Maintaining Friendships And Frugality

Everybody likes hanging out with their friends! This is true for human beings aged toddler to grandparent (and hounds too!). We all enjoy carousing, playing, and fraternizing with our buddies. But what happens when you’re a devout frugal weirdo (à la moi) and you still want to spend quality time with your chums? Brace yourselves because the answer is pretty simple: you still do.

We love hosting friends for dinner!

We love hosting friends for dinner!

I’ve caught wind of a common misconception in our consumption-focused culture that socializing always entails spending money. To this I cry “false!” I think it’s true that the default, conformist mechanisms of socializing include the outlay of cash (going to a bar, restaurant, or coffee haus), but there’s a whole host of free friend activities that Mr. Frugalwoods and I partake in.

Far from being reclusive hermits, we’re actually more socially engaged now than we were before we began our extreme frugality junket. We’ve found folks with common interests, our time isn’t monopolized by shopping, TV, or other opiates of consumer culture, and we’re just generally happier people with more to share with our community.

With socializing, as with all things in life–and most especially things related to money–everyone’s mileage is going to vary and you, my frugal friend, will have to uncover the solution to mingling that fits with your budget and brings you delight.

How We Chill With Our Hommies

Frugal Hound hanging with her buddies from Budget Blonde

Frugal Hound hanging w/her baby buddies from Budget Blonde

First and foremost, our preferred frugal mode of friend interaction is at one another’s homes. We have compatriots over for brunch, lunch, scones, coffee, dinner, drinks or any variation thereof. And they in turn invite us into their homes for the same. Spending time in each other’s homes creates a relaxed, casual atmosphere where we can kick back and converse.

In addition to being vastly cheaper, it’s easier than trying to go to a restaurant–everyone can bring their kids/dogs/visiting relatives and there’s no concern over a reservation time or if we’re being too loud or if a baby just smeared banana on the wall (these things happen). It’s all good when we’re at home.

Additionally, inviting people into our home harkens back to an earlier, simpler time when that’s what entertaining was: hosting and being hosted. There’s something quaint and comforting about this style of friendship-building. Sometimes we’ll have potlucks, other times we’ll cook the whole meal, and other times our friends will assume the feast responsibilities. Buying and preparing this food and drink barely makes a dent in our monthly budget, which is why we don’t have an “entertainment” line item. These costs are simply covered by our rather modest grocery bill.

Homemade artisan boule to share

Homemade artisan boule to share

Hosting also provides the opportunity to try out new recipes and enables us to hone our cooking prowess. There’s no personal fulfillment in going to restaurant and forking over your credit card. There is, however, a great deal of pride involved in Mr. FW making the perfect pasta puttanesca to serve, for example, or indulging in our friends P & E’s amazing home-smoked meats (which are beyond delicious, by the way).

The art of cooking for others is a demonstration of love and an outlet to enhance our culinary creativity. As with most frugal insourcing, it’s a win/win and there are dividends that reach far beyond the mere monetary.

When we’re not hanging at a home, we take walks or hikes with comrades or visit a free outdoor festival or fair. There are plenty of free entertainment opportunities in the Boston area and our friends are always game to not pay for diversions. Picnics in the park are another favorite pursuit of the frugal as are board game nights. We’ve had many a cutthroat evening of Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Risk, Canasta, Pictionary, Taboo… the list goes on.

Plenty of free festivals!

Plenty of free festivals!

Hypothetical Social Situations: WWTFWD?

We’ve established that socializing in the home is our preferred modus operandi, but what about those scenarios where the hobnobbing in question is out of our control and decidedly not occurring in a private residence? Fear not, we have frugal coping strategies for just such scenarios. I present to you hypothetical frugal friend situations with WWTFWD (what would the Frugalwoods do) answers:

1) Help! A friend invited us out to Chez Overpriced for dinner on Friday night!

Salmon, asparagus, and potatoes at our house, anyone?

Salmon, asparagus, and potatoes at our house, anyone?

When acquaintances ask us to accompany them to a restaurant, we simply counter with a cheerful invitation to dinner at our home. We’ve never once had someone turn down the offer of a free, home-cooked meal.

In the past we ate out with our friends, now, with those same friends, we’re in a pattern of dining at one another’s homes. Eating in restaurants is a relationship trope that’s easily changed.

2) Serious crisis! A friend is having a happy hour birthday party at a bar!

Great! Go and carouse! Happy hours are the easiest to frugalize, so I’m always thrilled when this is the choice du jour. There are a few options we’ve found work well for handling happy hours and bar outings in general:

  1. Just drink water. I do this all the time and no one has ever noticed, commented, or cared. Your friends want you there to spend time with you, not to monitor your beverage consumption. Also, much as we’d like to think we’re the center of time and all eternity (I know I fancy myself to be), no one really cares what you’re doing–they’re too worried about their own drink order.
  2. Just have one glass. I’ve done this too (obviously when I’m not pregnant) if I’m in the mood for a drink. I’ll scan the menu for the cheapest–but still tasty–option (don’t order without checking first, lest you wish to accidentally land on the $15 glass of merlot) and then savor my one drink all night. It’s healthier and cheaper to imbibe a single drink, so pick something you crave and truly relish it. There’s no happy hour rule that you need to get sloshed on four drinks. One is just fine, thank you.

3) My office is going out to lunch to celebrate a colleague’s birthday/promotion/baby shower!

This is a case where you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions: am I expected to attend this gathering as a part of my work team? Will my absence be conspicuous? If you answered yes to either of these, then it’s probably wisest to attend. But if it’s not a close colleague of yours and you get the sense that it’s not a required event, perhaps skip it in lieu of writing a card and congratulating your colleague individually at another time.

