I tend to be a fairly open, blunt person. I will candidly answer almost any question you ask me, regardless of how personal it might be. I also have a tendency of asking some fairly personal questions without hesitation. So it caught me off guard recently when I struggled to admit something out loud: “I can’t afford it”.
I had plans to go to a trendy restaurant in my city with unique, fancy food. Another friend of mine described the place as the best food she has ever had. I was telling a coworker what I had heard about the restaurant, and we made plans to go together. We are both huge foodies and get along great, but had not hung out outside of work before. The combination of great food and company sounded fantastic!
I was instantly in.
As the day got closer though, I got more and more stressed about the cost.
I estimated that if we did the tasting menu, it would be about $120 per person after tip.
My mom had visited the weekend before, so my monthly costs were a bit higher than normal already. I knew I couldn’t go for dinner and stick to my budget.
I thought about just saying “f*ck it” for one month and going for dinner. Maybe I could justify it as an experience I would only get once?
I simply do not have that kind of money for a meal right now, regardless of how awesome it sounded.
So did I instantly fess us and tell her that?
I explored every other possibility in my mind. Maybe I could pretend to be sick? Pretend I forgot?
Which of those is more honorable? I couldn’t decide.
I did not want her to judge me, or to not want to be my friend because I’m “broke”.
It was so hard to say the truth: “I can’t afford it”
Eventually (ie the morning of like a true champ) I texted her and fessed up. I apologized for being lame, and said I wanted to be friends but could not afford the restaurant we’d chosen. Then nervously awaited her reply…
She was so nice about it!! She said the goal of the evening was to have a meal with me and chat, and that we could do that anywhere.
We decided to go sit on a patio and have fish tacos in the sunshine instead.
It was amazing! We sat and talked until the restaurant closed, and had a great time. For less than 1/4 of the price.
The experience wasn’t less because it was “cheaper”. In fact, I’d argue that I had such a great time because it was something I could afford. It allowed me to enjoy the time with her, rather than thinking about the cost.
I strongly believe that while the truth can make you vulnerable and awkward, it is always the best route to go.
There’s a social desire to “keep up” and impress people. I’m not immune to that myself. However, people can usually tell when you’re being untrue. That’s typically when people will dislike you.
If you are honest with those close to you about your situation and limitations, they will usually want to respect them and include you. If they don’t, they likely were not a person worth knowing anyhow.
People are allowed to spend their money as they see fit. However, they should not make you feel bad for being in a different situation than they are in. Your money means nothing about your character or you as a person.
You’re allowed a social life when you have debt.
You’re allowed experiences, fun, and happiness.
I’ve read books and blogs suggesting that life should stop and you should only work/earn money until your debt is gone. “How dare you want to live a little…. you have debt!”
I disagree with that approach. However, I also disagree with ignoring your debt. Find a balance. Create a budget that actually works for your life, then commit to sticking to it.
It’s okay to say “I can’t afford that right now. How would you feel about doing ___ instead?”.
Thank you to my new friend for allowing me learn that without shame.
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