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A bill from a doctor's appointment two years ago that apparently just finished winding its way through insurance and is ready for you to finish off.

A bill from a doctor's appointment WITHOUT insurance.

Student loan payments.

A laptop repair.

A last-minute trip home.

There are bajillion of expenses that could affect your budget on a whim — but one that you hopefully shouldn't have to stress about is the expense of friendship.

A lot of tips for making friends as an adult can revolve around joining a club or starting a hobby or shelling out for some activity that you (or a fledgling friend) really just might not be able to make work this month. For every destination bachelorette party squad taking over your Instagram feed, you know there's at least one member who is pinching pennies to afford that trip AND the bridesmaid dress. 

Let's put this in context: Apparently some 80 percent of Millennials are in debt (don't worry, so are Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers) and only 41 percent of Americans regularly budget. But that doesn't mean it's too late to start figuring that fun stuff (okay, maybe it's not that fun) out. Here's a guideline I like to follow, but Rachel Richards has a lot more tips than that.

This week, Rachel — author of budgeting book Money Honey and a Kentuckian— shares her tips for how to make friends on the cheap without cheapening the friendship itself, of course.

Wishing you all the pumpkin milkshakes this month (as long as they're within your budget!).

Your friend,

Christine

P.S. Y'all — I finished writing this whole thing and then found this awesome guide from the New York Times about how to survive your first year out of college! Longtime openers will remember the Q&A with Caroline about this topic; this guide also goes into tricky financial terms (I'm about to click on it and learn what a Roth IRA is), home decorating, cooking, and more. But for learning how to cook I do recommend Tanya's Meal Plan of Action from the Washington Post. She has now virtually taught me how to make tomato sauce from scratch! Okay, that's all from me — see you in two weeks 💋
 
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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Christine: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your perspective with money?
 
Rachel: Ever since I picked up some finance book in middle school, I’ve been super passionate about the topic. I read everything I could about money management, investing, and building wealth through real estate at a pretty young age. I graduated from college at age 20 with a finance degree and first worked as a financial advisor, helping clients invest their money.

My parents also taught me from a young age about keeping a budget, saving, and paying off debt, so those values have been important to me throughout my life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the “go-to” person for my friends and family when it comes to money. I love making the topic easy and fun for people to understand, which is one of the reasons I published my book “Money Honey: A Simple 7-Step Guide for Getting Your Financial $hit Together.”

Christine: How would you describe your friendship (or relationship more broadly) with money? 

Rachel: I have a very positive relationship with money. Since I made such an effort to educate myself at a young age, I never got into debt or started bad spending habits. So it’s been a relatively easy ride so far. 

I think there are two extremes when it comes to money: the frugal over-savers, and the in-debt over-spenders. Most people fall in the latter category, and at one point I probably fell in the former category – and if you can believe it – was too frugal if that is such a thing! I was saving over 50% of my income and didn’t have any debt and was saying “no” to everything: dinners, experiences, social gatherings with friends, you name it. Meeting my fiancé Andrew, who is also frugal but not to that extreme, has helped me relax a bit. We are fortunate to be in such a great situation financially that we can justify spending money on things I wouldn’t otherwise.

Christine: Have finances ever been a barrier for you in making friends, or have you seen it happen to others?

Rachel: I have five really close girl friends. Two of them were built-in (my two sisters.) I met my absolute best friend in middle school and we’ve stayed close for over 15 years now. And my other two close friends were from my freshman college dorm.

Since I met most of my friends at school, I’ve never had to go out of my way to make new friends. However, I have gone through periods in my life where I’ve been strict with my budget. One month I might try to cut back on shopping, another month on eating out. Both shopping and eating out are things I also happen to do with my friends. When I want to be more strict with my spending, I’ll do one of two things:

1. I’ll join them but not spend money. I’ll tell them ahead of time, “I’m watching my spending so I know it’s weird to go to a restaurant or go shopping and not get anything but I still want to see you and spend time with you, is that cool?” And yes, they might think it’s weird, or extreme, but that’s never something they say. They are always supportive and fine with it. Your true, good friends will react in the same manner!

2. I’ll propose a different activity. I’ll say, “Actually, I’m watching my budget, and although that sounds sooo fun, could we do something else like taking a walk in the park or [insert free local activity]?” Then we’ll come to some sort of compromise.

Christine: What would you recommend to people who might want to make friends but don't want to spend a bunch of money (like on endless coffee friend dates, pottery class, spin class, etc.)?

Rachel: Google free activities in your area. Think of yourself as a tourist of the city – what free museums, exhibits, or events can you attend? You’ll be surprised at how much is out there once you start looking. 
 
Once you reiterate that you are on a budget enough times, your friends will get on board. Money does not need to come between a friendship. It shouldn’t be a barrier at all, and your real friends will understand that and always be willing to find free or low-cost activities. One of my favorite things to do with my best friend is just go to her house and hang out, eat snacks, watch a movie, and catch up.

Christine: What do you think people most fundamentally misunderstand about managing their money? 

Rachel: I think what people most fundamentally misunderstand about managing their money is that it’s a lot like dieting. With dieting, you are trading instant gratification for long-term health. Do you eat the donut because it sounds delicious right now, or bypass the donut because it’s better for you in the long run? The struggle with dieting is making the right choice for your future self instead of your now self. It’s the same with money. Do you buy the shoes because you want them right now, or bypass the shoes because your money would be better saved for retirement? It’s easy to forget about your future because it’s so far away, and that’s why people can justify their spending. I’ll have more time; I’ll save money later; I’m not making enough now as it is… and suddenly you’re 40 and have nothing saved for retirement, because you kept choosing NOW over the FUTURE. Once you can switch your perspective and protect your future self, money decisions will become much easier.

Christine: Is there anything else in particular that you've learned about money and friendship that you'd like to share? 

Rachel: When it comes to money and friendship, don’t mix the two. Don’t go into business with friends and family. Don’t borrow from or lend money to friends and family. If you do, think of it to yourself as a gift, not a loan. I just googled this quote and it rings so true: “Money lent to a friend must be recovered from an enemy.”

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

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Is there person you're trying to befriend saying no to your invites for coffee because they're watching their budget (and PSL isn't a priority) — or are you declining someone's suggestions for the same reason? New friends might be hesitant to admit it at first, so brainstorm some ideas for friend-dates that are cost-conscious or just plain old free.

Grow the Sow.

Zoom into the full map here.

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