If you determine you do need to attend the luncheon, I follow a strategy quite similar to my happy hour plan. It’s rude to just drink water, so I simply order a very inexpensive item–such as a small salad–and eat my lunch from home later at my desk. Again, no one gives a rat’s booty what you order for your lunch, so don’t stress.

A Note On Romantical Dating

Me and Mr. FW as shadow puppets

Me and Mr. FW as shadow puppets

One glaring omission from my current life experience is that of dating. And I don’t mean dating your spouse, which I’m a huge fan of–I mean dating in order to meet a partner. I’m fully aware that Mr. FW and I have known each other for over 13 years and got married at age 24; thus, dating as adults isn’t something we ever had to navigate.

The one thing I will say on this topic is that if you’re frugal and that’s an important part of your life–say you’re working to pay down debt or reach financial independence or merely wish for the security and options that frugality provides–then I think it’s crucial to find a partner who feels similarly. The overwhelming majority of our success as a couple is attributable to the fact that Mr. FW and I share the same worldview on our finances. Without a joint financial goal, approach to our spending, and appreciation for what encompasses the good life, I think we’d have a tough time functioning as a joyful and productive unit.

Mr. & Mrs. FW

Mr. & Mrs. FW

Being transparent about your financial tendencies and dreams from the outset is the best way to ensure you meet a partner with similar values. Your power together–as two people committed to financial security and the awesome life it begets–will be unstoppable. Don’t shortchange yourself by pretending to be someone you’re not. After all, if you start a relationship with extravagant spending, then it’s only natural for the other person to expect that extravagant spending will continue.

And I’m not suggesting you invite someone over for dinner on the first date–they might think you’re a stalker. Instead, perhaps suggest something cheap but romantic like a picnic, a walk, or a cup of coffee. Again, I’m no expert in this arena, so I won’t pretend to know how the intricacies of dating as an adult work, but I do know that finding someone who shares your goals will foster great happiness. Starting a relationship on a false financial premise isn’t going to yield a fulfilling partnership. For more on this topic, check out a guest post my frugal friend Sam from wrote: A Single Person’s Guide To Frugal and Happy Living.

Being Old Helps

Another thing I’m no longer knowledgable about are the youths. Mr. FW is 32, I’m 31 and honestly, we’re old folks. And, most of our pals are old folks too (no offense pals, but you know I’m right). As we’ve aged, transitioning to socializing at home is a natural progression for us and our cohort. With the addition of kids and dogs into our lives, there’s not much desire to close down the club anymore (although it is a shame my dance moves are going to waste… ). In general, we all just try to stay awake until 10pm on the weekend (success in this venture varies).

When we were younger, Mr. FW and I did go out a great deal more than we do now. However, we were crafty about incorporating thrifty principles. We’d find drink specials, nurse a few cheap bevies, and we’d always eat at home before going out. Spending $10 on a night at the bar with buddies is a lot more palatable than drinking away $50.

Do What’s Important To You

Mr. & Mrs. FW at a friend's wedding

Mr. & Mrs. FW at a friend’s wedding

While Mr. FW and I generally adhere to a $0 entertainment budget, we also spend money on the things that we value most in life–and relationships with friends and family top that category. We’ve traveled all across the country to attend weddings (including purchasing requisite bridesmaid dresses), bachelor/ette parties, and family gatherings. We don’t hesitate to participate in these life milestones with our friends and family–though of course we do travel on the cheap (check out our frugal vacation to attend a friend’s wedding and our thrifty trip to my sister-in-law’s high school graduation).

The key is to prioritize and–I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear me say this–spend on events and gatherings that are truly meaningful to you. Consider if the standing Tuesday happy hour with your work colleagues is something you care about enough to spend money on weekly, or, if you’d rather save those funds in order to make attending your best friend’s destination wedding in Mexico easily affordable. Life is about trade-offs and it’s rarely an all or nothing scenario for palling around (or anything else, really). Bring consciousness to your social spending and determine if you’re allocating your resources in ways that are personally rewarding.

And if your cronies are hosting a party at an expensive restaurant and you really want to go–then go! It’s not like a few restaurant meals per year are going to implode your budget. Just make sure that you’re thoughtfully making the decision to eat out for rare, special occasions and not defaulting to restaurants for every other meal.

Make Friends With Fellow Frugal Folks

FriendbookOne of the most fruitful ways to fraternize is with fellow frugal folks. I by no means advocate associating only with people who are identical to you–where’s the variety and fun in that?

But, frugal companions do come armed with a slew of fabulous benefits. Mr. FW and I appreciate the ability to brainstorm, collaborate, and share ideas with our frugal friends–they get what we’re doing and they’re doing something similar.

Having people to bounce frugal hacks off of, discuss investing strategies with, and swap tips for everything from free baby-and-me classes in Cambridge (huge thanks to reader L for hooking me up with a comprehensive list!) to removing stains from laundry (props to my friend C, whose children always look spotless, for the gift of some Fels-Naptha) is a rich aspect of frugal confidantes.

My frugal friend, Mr. 1500 from 1500 Days to Freedom, wrote this wonderful guest post for us about how to meet a frugal tribe. It’s rife with suggestions on how to build out your network of frugal relationships.

Your Friends Should Respect You And Your Choices

Frugal Hound's friends respect her choices

Frugal Hound’s friends respect her choices

Real friends who are worth spending time with will respect your life choices. Mr. FW and I have discovered over the course of our extreme frugality quest that being honest with our friends and family about our financial proclivities goes over very well.

Our friends are clued into what we value in life, and they’re respectful of the decisions we make. We take a non-judgmental approach to discussing finances and our friends–many of whom spend money very differently than we do–have no problem with the choices we make. They respect the journey we’re on and we, in turn, respect the journey they’re on.

