How to overcome financial peer pressure—Because is that $70 brunch really sustainable?
When you graduate high school, you assume that you are embarking on a new chapter where decisions can be made by your own accord and influence. You think adulthood will be less defined by following the crowd—that you have finally escaped the cesspools of peer pressure found in high school parties, cafeterias and pep rallies.
But I’ve recently discovered there is a peer pressure 2.0. And if I thought I made it out of high school unscathed, this is the update that I can’t seem to resist.
The Keeping up with the Joneses complex was not covered in any D.A.R.E videos in health class. I navigated the sex, drugs and alcohol pressures like a champ. But my willpower with money, especially when third parties have any say, is kind of pitiful.
Brunch is not brunch without bottomless mimosas right? And bottom shelf wine was so college. And you should totally just buy those shoes—they go great with your outfit! Happy hour is the best hour, no? And how about a random girl’s trip! Rent can wait!
And that’s small potatoes compared to the real financial pressures of having a nice new car with a souped-up apartment/house to match.
Last year my car (the same one from high school) needed some work done. And my friend asked me in response, why don’t you just get a new one? And I thought, indeed, why don’t I just get a new one? I could spare the car note each month. I think. And it’s about time I graduated from my first car, isn’t it? Afterall, my friends have all achieved this milestone, so it’s probably my turn too. (Needless to say, I have a new car.)
So we finance our social lives, credit card statements reading like extravagant restaurant menus.
We hold up our friend’s financial habits as a mirror of our own.
So how do we actually navigate the awkward terrain of financial peer pressure?
Be intentional with money
Set goals and priorities. If you like to travel, no one should have the power to delay your trip to Bali in exchange for cocktails. You know what’s important. Your finances should prioritize that.
This year I have set goals to pay off a credit card and travel abroad. With these two price tags in mind, I have tangible intentions that I am working towards. I have considered the amount and deadlines for each, giving me a formula by which to operate. In addition to my standard expenses, my future goals give me a concrete grasp of my financial flexibility.
The awareness of these intentions better equips me to confront financial peer pressure. When a friend invites me out for a night that will surely have an absurd price tag attached to it, I easily opt for a quiet night at home.
Budget for entertainment
If you know that you enjoy the extravagant outings with your friends, you don’t have to forfeit them in the name of responsibility! Make a point to incorporate it into your monthly expenses.
I’ve always been a bit short-sighted with budgeting. When I was buying my new car, I looked at my traditional expenses-apartment, utilities, food, gas. That made for quite the surprise deficit when I continued my fancy weekends as usual. I just had to reposition some of my typical indulgences in order to accommodate my new car note. But after budgeting the full scope of my life’s cash flow, I can anticipate my bank account’s capacity for excess.
Distinguish between what you want and what everyone else wants
Through the process of rationalization, we can convince ourselves that what people want for us is what we want for ourselves, which quickly morphs from what we want for ourselves to what we need. You need to have clarity about your financial direction so that you don’t easily get off track.
When my friend suggested I buy an entirely new car rather than pay to fix my old one, I was quickly persuaded that the burden of the one-time repair fee far exceeded that of a recurring car note. But her advice came from the context of someone who would not be inheriting that car note. Later, I also discovered her advice came from the context of someone whose dad pays her car note. The verdict: No car note is better than a car note.
Suggest something different
Relationships are very important, especially in adulthood
, so this is not meant to deter you from socializing. But it’s easy to forget that there are other things you can have fun doing are inexpensive. And oftentimes, those cheaper things are more enriching.
Several of my friends and I recently had a picnic brunch and it is one of my favorite memories. I bought the champagne and each guest brought a small dish and a different juice flavor. We went to the park and set up a mimosa tasting bar and munched on bagels and fruit.
Try out some amateur comedy clubs, hiking or drive-in movies. There are plenty of low-budget pastimes worth engaging in.
Flip the peer pressure the other way
Make financial health social. The best way to hold yourself accountable is to have an accountability partner. If you want to lose weight, you might have a gym partner. If you want to diet, you may invite a friend to join in on the challenge. You can do the same with money, and it makes it fun. It’s not unlikely that some of your friends feel the same financial pressure from you. Make financial health a team effort.
Whether it is not eating out for a full month (maybe you’ll trade your ladies night out for one in where you cook together) or investments
or paying down debts, you may find the process gets better together.
Learn to say no
Be clear about your limitations. It is okay to say no and leave it at that. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Retreat from social media
I don’t know about you but I am a sucker for the Valencia-filtered highlight reel that welcomes me to Instagram. Someone’s photo of their trip to the Maldives, followed by another person’s sun-drenched, perfectly decorated downtown loft, followed by that other person’s gorgeous indie handbag is enough to give me just enough envy to position my credit cards towards impulsive indulgence.
And advertising has never been better positioned to convert you into a sale. Ads in between (or within) your friends’ posts feel like an organic recommendation from a trusted confidant rather than big business. Sometimes you just need to step away from the constant flow of influence—it will only be a matter of time before you are influenced.
Financials are a touchy subject in most circles but open, comfortable communication is important to have with close friends. I may not have this conversation with acquaintances, but if I have to turn my best friend down for drinks, I know that I can tell her why.
Your budget should not be a source of embarrassment. We are all grown up here and our situations will vary considerably as we transition in and out of differnt chapters. And that is okay. The more important thing is that through those variations, we are there for each other.
In what ways do you experience financial peer pressure? Do you have any tricks to combat it?
Also published on Medium.