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Spend money on your friendships

   Posted On: May 19, 2023  |    Posted In: Ask Me Anything  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

“What is your biggest money regret or mistake?”

That’s probably the most common question I’ve been asked in interviews over the years. I know folks want to hear something like I got myself into $4,000 of credit card debt by living outside my means or I had a medical bill go to collections or I let my retirement contributions sit in a cash account and didn’t invest it for years. Those are all solid answers, but not mine.

Mine is about failing to spend money.

*Gasps and hushed whispers of shock and horror* 

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In my young adulthood – we’re talking early twenties – I was really fixated on earning money and avoiding credit card debt at all costs. Living in New York City is certainly not cheap, but my first year I cobbled together around $24,000 between working three different jobs. In my second year, I thought I was balling out when a paid internship turned into a job that paid $37,500 – but I quickly realized that after New York State and City taxes, that too wasn’t a salary upon which one could thrive. Really, the goal became to simply tread water and avoid debt.

Early adulthood is the same time of life in which many people are developing what could turn into lifelong friendships. Unfortunately, the social scene, at least the one to which I had access, largely revolved around going out to drinks or brunches or dinner or clubs or, horrifyingly, your friend’s improv or sketch comedy show in a basement of some bar.

It didn’t take many happy hours for me to realize that constantly going out with friends wasn’t going to be a sustainable lifestyle for me without landing myself in some serious debt. So, I doubled down on side hustles and would constantly say no to an invite in the interest of picking up a babysitting gig or, eventually, working on Broke Millennial. Creating financial stability and saving became my north star.

In many ways, of course I’m thankful for the financial stability those choices provided me later in my twenties and even today. However, this behavior also cost me a lot of relationships.

No one likes hearing no all the time. If you keep opting out of spending time with people then they’ll eventually stop asking. I also hadn’t mastered the compliment sandwich style of rejecting but countering an offer by saying something like,

“I definitely want to spend time with you this week…

But, I’m not really in a position to spend $50 on bottomless brunch…

How about we get a bagel and go for a walk in the park?”

Saying no without context or without offering an alternative leaves people to guess why you don’t want to come. They’re often willing to fill in the blanks with something rather self-centered like, “She must not want to spend time with me.” As opposed to, “maybe she can’t afford to participate in the activities I want to do.”

In hindsight, I wish I’d given myself the financial breathing room to indulge and invest more on friendships in my early to mid-twenties.

This is one reason it’s important to give yourself a Fun Fund. This is a savings account that allows you to just opt-in and say yes sometimes. You can put a modest amount out of each paycheck, but then you have a pressure release available, even when you’re hyper focused on a financial goal.

Investing in relationships matter. Of course, it doesn’t always take money to show up for friends, but sometimes it does take money to partake in activities that are important to the people that are important to you.

Broke Millennial Workbook is available!

Where you can order

Amazon • •  Barnes & Nobles • Powell’s • Indie Bound • Hudson Booksellers •  Books-A-Million • Your local bookstore • The library

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