In the same way that you wouldn’t tease a vegetarian friend for not eating a burger, friends shouldn’t make fun of you for your thrifty determination. You wouldn’t heckle a friend who is on a diet for avoiding dessert–it’s the same story with someone electing to aggressively save their money.

There’s nothing shameful about being frugal and it’s not something you need to hide. I’m not out to convert my friends to frugality, but I do communicate with them why we’re on this path. They get it and they’re fine with it. And you know what? If a friend hassles you for your frugality or pressures you to spend or doesn’t respect your financial goals, then they’re probably not a very good friend to have. Friends should uplift you, bring you happiness, and provide support and encouragement. There’s enough negativity in the world as it is, no need to bring that drama into your life through damaging friendships.

How do you sustain and create friendships while maintaining your frugality?

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85 Responses

  1. Kristen says:

    Those are some good ideas. We have a group of friends we do regular pot lucks with, it is always fun. We also have a huge board game collection (mostly gifts from family, so we didn’t break the budget there) and we also host games night. Another affordable way to have fun!

  2. We’ve found lots of frugal options for having fun with friends. We love to go outside. I have a few friends who will hike trails with me. We love to have people over for bonfires and sit in the backyard. I have a group of friends where we will rotate hosting inexpensive dinners once a month and everyone brings a dish to supplement the main course (BBQ, pasta, etc.). What’s more is that we still go out on occasion, we just try to budget for it ahead of time. I really appreciate your suggestion about transparency, too, when dating or otherwise. That’s not to say you need to hand out copies of your W-2, but being honest with people that you’re being careful with your money is a good policy – and it can be contagious too!

  3. Hospitality is a great way to maintain friendships without having to spend a lot on entertainment. Our biggest toughie comes when a large group of friends are going out and we aren’t up for hosting that many people at the last minute. That’s when we pre-game on homemade food, then go and order the side salad or 1 drink. On the flip side, our friends have saved us thousands by lending us goods and volunteering services. And of course we try to return the favor whenever possible.

  4. Pat Pickett says:

    Okay, Frugals – I AM old compared to you two. Want to say a couple of things here. Some of the most enjoyable times with friends were in a certain cul de sac in San Diego. Just sitting around in their hot tub, or ours, talking at their kitchen table, or ours, sharing a meal or walking from their cul de sac to ours, being outside with all the kids (theirs and ours) are great memories that produced a lasting friendship.
    Now, as to dating. I did not expect to date at this stage of the game, but I did. The love of my life surprised me with his frugal ways which matched my own. Oh, there are certain things I have to admit I just can’t be frugal with, but for the most part, I do love simplicity. The very first date I had with Sam was to a cemetary. Okay – gasp at that. He knew my love of art and there is a cemetary here which has Egyptian markers. I found it a lovely idea since he went to a great deal of trouble to figure out what I really liked. From then on, Our first kiss was not under a bought mistletoe ball. He asked me to go with him. He wanted to show me something. We went out to Percy Warner Park and walked around. Then he said – “Here we are – look up.” I looked up (he was 6’7″ and I didn’t see anything. The magical moment – he pointed to mistletoe growing wild in the crook of a tree…I will never forget that moment. Everything was like that – magical, unexpected and mostly free. My engagement ring was a cigarband which I still have – unfortunately, Sam died much too soon. But, even in death he left without an expensive funeral. His one addiction was knowledge. He was always learning and reading is free.

  5. Kristi says:

    I loved this post! Even if your friends aren’t typically frugal, there are endless ways to meet up that won’t cost a lot (or any) money. Some of the most memorable evenings with friends are spent around a bon fire.

  6. Most of our friends have kids too, so it’s a lot easier to just spend time at one another’s homes. We cook out a lot and have pitch-ins! Card parties are also popular.

  7. Most of my friends are not frugal, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t spend time with them. Most know about my blog, which is helpful (lol) so we just to alternative things to what they normally do. If a friend drops off the face of the planet because they only want to do non-frugal things, so be it. I have to make sure I take care of myself first.

  8. Sunshine says:

    First, can I say how much I look forward to your posts and admire your tenacity, creativity and discipline to follow your dream. This subject is a hard one in our house as we truly feel like “frugal weirdos”. I have wondered if people in our age group tend to be products of the materialistic 80’s and don’t seem to get it as much as the 30 somethings I run into. Just a thought.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hmmm, interesting. I’ve wondered about different generational approaches to frugality and I’m not sure if we’re just in a naturally more home-based phase right now due to our friends being at the stage of having kids, dogs, etc and finding it easier to just hang out at each other’s houses.

  9. Sarah in Maryland says:

    Our closest friends are the ones we attend church with. We have hayrides, monthly potlucks, teas in, coffee out, we shop yard sales in may and thrift shops in November together, not to mention picnics at the state park and spur of the moment bonfires in someone’s back yard. We have a few other close friends beyond that group. Most of them have large families like we do and that pretty much guarantees frugal, home-based fun.

  10. doa says:

    Thank you for an awesome post, as always! Having friends over for dinner is the best, as is savoring those rare expensive treats 🙂

    Have you ever had friends or family question a choice you’ve made that is fundamental to you? How did you deal with it? I totally agree with you on only hanging out with friends who respect you and your choices, but I struggle with my mother. She’s the only family I have left and is very important to me, but she shares none of my financial goals/principles or environmental concerns. It’s not that she tries to force me to change, but she can be quite condescending. We lead very different lives, and she regularly questions my choice to order the cheapest thing on the menu (salad + water), not drink alcohol or eat candy/dessert, etc. She loves fancy dinners out and I tag along because it’s important to her, but the nagging gets to me.

