The social side

image via pinterst

Ahhh… this is a BIG one.

The question is: how do you have a social life, keep your friends AND do a Spending Fast?! This is a question and topic that gets brought up a lot and it’s proven itself to be a major source of trouble for people who decide to take on a Spending Fast.

I want to give a hearty Thank You to Katherine for letting me share her recent question with you- Thanks Katherine! (I said that heart-i-ly over here. I only wish you could have heard it. It was pretty good.)


Subject: Reducing debt and having a social life?

Hi Anna-

I love, love your blog! Your honesty is terrific. I REALLY want to reduce my debt, but my social life does me in. I have several good girlfriends that either never have to worry about money or simply choose not to…because I just can’t keep up with their lifestyle. It’s nothing crazy, but I really can’t afford drinks and dinner out multiple times a week. How did you survive a year of not eating out and keep your friends? I do suggest cheap or free activities, but inevitably activities costing money come up. Tips for how to survive?

Thanks! And keep up the posts!


image via larken design

Hi Katherine,

Thank you for your email and niceness!

The friend/social thing is tricky. It was crazy when I realized how much money came into play with my interactions with people. I have to admit there were some very awkward times during the Spending Fast in relation to doing things with others. The people in my life were used to me doing things with them (everything) and then suddenly I wasn’t able to do all of the same things with them anymore. People didn’t like it and they ended up feeling sorry for me and they would offer to buy whatever for me so I could participate in whatever was going on which totally was not the point of the Spending Fast so even having them offer seemed to make things *feel* awkward! I would tell them “Thanks, but No Thanks, I decided to this so I’m gonna do it”. I think the key is to make it seem like you’re not having a hard time with doing the Spending Fast and that you’re not like “Woe is me, look at me suffering over here…” friends don’t want to see their friends suffer, you know.

Some suggestions: If you continue to feel pressured, then give your buds an explanation and be honest if you can’t afford to do something AND then seriously, don’t do it. Be matter-of-fact about it. Don’t dwell on not being able to do something. Move on to another subject. Suggest something else to do. If the friend persists in their questioning or if they insist on paying so you can participate tell them all about what you are doing and why, tell them that you’re going to be in a better place at the end of the Spending Fast and that’s why you’re doing it in the 1st place… that will go a long way in helping the situation.

Some more suggestions: Go along with your friends and do the cheapest (read: free) version of whatever they are doing. For example, if they are going for drinks get a tonic or tap water with lime so it LOOKS like a drink and no one will give you grief (I’ve found most places charge for tonic and soda water so tap water is usually the best free option available. Also, bring shooters from the liquor store and stash in your purse if you want to drink… those will be A LOT cheaper than drinking at the bars). Have drinks at someone’s (or your) house before you all go out. If it’s dinner out that they’re doing, find a friend to split an appetizer with or eat dinner at home before you go or just eat the free bread the restaurant offers and have your tonic/tap water. Just don’t make it a big deal that you’re not spending money. Have a great time. Don’t focus on the not being able to spend money part. It’s not about spending money it’s about spending time with your friends and the money-spending-part is just a common side-effect of hanging out with friends. You’re being pro-active and doing what you need to do to get yourself out of debt. It’s a very good and responsible thing to undertake.

Also, I think you might be surprised how many of your buds are in the same situation financial situation as you and you just don’t know it. Being broke and being in debt isn’t something that many people talk about. It’s typically considered very private information. A lot of people do what they have to do to keep up appearances and they may not be doing as well financially as they seem to be. Maybe your friends would welcome some “cutting back” too. I racked up a lot of my debt because I kept doing things and buying things that I just could not afford because I wanted to keep up appearances and keep up with everyone else. I tried to avoid realizing and recognizing this for a long time and I got into a lot of debt because of it.

Doing a Spending Fast/Spending Diet is hard and there are sacrifices that have to happen. Dynamics of some relationships might change. It is totally possible. You also might have to not do some things in your getting-out-of-debt process. But just know that despite the occasional awkwardness, the hard times REALLY DO pay-off in the long run. Trust me- it is SO worth it!

