Anyone who ever sat through a D.A.R.E. class in elementary school knows the importance of resisting peer pressure. "If friends push you to consume drugs or alcohol, say 'no thanks!' Change the subject or walk away," the anti-drug program (rightly) espouses. But what D.A.R.E.—or your parents, for that matter—never tells you is this: some of the worst peer pressure you'll ever experience won't involve drugs or alcohol. It involves money.
Now, your friends aren't evil and they're not actively trying to sabotage your budget. Financial peer pressure is subtle; it will appear during moments where you just want to fit in or go with the flow. You'll feel it, for instance, vis-à-vis the "keeping up with the Jones" impulse, where all of your friends upgraded to the newest iPhone® model while you're still chilling with the phone you got in 2014. But as your pals talk about the improved camera, battery life and fun new user interface, you feel out of the loop, and maybe a little inferior—so you throw your budget to the wind and buy the new model, even though your old phone was working just fine.
Or you'll feel it during a dinner out, where you ordered the salad and no alcohol to save money but your friends indulged in appetizers, dessert and extra glasses of wine—and then want to split the bill evenly among the group. You might even feel it in your own apartment, where your roommate convinces you to buy toilet paper even though you've provided the communal paper products for the past three months and he's well overdue to chip in.
Financial expert and author Patrice Washington gives her best tips for navigating the world of money and relationships. Her advice hits on two of the areas that people find especially tricky: dealing with friends and dealing with roommates.
For the social butterflies looking to spend less, Washington's wisdom includes the following: "There are always activities you can suggest that don't take a lot of money. If you have friends that are always suggesting things that you know will cost you $100 for the weekend, why don't you take initiative and suggest something that will cost $30?" she says. "There's no rule that says that fun has to be expensive."
For girding your wallet from a mooching roommate, Washington has this to say: "I suggest sitting down before you even move in together and talking about who is going to do what and what are the repercussions if it's not done." She also notes that if one roommate doesn't hold up their end of the bargain—doesn't pay bills on time, doesn't pay for his or her share of the food and cleaning supplies for the apartment—don't let too much time pass before you address the situation. "Just because you're friends doesn't mean you can let this go on for three, six, twelve months," she says.