    Have you found that those kinds of questions disappear as people get more used to how different your approach is to theirs? I have essentially done a 180 in the past two years, and I understand that it might be difficult to understand at first – all I ask is that people who care about me *try* to understand, or at least accept.

    I hope this behavior will pass in time (I’m 25, she’s 60), and for now I’m trying to temper my reactions and learn to not let it get to me. Other times I just don’t say anything about things that are important to me, which feels rather odd – what’s the purpose of any conversation if I’m not honest..? I am proud of my choices and actions, but that doesn’t make it any less hurtful. She seems to think it’s cute to call me frugal/environmentalist in a condescending tone. For the record, I don’t mind being called either of those things by someone who doesn’t treat it like something laughable 🙂 Perhaps the only solution is to start reacting to those compliments as though that’s what she meant.

    Do any of you fellow frugal weirdos out there have any experience dealing with similar family reactions?

    • JH says:

      I don’t have a lot of experience handling family reactions to some frugal habits I’ve been adopting (because most of my family is super-frugal and I’m rather late to the frugal party ha ha), but I do have some experience handling other kinds of situations – with family and friends – where the choices I’m making create tension. (I’ve been switching to a vegan-ish lifestyle over the last year and, wow, that makes for some interesting conversations.)

      One of the best resources I’ve encountered for handling difficult conversations is a book called “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most”. It offers guidance and concrete steps you can take to approach conversations with others, including steps you can take even when the other person doesn’t seem to want to use the “Difficult Conversations” method. The core idea is to transcend “certainty” (i.e., I’m right, they are wrong, I need to have them respect my choices) and approach others with “curiosity” (how do they see the world (including my behavior and words) so that their position makes sense), and learn to understand each other. Happily for frugal weirdos, there are a number of free summaries of this book available online, so you can google “Difficult Conversations” and likely find one.

      In my own life, as I make changes in my attitudes and practices, I have been trying to focus more on doing and less on talking/explaining. This is hard for me because I’m a lawyer and I love to explain (and justify) my behavior, but I’m finding explaining/justifying just seems to generate tension. Maybe people feel that when I volunteer reasons for what I’m doing, it feels more like a rebuke of their own behavior.)

      By contrast, making changes in my life (and being open to answering questions about those changes, but not offering explanations unless asked) seems to work better. I find in particular that my husband is more open to some of the changes I’m making when he sees my behavior change and evolve into true habits, not just intentions and talk.

      doa – I wonder in your specific situation whether you and your mother could find some common ground in making preparing some fancy meals at home. If you invited your mother to your place and made her a “restaurant-fancy” meal, or offered to go to her place either to make such a meal together, I wonder if she’d like that. You might end up spending a little more than you usually do on food (but less than you’d spend in a restaurant), she’d get to do something special, and you’d spend time together.

      • doa says:

        Thank you so much for responding JH, I really appreciate it! Working on your conversation skills (and patience) is a really good idea. I have a long way to go in that department, and even longer when it comes to actually not letting certain things get to me.

        I feel you on the veganism – I have dodged that bullet so far since I’ve “only” severely limited my meat intake and still eat eggs and some dairy. That way I can tell skeptics I still eat meat sometimes (they don’t need to know it almost only happens when someone else is cooking). I’m heading your way though, as I discover all the health benefits of a plant based diet (beyond the social/ethical/frugal).

        Funny you should mention the reasoning/justification, I do the same thing though I’m an engineer. I’ve never thought about it like that, but I probably have quite a scientific mindset, at least compared to my mother. I always want to fully explain myself, and if I can’t logically do that I’m not doing it properly 😉 That’s definitely worth thinking about, as my definition of understanding something/someone may be a lot more thorough/technical/rational than that of others. I was definitely in the “save the world” camp for a while, and I know I probably came across as wanting to force people to change, though that was not at all my intention. I was just so excited about everything I was learning and changing myself! I’ve backed off a lot since then.

        I think taking a *much* more proactive stance would be a good – not only trying to fit my new lifestyle around her interests as best I can, but do a lot more research (ha, figures!) to find some similar but frugal options to the museums/shows/theater/shopping/restaurant routine. We all know there are such things, they just have to be found and then presented carefully. I definitely want to cook more elaborate meals, so that is a great idea! Hell, I’d buy her a mini bottle of wine to go with it if that helps 🙂

        A few comments and responses later, and I already have a plan of action and some new perspectives on things. Thank you Mrs. FW for bringing together this community of smart and generous people 🙂 As they like to say at my new job – don’t forget to (keep) be(ing) awesome!

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Loved reading this exchange! Makes me so happy to see folks interacting and helping each other. Rock on, frugal weirdos! Doa–I wish you all the best in your conversations with your mom.

  11. All great suggestions! Like me, most of my friends are creative types who haven’t ever been high earners. So, they seem to appreciate fun, cheap activities. And Nashville has a massive amount of free stuff to do. Especially live entertainment. When friends want to get lunch, I’ve been trying to counter with “walking dates.” It’s kind of hard to say no to co-workers, though. My relationship with my team has definitely been strengthened by our lunches together.

  12. These are great tips. For me, socializing is one of the things I struggle most to reconcile with frugality. We have friends over for dinner from time to time, but we still go out quite often. I like the idea of inviting people to free festivals and events, and board game nights is something I used to do all the time in high school but haven’t done in years. I guess the real challenge is just thinking ahead a bit and not defaulting to going out to dinner. With a little forethought, there are lots of fun and inexpensive ways to socialize.

  13. bev says:

    Good friends and good family are hard to find. If you have that, hold them close and nourish that relationship. It’s far more valuable than money. Another great post, thank you.

