How to Make the Most of Your Low-Budget with Friends.
In high school, being broke was a bonding experience for me and my friends: Our most extravagant nights usually consisted of ordering two-for-the-price-of-one pizzas, playing board games, and watching movies from netflix. (The selection? Not so hot. There was nary a copy of Parks and Recreation to be found, that's for sure.)
Senior year, some of us stayed broke (college apps, working at camps, chilling at nearby Chipotle) while others suddenly started earning proper grownup salaries and buying nice things (Me, of course.) But suddenly, my friends could afford steak and champagne— and Sunday brunches in Georgetown became a reality and was able to catch up with my closest pals.
Luckily, figuring it out is easier than you'd imagine. Here's how I helped my less fortunate friends with their money woes—and how you can, too.
Split hangouts into sections, and then opt in and opt out.
Friday night plans are always epic: pizza, then drinks, then partying. But there's no law that says you have to participate in every portion of the evening's activities. When your organizer friend starts the group-text, just say something like: "I can't make it for dinner, but text me when you guys get to the bar and I'll meet you there." No drama—and no need to nitpick about splitting the bill when someone else orders the most expensive thing on the menu.
When it comes to gift-giving, go for the personal touch.
Birthdays, holidays, graduations, the eventual engagement parties, football games, and basketball games…sometimes, being a friend can really get pricey! But you don't have to bankrupt yourself in order to remain a member of the inner circle. Do a little digging and figure out a helpful or special gift you can give that no one else can. If you're super organized, maybe offer to handle the logistics for the birthday party. More creatively inclined? Make something cute that represents your friendship (or a particularly awesome inside joke). I promise it'll mean more to her than something you grabbed at the mall, even if it cost pennies in comparison.
Be upfront and offer alternatives.
Because your friends are used to their lifestyles, they might not notice that they're always choosing pricey restaurants. If a friend suggests meeting up for lunch at Place X but Place X is out of your price range, you don't have to just say "no"—instead, you can gently suggest another option. Something like "What about meeting somewhere closer to my apartment, like Place Y?" helps re-frame the conversation without hurting your pal's feelings.
Have a plan if you get asked money-related questions.
Your real friends care about you and know what's up in your life—which means that they might ask how your job search is going or if there's anything they can do to help. If you really don't want to talk about it, you're allowed to say that. But if you actually were kind of hoping your friend could introduce you to that headhunter who helped them get their gig, don't be shy about bringing it up. Your bud is being thoughtful, so repay them by being honest in return.
Focus on spending time together, not on specific activities.
If you and your bestie like to get mani-pedis or like to catch a nearby game (for the guys) every Sunday but you're suddenly strapped for cash, just invite them over to paint your nails or watch the game from the comfort of your place. They'll say yes, of course, because what they want is to spend time hanging out with you, not just having someone ask her "round or square?" And the truth is that even our most financially fortunate friends aren't always making awesome spending decisions, so not only are you doing a serious service for your own bank account, you might actually be helping your BFF with their wallet, too.
So, we want to know: Do you have friends in different money situations than you? We'd love to hear how you close the gap—let us in on your tips in the comments!