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By Carol Church

Saving money is always a worthwhile objective, whether you’re looking to reduce your debt, build up an emergency fund, save up a down payment for a house, or achieve some other goal. When we get motivated to make a change and become more frugal, it can feel exciting… but also a bit scary. Will we be able to cope with changes in our lifestyle? Will we meet the targets we’ve set for ourselves? And what will it be like when we run into that first (and inevitable) stumbling block?

For many people, a key question is how to handle social pressure to spend money. All of us value our friends and want to spend enjoyable time with them. While it may be one thing to deny ourselves, it can feel a lot more emotionally tricky to say no when a friend asks you out for drinks after work.

lev dolgachov/Photospin

So, how can savers resist social pressure to spend money while not feeling like the “party pooper”? There are many options; check out a few below.

  • Be the inviter, rather than the invitee

It’s pretty tough to cut these costs while still having fun if all you do is say no to invitations you can’t afford. It’s possible to avoid this awkward situation by being the one to extend the invites—for activities that are free or low-cost. Although this may take a little more effort, there are a lot of fun possibilities. Your friends may enjoy the change of pace (and the break their credit cards will get).

Ideas include:

–Potluck dinners

–At-home movie nights or Netflix marathons (share snacks and drinks)

–Hikes and picnics at whatever your local outdoor beauty spot might be

–Joining a book club or another kind of free club together

–Volunteering together

–Learning to make something together, like sushi, beer, or pizza

–Working on home improvement or arts and crafts activities together

–Playing a pickup game of something at a park (Frisbee, soccer, whatever) or a board game night

–Checking your local community calendars for free events

–For service members on base: take advantage of activities offered by Morale, Welfare and Recreation  

  • Downsize instead of saying no

No one wants to refuse every social invitation they get, or even most of them– but if we go to everything, costs are likely to be out of control. Instead, say yes selectively. For instance, if you get asked to be part of a group outing for drinks, dinner, and a concert, consider joining up just for the concert. Or ask if you can reschedule or rework an outing a little. For example, switch an evening dinner date to a less costly lunch or brunch, or ask a friend to come over to your house for dinner instead of going out.

  • Find other frugally-minded people

Service members and their families have a tough row to hoe sometimes with the challenge of frequently moving to a new location, but in this case, they may have it a little bit easier. Not having a set friend group with habits in place means you can look for other folks with an interest in socializing while saving. There may be a group on base for people with an interest in frugality and reducing debt. Local frugality blogs or military lifestyle blogs may also provide a natural way to virtually “meet” people with similar interests—and these days, it’s very common for online friendships to turn into real-life ones.

  • Look for an accountability partner—or two

To take things a little farther, consider finding out if any of your friends share your interest in saving money and might want to be your accountability partner. This is someone you share your money goals, progress, and “oops” moments with. The two of you can motivate each other, get closer, and quietly help keep your friend group headed toward less expensive entertainment.

  • ‘Fess up and ask for help

Friends are friends for a reason, right? Yours probably want to help you out. Share that you have to cut back your spending (you may or may not want to get into why) and explain that you need to find less expensive ways to hang out for a while. Of course, emphasize that you’re not looking for a hand-out. Remember to add how much you value the friendship, too!

  • Don’t forget to spend…sometimes

While there may be some invitations you can’t or won’t want to accept, there is definitely a time and place for spending on social events (for instance, a best friend’s wedding). Just be sure that costs like these are for things that truly matter to you.

Finally, some thoughts on human psychology. As most people who have dieted know, sometimes other people seem to feel criticized when someone around them chooses not to “indulge” in one way or another. At times, frugality may bring on negative comments, teasing, or even some anger. While a few incidents of this may not be a concern, if they continue, it may be that these friendships are not healthy.

At the same time, don’t be “that friend” who obsesses over a slightly unfairly split bill at a restaurant, takes advantage of friends’ generosity, annoys someone about being owed a minor sum of money, and so on. Frugality may be important to you right now, but it’s important to remember that other people may not share the same values or priorities. Money is a tricky topic, and for some, there are powerful cultural norms surrounding the issue. You can achieve your own financial goals while still making sure that you and all your friends enjoy your time together.


Lockert, M. (n.d.) How to Be a Frugal Friend without Being Rude. Retrieved from

Walley, M. A Frugal Girl’s Tips on How to Save Money and Still Be Social. Retrieved from

Hamm, T. (2017). 18 Clever Ways to Make Frugality a Highly Social Endeavor. Retrieved from