  14. bev says:

    Oh, I just read doa’s response to you. I hope she reads this…..yes, to her question a hundred times over! My husband and I both have had family and friends question our choices….my family was very upset that I moved to Vermont (I was 50 y.o. at the time, for God’s sake!!). How dare I do something different. Some have softened; others not. I had to let them go. My husband’s friends were upset that he married someone from out of state. Not a Vermonter…’s just not done!!! They haven’t softened! They are no longer friends. It was hurtful at first, but that has passed. It’s tough to be different sometimes, but we’ve both found that we don’t miss those relationships anymore. We moved on to other things and we’re happy with that. Don’t let go of your mom, but also don’t be afraid to stand by your choices and just ask to be respected. Hope this helps. Mrs. FW, I don’t know how to put this reply on hers, so maybe you do. Thanks

    • doa says:

      Certainly I read it, thank you for responding bev! Wow, there’s always something to get upset about if you want to, isn’t there? Some people just seem unable to accept anything different than what they are used to. Sometimes it’s so hard to let go of/learn to live with all those “For God’s sake!!” events/moments/people, even when you know it’s what you need to do.

      On the flip side there is always something to be happy about, and lots of other people around the world who think more like you do and are willing to support you 🙂

      There is a little “Reply” link under each comment, btw 🙂

      • bev says:

        Oh how dumb am I!! I never even saw that reply comment there….always looking to get to reading the next comment. My age is showing!! Thanks so much for enlightening me and your comment as well. Yes, there’s always something to be happy about and people there to share that happiness with. Best wishes to you!

  15. Kathy says:

    I bet your friends are truly happy to be your friend! We are going camping this weekend with my sister and brother-in-law. We each are cooking two meals. I am looking very forward to it. Not much money and a great escape!

  16. Hannah says:

    Hauling babies and toddlers to restaurants is quite a hassle, so learning to invite people into your life becomes even more important when you have kids. Last Saturday a friend asked if I wanted to bring Kenny to Chuck E. Cheese. I countered with an invitation to turn on the hose in our backyard accompanied by some off-brand graham crackers. The hose won out.

    Its easy for parents to just want to get out when their kids are driving them crazy, but I’ve found that inviting others into our craziness helps to build friendships much faster than artificial kid environments. Also, we haven’t stopped inviting single/couples without kids friends into our life. They seem to appreciate the brief chaos and the opportunity to leave at the end of the night 🙂

    • diana says:

      “I countered with an invitation to turn on the hose in our backyard accompanied by some off-brand graham crackers. The hose won out.” HA. I hope you said it just like that too. that’s awesome.

  17. This is a lot easier than it used to be for me. I used to feel the pressure to socialize with coworkers, especially when I was in public accounting. The only way to end a 13 hour day is to go grab drinks with people you’ve spent 70 hours of the last week with, right? Then I realized I didn’t really like those people that much and put a great deal of effort into relationships with people I actually liked. Wine was still involved, of course. And working from home now helps – my new dachshund coworkers are way more interested in free walks than $14 martinis. Usually.

    It’s still a challenge with friends though – our closest friends are all DINKS who enjoy a good brunch or hip new brewery. Like with everything, it’s just about balance. If we do brunch one week, we just make sure to hit the park or a nice trail the next week.

  18. Ncubed says:

    Yes! We love having friends over to our house for dinner, or going to theirs in turn. Now that we all have kids, it’s so much easier than going out, as well as cheaper. The host cooks the main dish, and everyone else brings sides, drinks, or dessert. We do cookouts, or theme dinners (tapas night, anyone?), or just get together because we’re feeling like company. Spending time with good friends is the best entertainment in the world.

  19. Beth says:

    We have cookouts and game days every month with our friends. This past weekend, we went to the orchard with a couple friends and our kids. We waited until the orchard had their BOGO apple picking week (equates to $0.89/lb for apples). I consider this a frugal outing because it doesn’t cost anything to go to the orchard. The wagon ride out to the apple trees is fun for the kids and you can eat all the apples you want while you are out picking (in fact, they encourage you to taste the goods while you are out there.) Plus, $0.89/lb for extremely fresh apples is a pretty good price and we leave with a bag of apples that goes towards making apple butter, apple bread, snacks, apple pie…all sorts of good apple yummies. We go to the orchard a few times a year when they run their picking sales. This year, we went for peaches, blackberries, and will do pumpkin picking the first week of October. Every time we go, it’s when they are running their extremely low prices that are in line or less than what you can buy at the store. It is a great time and stocks our fridge with deliciousness.

  20. Linda says:

    We love having friends over for dinner and a movie. Last time we had dinner for a dozen I made cheese and beans enchiladas, marinated cucumbers and a jello salad. They loved it. And our own home theatre is a projector and the wall in our finished basement. We can watch DVDs, TV, Netflix, or whatever in absolute comfort, sitting on comfortable furniture with endless inexpensive snacks, and no obnoxious people we don’t know to ruin the movie. I can’t stand a public movie any more compared to the luxury of staying home with friends.

  21. We went to a restaurant this weekend, probably for the second time in the past year. My sister got engaged and Mr. Finance wanted to have a celebratory lunch. I went along assuming that since HE proposed and HE invited us out to eat, that HE would be the one paying. When the bill came, my mother (who has significant money issues) grabbed the check to pay for everyone. I felt guilty afterwards. Should I have offered to pay for my portion of the check? I wish she would have just let Mr. Fiance pay. WWTFWD?

    • Gira says:

      Oh that is too bad! Your mom probably felt proud and wanted to take up the check as a gift to the new couple. If she hadn’t, then Mr Fiance would have probably picked up the tab since he was the host. I do not think you should have offered to pay for your part because that may be considered insulting to stand in the way of the gift your mother was trying to offer. That is my $0.02 worth!

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        I’m inclined to agree with Gira here. Sounds like your mom wanted to treat everyone and didn’t want to share the bill.

