Let’s skip the small talk and get right to it— being the broke friend is rough. Either you’re consistently saying ‘no’ to the point in which your girls get frustrated and stop inviting you out, or you fake it until you make it – spending money you do not have, racking up credit card debt just to save face around the girls, robbing Peter to pay Paul or better yet — borrowing money from your friends … yikes!
On several occasions, I’ve been the broke friend. Yes, I actually was “The Broke Black Girl”. During my divorce, my finances and lifestyle drastically changed. I went from a two parent, two income household to one income, one parent, the loss of a car and the loss of on demand help with the children. I found it extremely difficult to transition to a more frugal lifestyle after being able to freely hang out with the girls, enjoy frequent brunches, dinners, trips or just a night out in the city.
The thought of my friends picking up the tab for me, never crossed my mind but, I knew if I asked them, they would have done it in a heartbeat.
I’ve heard of people spending their car note or rent money , all in the name of a having a good time with their friends. Things never got that bad for me, but the temptation was definitely real! I enjoyed spending time with my girls, but my new lifestyle changes were kicking my butt! I didn’t always feel comfortable bringing up my divorce or financial problems while the girls were trying to gather us all up for a good time. I mean, who wants to be labeled as “the broke friend?’ Yikes.
So what is a girl to do when the weather is warming up, you are looking good, you are feeling good, and you and your girls like to take over for the 99 and the 2000’s? Listen. Cancelling on your girls this summer is out of the question. We have two months of this amazing weather left. I missed out on a lot of good times because I wasn’t honest with myself or my friends — I don’t want that to be you.
Here are a few suggestions to help you enjoy the rest of the summer with the girls when you are low on funds.
Acknowledge it openly. Talk to your girls.
This is where you separate friends from associates. If you’ve lost a job, had a serious medical crisis, major loss of income, or some other big life event that is causing you to experience a financial hardship, your friends should know about it. Yes. A real friend goes beyond the glitz and glam of friendship. There are going to be some tough moments and tough conversations that come with being a friend. This is what friends are for. At this time you can briefly mention that your current hardship is taking a toll on your finances and you are going to have to cut back on some things. Then….
Take the lead on getting the girls together.
How much time have you and your friends wasted trying to figure out what’s the move for the night? “What should we do, where should we go? Step up! You decide or make suggestions that could fit in your budget, but are still fun. Start inviting your friends to free events. Find free concerts, festivals, events or other low cost activities that you are interested in and invite your friends out. Please refrain from saying things like “Girl, you know I don’t have any money, so this is all I can afford.” Let’s focus on positive reinforcement, by saying “I found a really cool event that I want to attend. Come with me, sis. I think we would all have a good time” — see how much better that sounds? No one is going to know that it is a free event unless they ask or you bring attention to it.
The B at the end of this is subjective. In this case, I will say it stands for beach towel, board game, blanket or for my girls who like to really turn up, it could mean — bottle. I recently attended a pool party hosted by my sister Jnaye Lee. The party was completely free and not just because she is my sister, but because her apartment building comes with some pretty amazing perks. One of those perks just happened to be, a pool and a jacuzzi. We spent the entire day in the pool, with light food, drinks and the music blasting. Take advantage of the free perks that you have to offer to your group this summer. Are you a part of any organizations or clubs that come with a free guest pass? Does your apartment come with a pool or a rooftop? Do you have a spacious backyard that could be used to host a group of people? You provide the free or extremely discounted space and your friends could be in charge of food/drinks— kickback and relax. This may sound lame, but board games are always a hit! You can even play a lot of fun games with a cheap deck of playing cards. Smartphone users (team iPhone) can download free game apps and play them together. Easy win for the entire group!
Girl, you better work it out.
I mean, seriously workout. Oh, you don’t consider this fun? It’s going to be a hot summer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out an exercise. Gym memberships are getting more expensive by the minute and gym culture sucks (let’s be real). Biking, running, walking, hiking or even certain sports can all be done for very little to no money. Working out can be as simple as meeting up to walk the trial in the park or going for a short hike. Working out with your friends is a fun, healthy and affordable activity to bring you and your girls together. Did you know that more than 40% of people drop a fitness routine shortly after it begins if they have to do it alone? But if they work out with a friend or a group of friends the dropout rate decreases to 6%. That is a HUGE difference. This suggests that one of the best reasons for exercising with friends is the social interaction. Social interaction = a great and free time with the girls.
don’t resent your friends for SPLURGING
Despite your best efforts, you likely will end up in some situations where you can't keep up with your friends' spending. This is going to be a tough pill to swallow. We are all on different paths on this financial journey and we have to be careful not to interfere with our friends’ journey. Take the initiative to decline attendance to certain events, in other words, take one for the team, sit this one out sis and encourage your friends to have a great time. We have to be careful not to make our friends feel guilty about their success during our hardship. You have to accept that your friends will want to spend more than you can afford, and you can't resent them for that. The first step was being honest with them about your current financial status and offering an affordable alternative, but if they want to do something that’s out of your price range - you have to be okay with sitting this one out.
If you try to keep up with your friends' spending, you'll only end up hurting yourself in the long run and you will never make it out of this cycle.
This phase is temporary, surely, you don’t want to be the broke friend forever?
*Disclaimer - this was written under the impression that a broke friend actually exist in your circle. My hope is that soon we all will be in a position to help our “broke friend” level up without missing a beat.