Shopping with my friends and relatives was a great social outlet and form of stress release, but only in the moment. Once my credit card balance started climbing, I realized all this bonding over "hobo bags" was going to turn me into a poor hobo with no money in my Giani Bernini bag.
After reading an article on the WiseBread blog, "Is Peer Pressure Keeping You Poor," I thought about the different ways I've learned to overcome the temptation to overspend when going out with friends.
Learning to say 'I can't'
One of the most difficult things for me to say was "I can't afford it." However, I had to learn to put aside my pride and learn to speak the truth. I couldn't throw out the budget just because someone else wanted to go to the mall with me. I also learned to decline invitations to events that were out of my price range, such as a friend's wedding that was taking place in France.
Finding free alternatives
When I finally started being honest about my financial situation, I found my friends had some of the same financial worries. My exercise buddy was more than happy to go hiking instead of renewing our expensive gym memberships. It turned out she was on the verge of losing her home in a foreclosure. I then started looking for other free activities such as visiting the public library, the parks and nature trails.
Spending less time with spenders
Even though I have a lot more fun with my friends who are spenders, I had to be picky about how I spent my time with them. Instead of going out to eat at the mall, I chose standalone restaurants so we wouldn't be tempted to shop after lunch. I found my best ally in the effort to have better spending habits was my own husband. When I went shopping with my husband, he truly reinforced good spending habits by making me use my shopping list and coupons.
Enjoying the flip side
Although peer pressure to spend was definitely making me poor, I found there is a flip side to peer pressure. I decided to use positive peer pressure to make myself save more. I began watching personal finance television shows and visiting personal finance blogs to hear about how other people got out of debt. My husband and I engaged in a savings challenge. Whoever could save the most money for the week, won. We came up with non-financial rewards such as getting to pick the television programs for the evening.
Since I started paying more attention to the negative and positive side of peer pressure, I have much less financial stress. I keep my credit card at a zero balance by repeating the phrase, "I can't afford it," to my friends and, most of all, to myself.
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