  22. MEL810 says:

    I am no longer young, but back in the day, when I lived in D.C. and loved to dance, I used to go to clubs just to dance. I never ordered more than water or a soda. I could never dance and drink! I never paid more than a few dollars cover charge, if that. I knew a couple of the club owners and they used to let me in for free and comp me a soda just so I would dance at their clubs. If they had had the “So You Think You Can Dance?” competition on TV back then, I might have made it into the Top Ten!
    I’ve never been much of a drinker except for some wine. I just can’t feature paying $50.00 for drinks (drinks are over-priced) nor can I feature paying lots of money to eat at a fancy eatery. When I eat out, I’m more of a mom and pop or ethnic eatery type anyway and those tend to be way cheaper.
    Part of the reason that drinks are so expensive, at least here in VA, is the absurd amount of red tape, taxes and licensing fees that places that serve alcohol have to deal with. It’s sunk more than a few places in this area.
    Right now my place is a mess and the parking lot is being torn up for re-paving so there are no spare visitors parking spaces available. So I can’t entertain at home right now. Anyway, I’m too tired to play hostess. I am always the hostess amongst my friends and right now the job title is being vacated. No more from moi! At least until Thanksgiving!

  23. Jo-Ann says:

    You are right; true friends respect your goals. Four friends and I just scheduled our Fall Soup Swap. We each bring 5 quarts of soup: one for each friend to bring home and one to sample. A salad, bread, dessert and wine complete the meal and we each leave with a variety of soups for our freezer. Yum!

  24. Maggie says:

    We love home dinner and game night parties. When you start having kids and so do your friends, everyone starts preferring going to someone’s house over a restaurant anyway. (There are toys!) That helps immensely.

  25. We’re big on using our house and yard as a huge fun pit for socializing. All of our family and friends seem to have a great time here and it costs just a tiny bit to provide lunch/dinner and beer for a dozen people (most of our friends have kids; note: the kids typically don’t drink beer).

    We built a fire pit from rocks scavenged from our lake. Instead of buying fire wood, we chop down all the small trees that grow along our lake front so we can keep our view clear. The debris that most would set out for yard waste collection ends up in our woodpile. Having a fire and inviting over a dozen peeps for hot dogs and marshmallows and beer has been a huge hit! It costs next to nothing.

    It’s just astounding that all of us spend six figures on a house and then vacate it weekly to go to bars and restaurants to meet friends instead of using the space we already pay for to host our social gatherings. Not me. I call BS on that practice. 🙂

  26. Hosting families with young children is definitely easier (and cheaper, of course) than going out. But I admit to enjoying periodic dinners out with mom-friends, so we can talk without interruption or little ears listening. 🙂

  27. I love this! It seems when we were in college and no one had a spare dime, my friends were all happy to stay in and just laugh / chat the night away. Now that we’re all getting closer to 30 and are more stable, it seems pizza and beers at the neighborhood sports bar is the norm for an “inexpensive” night out (but the pies are $25 each, so it’s by no means cheap!). We consistently invite people over instead of agreeing to meet out–“Ooh that sounds fun but were were already planning to cook and play a game here at home. Come join us!” Sometimes our friends agree and sometimes not, but slowly I think we are establishing our priorities in our friends’ minds and we are getting much more frugal hanging-out requests as of late.

    Mrs. Frugalwoods, I have a question for you, wondering if you could offer some help! Last night I finally put a finger on a weird tendency I have that I know I got from my folks. We were out getting some necessities at Target (dog food, etc) and browsed a bit before checking out. My husband and I are champion window shoppers and easily browse all the time without spending anything, but I noticed that the final two seasons of a TV show he’d introduced me to were on sale. We have the first seasons on DVD and so these would round out the set. Even though we are watching our spending I encouraged my husband to buy the DVDs, and I realized why, I think–by encouraging him, I think I am trying to communicate that his happiness is my priority, that I want him to feel free to have the things he wants, that I approve of his choices. My folks have always done this for each other, and did for us when we were kids, too–if we liked an item and had our own money, they encouraged us to purchase it. I know it’s a way they showed support to each other and to us. Do you know what I mean by this? How can my husband and I show we support each other’s tastes and choices and HAPPINESS but still say no to purchases that keep us from our goals? Or is this “strategic spending” that equates to more satisfaction that money in the bank could do? I feel stuck on this!

    • JH says:

      In a situation like this, I’d probably try to express my support and love by showing my interest and curiosity about what makes him happy. So, I’d say something like “I really enjoyed watching this series with you, and I think you really liked it, too, right?” If he confirmed what I thought, then I might say something like, “Would it make you really happy to be able to watch the remaining seasons now, and to own the complete collection of DVDs so we can watch them again? Because this is a good price. Or would we better off saving that money and looking for another way to watch the remaining episodes, like signing up for them at the library? Or maybe we could put them on our Christmas wish list for a present from the family.” And if he did indicate that he wanted to get them now, then you could talk about what you should drop off the spending list to make up for deciding to buy this. (For example, “What if we skip our monthly pizza night out and get these DVDs instead?)

      • Great insights JH, thank you for this!

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          I like JH’s suggestion here. That’s pretty similar to what Mr. FW and I do as well. For us, we often show our love by doing an activity we know the other person wants to do–like today, Mr. FW fixed a bookcase I found by the side of the road because he knows I want to set up baby books on it. And I baked some bread that I know he’ll enjoy eating. It’s sort of a similar way of demonstrating that we care for each other. To the question on strategic spending, I think it’s all about your priorities and how much you want to save in a month vs. spend. You’ll find the happy balance, I’m sure of it :)!

  28. Mr. 1500 says:

    Thanks you so much for the shout-out! Can’t wait to meet you and the Mr. this week. Life is good.

