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How to Keep Your Friends From Pulling You Into Debt

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After a long week, a night out with friends can be a great way to unwind and start the weekend off right. Getting dinner and drinks may seem like a harmless plan… until you get the bill. Expenses like these can quickly add up, especially if you’re splitting a bill with big eaters and drinkers and going out on a regular basis. No one wants to tell their friends they can’t go out because money is tight or that they can’t afford the places their friends can, but not doing so can send you straight into debt.

Here are some ways to tell your big spenders that you are making some changes with your money and budget.

1. Just Pay for Your Share

Many people think it’s easier to split the bill evenly when out to dinner to avoid complicated math. Yet if you only had a salad and soda and your friends all had wine and steak, it’s not being split so evenly. Simply say: “I am eating light tonight and I’d like to just pay my share or ask for a separate bill.” Make this clear at the beginning of the meal to avoid confusion when the check arrives.

2. Be Honest If It Isn’t in Your Budget

It is hard to tell your friends you can’t afford to do something, but honesty is always the best policy. Instead of charging the expense, consider letting them know that you will have to sit this one out because it’s been a tight month, or that you’re saving your money for something bigger.

3. Suggest a Cheaper Alternative

If your friends want to do a night out on the town, suggest a potluck dinner party at someone’s house instead. This is a great way to keep costs down and might even be a good way to try something new.

4. Skip Out on Getaways That You Can’t Afford

Try your best not to make any decisions based on a “fear of missing out.” Yes, you probably would have a great time going on a trip with your friends, but that experience simply isn’t worth it if you’ll be worrying about how you’ll pay it off. Don’t just charge it; budget for vacations and tell friends that you want to go, but you have a budget and need to stick with it.

5. Don’t Mix Friends & Lending

If one of your friends understands your financial hardship and offers to lend you some money, politely reject the offer. Loans from friends are never a good idea. Even if they’re willing to lend you money, the consequences of you not being able to pay it back are too high and you don’t want to strain your friendship. Unless you are willing to potentially break a friendship or you are guaranteed to have the cash to pay them back in full, just say no.

The best way to know what you can afford is to create a budget — but they only work when you stick to them. Running up high credit card bills or running out of money because of nights out or vacations simply is not worth it — and getting into debt can hurt your credit. (You can see how your debt is affecting your credit by pulling your free credit report summary on Credit.com.) Honesty is the best policy and when it comes to your friends and money, true and supportive friends will understand and appreciate your goals — and your ability to stick to your goals. You never know, these expenses might have been busting their budget as well, and they might be thankful for your suggestions to cut back!

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