How do you socialize on a budget?
Dear Abby’s column for Sunday Sept. 6 has a story from a reader who is declining social invitations, but is keeping quiet about the reason:
When someone who is hurting financially is invited out to a restaurant, bar, movie, etc., and the person declines your invitation, please don’t take it personally. He or she may be watching every penny. Every cent matters if it’s needed for food, shelter, bills, etc. A person in this situation simply cannot afford to “splurge” on these kinds of activities.
Jeanne Phillips, who now writes the Dear Abby column that was started by her late mother, said she understood and emphasized that finances are sometimes the reason for a declined invitation.
However … I think it is a mistake to not let your friends, acquaintances and colleagues know you have decided to cut back financially rather than cut back on being part of their lives. You will be more upset than you already are about your financial situation if you never get out of the house.
I don’t go around telling people the list of what bills my husband and I have to pay that week. I also don’t write about my credit score or my exact income like some personal finance bloggers do (Note that bloggers who write that specifically about their finances are usually writing anonymously).
I do, however, follow up as needed with explanations or references that I think people understand fairly quickly. Here are some of the responses I’ve given people in recent months:
- “No, I’m sorry. We don’t have the funds. My husband has been on layoff quite a bit this year.”
- “Let’s meet up for pizza on Saturday night instead of going to Cedar Point on Sunday. We’re saving up our slush money for another event that’s already on the calendar.”
- “I have a schedule conflict for the dinner on Saturday, but I’d love to meet up with you at the high school football game Friday night.”
- “I already had lunch. Let’s just order coffee and dessert.”
- “We’ll arrange it as a day trip this time rather than a weekend away.”
Besides, most of my readers live in Michigan or Ohio. You all most certainly know someone who has been personally affected by the recession: underwater mortgage, a former home that won’t sell, investment fund collapsed, extended layoff, furlough days, unemployment, pay cut, loss of overtime, loss in commissions or business revenue.
So, how else does a financially strained person socialize? Well, depending on the time of year and their interests, this could include:
- The free summer outdoor concerts at St. Mary’s Park and Loranger Square pavilion in Monroe, Mich. BYO food is quite acceptable at those events.
- Picnics or beach parties at Sterling State Park. Remember to carpool so that only one vehicle entry fee is required. Besides, Michigan Bridge Card holders and Michigan residents age 65 and older are eligible for reduced-rate annual passes.
- Attend the musical pageants and concerts that are hosted by local churches, schools and shopping malls. Most of the live amateur performances in the Monroe area are free or admission by donation, and the local entertainment calendar will be pretty full from mid-November to mid-December.
- Play cards and games at each others’ homes. One of the reasons that today’s senior citizens like to play cards is that it was cheap entertainment when they were growing up. (Just don’t turn a friendly poker game into a gambling contest.) And most families today have quite an assortment of board games or video games that they can trade off or share with friends.
- “Tailgate parties” at each other’s homes to watch a favorite sports event. Split up the food and beverage assignments potluck-style, and you might be able to eat just as well as you would at the sports bar.