Really, the bottom-line is that if your friends don’t think that you’re suffering and if they still get to hang out with you (even if it is in a modified or different capacity than usual) then doing your Spending Fast/Spending Diet will go A LOT smoother.

As a result of me doing the Spending Fast I’ve had some friends start doing Spending Fasts too and it’s been (ironically) hard to be on the other side of it. I found I don’t really like hear “No, I can’t go because I’m on a Spending Fast”! (even though I’m still doing a Spending Diet and would not be participating in the eating out either) Ermmm. D’OH! Of course, I think they should do a Spending Fast if they too are in debt or need to establish stronger financial footing.

Friends are there to understand and accept you with where you’re at and friends want what’s best for you even if it means making some tweaks to the social scene you’re all accustomed to.

Hang in there and be strong Katherine. You can do it.


(scroll down for things to do with friends on the cheap)


• Eat your brown bagged lunches from home in the park together (this is a good one to do with work friends).

• Start a Spending Fast Group Challenge. How much can you each save? This can be set up on a percentage basis (similar to how The Biggest Loser TV show does it since they all start at different weights).

• Get a thrift store tennis racquet and go to the public tennis court and hit some balls. Even if you have no idea how to play tennis it’s fun to run around and whack the balls.

• Do a clothing swap. Everyone rounds up all of their un-used and un-wanted items and trades. Everyone gets something new to them.

• Game night at one of your houses.

• Check out movies from the library and gather up at someone’s house to watch. Variations on this classic saving money option is to theme it out. Horror/scary themed movies. 80’s movies. Nicholas Cage movies… Bonus: home popped popcorn is super cheap.

• Get together and make crafts using supplies you all collectively already own. Who can bring what and what can you make?

• Jazz in the park. Sit around on a blanket and listen to music. Maybe your city offers something like this if not identical to this.

• Group bike ride. Everyone takes turns mapping out a route.

• Hike

• Volunteer together

• Start a book club. Check out the same book from the library.

• First Friday Art Walk. In Denver the main Art Walk drag is on Santa Fe but there are approximately 6 different zones in town that participate. Kind of nuts/great.

• Free Movies in the Park

• Go to your favorite book store and look at gossip magazines together. Bring tea bags from home and get cups of hot water from the coffee shop. Sip and look.

• Team up with a bud and be getting-out-of-debt supporters for each other. Bonus: you’ll have someone to split appetizers with and cheer you along.

• Google “free things to do in (insert your city here)”. There are probably a lot of things going on that you don’t know about.

• Have a potluck. Just don’t buy anything new for the ingredients. Only use what you all already have in your kitchen. If you can only make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich make a couple and cut them in 4’s. There you go- finger foods! And really, who doesn’t love PB&J? Variation (suggested by a reader): Breakfast potluck!

• Do a group yard-sale

• Go to the public pool

• Do a picture Scavenger Hunt. Make lists and separate into smaller groups. The 1st group to take pictures of everything on the list wins bragging rights. Most people have cell phones with a cameras on them but if no one has a digital camera then do the honor system and take a mental snapsnot of the item.

• Camp!

• Hit up a Pecha Kucha night

• Pull an HGTV and re-arrange a room in each others houses

• Go to the city pound and look at the animals. Bonus: get to play with the animals too if the staff allows it.

• Sit on a patio and ask each other questions you’ve never asked before. Favorite memory? First kiss? Greatest regret? Biggest surprise in life? Favorite movies and why? Most embarrassing moment? Best trip and why? Best gift ever received? Happiest time in life? Here are some I found online: 1.) Why is Elmo red? 2.) Fav YouTube celeb? 3.) Would you want a whole army cloned to look like you? 4.) How many times do you look in the mirror a day? 5.) Would you rather be really fat or really skinny? 6.) Internet dating Yay or Nay? 7.) What do you want to name your children? 8.) Your house is on fire, 2 things you save (non-living)…. 9.) If you had to do an extreme sport for a living, what sport would you do? Also, there are lots of conversational games like “Would You Rather”. The list is endless…

Are there any things you do with your friends that doesn’t cost much or that is completely free? What do you think about the role that money plays in relationships and what role does it play?

