One of the hard things about getting out of debt is that not everybody’s doing it. (Or at least, not everyone’s willing to admit they’re doing it. That would mean admitting to being in debt in the first place.) So what happens when friends what you to spend?
What’s behind the request?
First, take a moment to think about what’s behind the request. Suppose you’re invited out to eat, or to the movies. Is their goal to go and do those particular things, or is it to do something with you? Chances are, they want to spend time with you doing something enjoyable.
Going out to do things that cost money is often just a habit. We’re used to doing that stuff, so it’s the first thing we think of. (Kind of like going to the same restaurants over and over again, even when there’s a wide selection.)
So try not to feel obligated or stressed out. No one really cares if you see the latest movie, but they do care that you keep in touch with them. You can do that without derailing your goals or going broke.
In other words, you’re not stuck between declining the invitation or spending money you’ve got earmarked for debt reduction. You can do a number of other things.
Handling the request
For example, you can offer alternatives. Try, “I wish we could, but that’s not in the entertainment budget right now. How about we do [inexpensive or free option] instead?”
You can also enlist their support. When my husband and I were getting out of debt, we told everyone under the sun what we were doing. At first I thought that would be a little weird or maybe even embarrassing to say “Guess what, we’re getting out of debt!”, but the reality was that almost everyone was completely supportive about it. Quite a few people even said they were doing the same thing. The main thing though was that people understood if we said, “I’d love to as soon as we get the mortgage paid off!”. Others invited us to do things like watch videos, swim, and attend BBQs or potlucks.
Sometimes people go overboard with the helpfulness, and feel uncomfortable inviting you to things because they know you don’t have the money available to do them. So go ahead and invite people to no- or low-cost things yourself. There might also be occasions where people are willing to pay to make sure you can attend an event. It is OK to let them. You can return the favor when you’re debt free.
Debt reduction doesn’t have to mean zero fun money until it’s all gone. In fact, I’d recommend that you do include fun money in the budget. You’re more likely to stick with a long term goal like becoming debt free if you don’t feel like you’re in the land of never-end deprivation while you’re doing it.