovered that 76 percent of Gen Z and 69 of Millennials had accrued debt because they didn’t want to miss out on the fun.

“It’s easier said than done but try not to feel pressured to participate in expensive outings just because your friends want you to. At the end of the day, it’s more important to do what’s best for you and your finances,” Alev advises. “Aim for quality time and quality experiences, versus taking part in every single costly event.” That could look like saying yes to activities where the upfront cost is clear, like buying a movie or theater ticket and vacation packages, while passing on outings that tend to be more of a wildcard, such as a fancy dinner or bar crawl that could have more spontaneous stops—with, therefore, more unexpected expenses.

4. Factor Your Social Life into Your Budget

This will take some planning but done right, can keep you on track to not just overspending, but bulking up your savings. Alev recommends breaking down your budget so that 50 percent is allocated to necessities (rent, groceries, healthcare, etc.), 20 percent goes towards financial goals (emergency funds, paying down debt, investing), and 30 percent for discretionary expenses.

5. Remember that picnics are fun too!

“Remember, not everything you do with your friends has to involve money—there are plenty of activities that don’t cost a penny,” Alev says. Propose activities like a picnic in the park, day at the local museum or even a movie night or dinner at home. Whether you potluck it or recreate a favorite dish, hosting is a great way to spend quality time with friends without paying restaurant prices.

With all these tips, Alev stresses that, above all, the most important thing is communication. “Resentment can easily sour a friendship. Be open and honest with what you’re willing to spend on activities, and it’ll be much more likely that differing financial dynamics won’t drive a wedge in your friendship.”

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