    On that note, FinCon is a lot of fun because you get to hang with lots of similar good and frugal people. However, I think you could take it up a notch:

    Once you get the homestead, I think you should host Frugalwoodstock! How awesome would that be? Just kidding. Not really.

  29. Marcia says:

    This is an awesome post. And I have to say, that it’s tricky. It’s really tricky.

    I’m also old (ahem older than you guys). Like where you live, I live in a rather expensive, spendy-pants place (Coastal Southern California). And my friends tend to be middle-income to high-income folks too. It’s a balance, because home ownership is expensive here ($500k to $900k house anyone?), but that depends a lot on when you bought the house (that’s a pretty big range up there).

    I’m still figuring out how to balance it all, really. Some of our best friends were met frugally:
    My friend MDB, we met at work, and would chat each morning before we started, and would go for lunch time walks.
    My friend QC and FF, we met at work/ playing volleyball, and we played volleyball every Saturday and took turns having dinner at each person’s house.
    My friends S&MK we met when our kids were babies, and I started having “working parent’s baby meetings” at my house, to learn that they were literally across the street and down 2 houses from us.

    These are all very frugal things. But then…
    I quit that job with MDB, and she quit too (she SAH with 3 kids now). So our time together became lunches out, maybe 2x a year or 3x a year. It took several months of working on her (after 5 years of this), but now, for the last several months, we meet 1x a week (or every other week) at 7:30 am at our gym (where our memberships are $99 and $37 a year). It took a long time to get her to come around to the idea that it was okay to take 90 minutes a week to herself.

    With QC and FF, they had 2 kids and both kids are in a different school and they are both in 2 sports, so we literally only see them once a year. They are so busy. And they once asked us when we would “let” our kid play a sport. It’s not like we don’t “let” him, it’s in part that he’s not interested. Sports take a minimum of 2x a week, often more. They require you to pay to participate, and buy the gear (and nevermind traveling sports). Our son has done a little bit of soccer, and is now trying baseball.

    With S&MK, we all had extra kids, and honestly, they like to go out for fun. It was okay for awhile because we carpooled to school, so several days I week I picked up my kids and 2 of their kids, and our kids got to play at our house every day. We don’t do that anymore because my car doesn’t fit all their kids + mine. So for fun, they go to dinner and concerts and trips. Last Friday, as we spent a few hours at my son’s first baseball practice (and on the playground with the 3 year old) – we were still frugal. Didn’t get home until 7:15 or so and we were hungry BUT I’d defrosted beans and rice and bought large tortillas, so in the time it took to microwave the rice and shred cheese, burritos were ready.

    At the same time, our friends S&MK met our other friends B&K at the local beach side bistro, (right on the beach, kids can play in the sand). We’ve been there with them before, and dinner for 4 with drinks is a cool $100. (That’s 2 adults and 2 kids). Well, 3 other families happened to show up too and it was a party! On one hand, I feel like I am missing out on valuable time with these friends (who are all from the same elementary school, and many of us on the PTA board). On the other, that’s $100 I saved right there. Our dinner was probably <$5 for four.

    We've managed to find "frugal friends" though. Our daycare provider has several children and a smaller income, so when we hang out with them, it's beach or potluck or maybe an inexpensive restaurant where we share appetizers and a pitcher of beer. My friends K&J belong to a winery that gives you a glass for free every day (for you AND a friend). So I'd meet them occasionally, and I've since joined. So on date nights with my spouse (which aren't free, sadly), we start the night there and have a drink (our one and only for the night). We've found a neighborhood tribe that has a weekly potluck in the park. Several families that meet every week during the spring/ summer/ fall (evenings) and brunch in winter.

    For work lunch things, I've struck a balance. I pack lunch every day, but occasionally a former coworker will be in town, and I'll arrange a group lunch. That's about once every month or two. Same thing with my kid and school lunch – he gets it once a week. And my spouse goes to a work lunch once or twice a month.

    All in all, it can be a tricky balance between FINDING your frugal tribe and maintaining friendships with people who like to go out a lot more than you do. All of these friendships are important to me.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I think it’s absolutely about finding that balance with friends. And, as you noted, forming a frugal tribe is definitely a wonderful way to have more frugal gatherings.

  30. I always prefer having friends over than going out! Well, before I had a toddler running around. Now it’s kind of nice to have a night out 🙂 But it’s way more relaxing hanging out at each other’s places, and we usually all each bring something to share and it’s fun to try out a bunch of different homemade food and not worry about if we are hogging a table at a restaurant too long. So many perks (both frugal and otherwise) to entertaining friends at home!

  31. Geoffers says:

    Have just added “rats booty” to my vocabulary….my life is complete, fine post Mrs FW!

  32. Leah says:

    I’m sure others will say this too, but my husband and I dated frugally. We met on a free dating website (OkCupid). We cooked each other meals at home, had picnic lunchs, went for hikes and walks, played games (lots of cribbage and backgammon), and watched DVDs we already owned. I knew he was the right guy for me because we didn’t have to go out all the time. Our first date ended up being a 3 hour hike. We were both fresh out of grad school and in the rebuilding phase, so we didn’t have a lot.

    We did go through a phase of eating out regularly, but that was well after we were established as a couple. If you want to date frugally, it is totally possibly. And, again, I knew he was my guy because he didn’t blink at the idea of staying in, drinking wine, and playing cribbage instead of hitting up the bar. Swoon.

  33. Aw I love this post and I extra love that pic of the babies, mostly because they are crawling in that pic and now they’re walking so much!