Update on June 27, 2011 by ANNA NEWELL JONES
Last night after I wrote this post my mind kept churning with other ideas for friends to do together.

They are:

• Do a homemade DIY spa day/night with your girlfriends. Do masks, foot soaks, fresh toe and finger polish.

• This is taking it back retro-style but how about getting together for an Ice Cream Social? Everyone chips in for one ingredient for the sundaes to keep the cost burden off of one person.

• Roller skating. Bowling. Lot’s of establishments offer specials for their non-busy (usually during the week) nights.

• Denver has this great event called The Narrators. It’s so creative and a very unique idea.

• Open Mic nights. You get to see a free show. Usually there are a couple of gems of talent in the bunch. It’s fun to see the variety of skill level and what people come up with.

• Local fashion shows

• An old-fashioned sleep-over. Round everyone up, dig out the sleeping bags. Play Truth or Dare. Pull out the Oujia board (if you’re into that) and get spooked on the cheap.

30 thoughts on “The social side

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  1. harriett

    I absolutely love your site.. Great colors & theme. Did you build this site yourself?
    Please reply back as I’m trying to create my own personal website and would love to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Appreciate it!

      1. linda

        Hi Anna! Love the new site. I was just thinking (after reading the post about the social side of things) that since I stopped spending time with one friend in particular my spending fast has been so much easier. This particular friend is a shopper. She shops to validate herself. She encourages others to purchase things too (even when she knows they don’t have money). I used to buy “stuff” when I was with her and then return 90% of it later in the week! So I haven’t seen her. I don’t know about you, but my parents always had friends over for dessert and coffee. Why don’t we do that anymore? It’s real quality time. It costs very little. (Coffee in cupboard? Check! Bundt cake? I can bake one!). So I just had an aha! moment. I didn’t really care so much for this particular friend — she was fun to shop with, but would I have her over for cake and coffee to just sit and chat? Um, not so much! xx-Linda

  2. Aldo

    Anna — Thank you for all of the creative and fantastic ideas. A twist on a potluck that I’m itching to try is a “cook-off” where everyone brings a chili or a casserole or whatever theme we decide on. My friends and I have, in the past, done dinner nights where one couple hosts, picks the theme, and prepares that main dish and the other couples/guests bring an appetizer, side or dessert. This is, of course, not free, but much cheaper than going out to dinner.

    Linda — I love the idea of simple dessert and coffee. You’re right. Why don’t people do this anymore?

      1. RachelM

        Another fun take on the potluck theme is to do a sushi night with friends. I usually cook the rice and ask each guest to bring one or two ingredients, and we prep it and roll it together, then share it all! It is WAY cheaper than going out for sushi, and depending on how many guests you have and the types of ingredients, you can end up having a huge variety of rolls. It’s also flexible for people with dietary restrictions- they can pick and choose what to roll.
        I live in northern California and I and many of my friends fish, so that makes the fish ingredients a bit cheaper/accessible, but you could really use whatever is available in your area or from your garden to keep costs down.

  3. Kari C

    Hi Anna,
    I accidently stumbled on your site and love it! I have always been interested in finances and have a blog about saving money, getting deals and anything else I want to talk about :-). Your articles are really great and I love that you are helping people get out of debt.
    This article really resonated with me and I have seen a lot of cases were friends just do not understand what others are trying to accomplish by being debt free, trying to save etc. I love coupons and getting deals and I have gotten all my friends into it and they love it now! So like you say, tell your friends they may want to join you in the journey!

  4. Meg

    I found your blog recently via a post from a friend. I have been thinking about doing a Spending Fast, but in the back of my mind the one thing I was worried about was my social life. Silly I know, but it’s an important part of my life. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this post, it definitely makes me feel more confident about my decision! The free things you post are also so helpful, although I kind of feeling like I’m cheating since I’m in Denver as well and most ideas are local to here! Thank you so much!

  5. Jen

    Lol, going to the pound is a very, very not-free experience if you’re like me and dogs are your kryptonite (also pretty depressing, though a great place to volunteer if they’ll let you…)

  6. Brandon

    You are the most awesome savings site out there! Seriously, I live in a large city, and was newly single and intimidated by the prospect of dating and being “back on the scene” while preparing financially for a move. Your letter gave me some AWESOME and unique ideas. When I finally came clean to the person I am currently dating, they were shocked and stated they hadn’t remembered the events we went to when first starting to date were free. The only thing they rememebered was how eclectic and interesting my date choices were. Thanks! We still do the local museum of art (on free days only) every chance we get. We have even been treated to musical performances featured on some of the free days! Thank you, for being so frank and honest about your thoughts and feelings going through the initial spending fast!

  7. Jim Watson

    suggestions: 1. Spaghetti dinner – find someone with a costco card, buy a ton of spag and two bottles of sauce – invite 5-8 people, and rent some movies. Or make the spag, and have everyone gring thier fav sauce, home-made? even better. Three buck chuck at Trader Joe’s

    2-Call all your friends to do zoo day ( on the one day when its free – works for Museums too. ) – if they are open late -get there after work.

    3. get a part time job at an entertainment facility (Ballet, nightclub, theater – dinner theater) free or discount ticket and extra cash to get a glass of wine. Plus you meet interesting people!
    love anna’s site –

  8. Mo

    LOVE your blog! Ok so this may be slightly ghetto but I told everyone i was vegan so I basically could get out of having to order anything other then the stripped down (ie- $6) side salad at restaurants because I’m so broke. It works and seems trendy and since I’m so broke I’m pretty much vegan as it is LOL :)

  9. Carlie

    Love this site! I am going to make a list of all the free things to do in my own city! Our downtown always has free art shows or community events going on (as well as surrounding towns to mix it up a bit).

  10. Tania

    I think knowing the difference between friends and acquaintances makes a big difference too. I have many more well heeled acquaintances who like fancy dinners out because of what I do for a living. The income levels of my true blue, close like family friends varies a lot more since the professions all differ so it’s rarely an issue. Of course I’m not on a complete no eating out but would stil eat out but at a less expensive venue. So, I think simplifying our lives can also mean not feeling the pressure to keep up with certain acquaintances. A real friend will understand if certain activities are not your thing for whatever reason. I don’t like late night outings for example and my close friends all understand that so I get together with them for breakfast or to go to the beach. They rarely invite me to go clubbing but I know I can initiate if I’m in the mood, which is rare. If there is pressure to go to a certain dining, spa day or some other costly activity with a group from college or work, I’d question whether the particular group of “friends” are really just acquaintances. If they are more of acquaintances, it makes it a bit easier to limit time with them.

  11. Tara

    Just bought your book and I’m excited to see what great tips you have! So far the website has been great, but I’ve been trying to download the Mega Resource Guide and it says my first name isn’t valid (it’s just Tara) and won’t let me go further after I also put in my email. Help!

    Thank you!

  12. Beadee

    I take exception to your suggestion that people sneak small bottles of alcohol into restaurants or bars in order to save money. Not only is this not allowed, you are depriving bartenders and servers the chance to earn a higher tip.

  13. kelvin

    Hanging out with my friends has always been one of my best experiences. Every day, before I started working, my friends and I always tried to do something insane, fun or innovative. If I have learned something from hanging out with my friends it would be that they help you move on after all the tragic scenes in your life. your site has been really helpful and useful to me, and I hope to get more next time. are you looking for a nice site as good as this one to get good information? With this link, you can gain access to splendid content and a nice site where you would find information that would be useful to you.


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