  34. Melissa says:

    Your post is aptly timed! I am taking the super frugal month challenge and my aunt just told me she is coming to visit. At the top of her list of things to-do is eat out at local places. Since I just started this challenge and haven’t really talked to my family (besides my mom) about it, my aunt doesn’t know. And I feel conflicted about telling her. Since I am still in the challenge mode, I feel weird asking her to sacrifice some of the things she wants to do for a personal challenge of mine (I haven’t cemented a lifestyle yet). I am wondering if it will be easier to talk with my friends and family about living frugally once I have set my goals and made choices on which things I do or don’t want to spend money. Did you find it was easier to talk to your friends and family about this once you made a commitment and/or as you spent more time living frugally?

    PS: On a positive note, I did create a whole list of free things to do, which she seemed to find enjoyable. I also won free tickets to a show for us to go see – SCORE!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a good question. In many ways, we’ve always been “the frugal ones,” but I do think its been easier to talk about our lifestyle choices now that they’re quite ingrained and a central part of our lives. And, the longer we live frugally, honestly the easier it gets–it’s just very natural for us now to talk about frugality. That’s awesome you came up with a list of free things to do! I hope the challenge month went well for you! And, it’s certainly all about finding a balance that works well for you and your goals. Best of luck!

  35. TomTrottier says:

    Money is a status addiction. But the status so gained is pretty empty. The only people who care are either shallow or leaches. Do you really want them as “friends”?

  36. Mrs. SFF says:

    Great post! And I love the festival photo of my home town. Although it is kinda expensive where I live there are plenty of things to do and events almost every weekend. 🙂

  37. Steve Miller says:

    Great suggestions, I really like the idea of inviting your friends over when they suggest a pricey restaurant.

  38. ARBM says:

    We definitely love the epic board game nights! (Settlers is our usual.) I used to go out to the pub a LOT for sports watching and hanging out with friends, but as we’ve all gotten a bit older, we have definitely moved towards more nights in and someone’s house. There are exceptions of course, but those are becoming less and less frequent.

  39. Shannon says:

    We have some like minded financial friends who do host a lot of dinners for groups (I imagine they do it for frugality and because they have a 1 year old). Usually it’s a group setting – not two couples. I make sure to bring plenty of food too. We are awful at hosting dinners – we just don’t do it. I think we had 3 parties in all of our 5 years in this house and every time we are like, “Let’s not do this again please!” Too much work, takes so long to clean the house/prepare the yard, no time to put thought into what to serve them (our regular weekly meals are not guest worthy by any means). Maybe when we’re retired early and have more time we can be more social from our own home.

  40. Whenever we celebrate a family event, my brother seems to always want to go to an expensive restaurant. My parents always pay for these family outings, so it is not my financial obligation, but I still would just prefer to go to one of our houses and order food in or BBQ. That makes for much better socializing since I don’t see my family all that often due to my location. Plus, my parents don’t need to be saddled with these large bills.

    Also, some friends and I used to do ethnic ‘theme’ dinners. We would take turns at each other’s houses and the host would pick a cuisine from around the world . We had a blast. We would research the area for authentic food and drinks with everyone bringing a dish and we would even learn a few words in the native tongue.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m with you on homes a being better for socializing. I always feel like we have more time and space to relax and talk when we’re at someone’s house–it’s just easier all around. I love your theme dinners idea–how cool!

  41. Jessica says:

    This is a very timely article for my husband and me. We are new to embracing a more frugal lifestyle and have found the socializing part to be challenging! Thanks for the good advice, as always.

  42. komal says:

    I could so much related to this article! I use to think I am doing wrong by indulging in such *tricks* but this makes me feel better. I have lots and lots of friends and sometimes its difficult to manage these relationships without taking a hit on your pockets. Plus you will have friends with different lifestyles & tastes. Some agree to gathering at home and having fun while others don’t. For those who don’t, I always accompany them to every new place they are eager to explore. But I often have my home meal before going out and my mom always come to my rescue. “If she has cooked it, no way that I would waste it”. Associated with dining comes the expense of travelling! I either choose venue nearby to my place or tag along a friend or use the inexpensive public mode of transport.

    I am still not very comfortable about being open about my frugal ways in front of my friends. Especially in Indian society, I believe this is looked at in a wrong frame, in specific when you’re making good money every month. May be being open about this will take sometime. However I have been lucky enough that friends more often agree to my way of socializing, I miss on few gatherings owing to this, but that gets compensated on other occasions when we spend quality time.

    This will be an article I will keep referring to time and again. Thanks for it. Cheers 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I totally understand not feeling comfortable divulging your frugality to friends–we certainly used to feel that way. It’s definitely not a cultural norm and it took time for us to be completely open about it. Glad to hear you’ve been able to incorporate your frugal ways into your friendships!

  43. I visit them and have some coffee with them while chatting. Sometimes, we just job around the village and then some conversation at parks. This is just a simple way to maintain friendship and our frugality status. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You know what matters is the time spend with them.

  44. Laura says:

    My favorite frugal happy hour trick is to drink club soda with lime. It’s usually still free, but it feels just a little festive!

  45. Sarah Noelle says:

    Finding ways to be social without spending a ton of money is definitely a priority for me these days. I’m starting to invite friends over for dinner more, rather than suggesting that we go out, and people do seem to like this. I think the only potential downfall here is that there can be a temptation to say, “Ooh, friends are coming over! I have to make something special!” and “special” can easily become synonymous with “expensive” if I’m not careful. So I’m trying to find more recipes that are cheap but seem special. Certainly any meal is made more special by the company, but it’s also nice to make something that feels a little bit gourmet when you’re cooking for other people. If anyone has any ideas or go-to recipes, I’d love to hear them!

  46. Caroline says:

    Now here’s a question and you touch on it in your original article BUT let’s say you do – for whatever reason – go along to the birthday lunch / leaving dinner at the restaurant and order modestly (bring your own wine folks… corkage tends to be far, far cheaper than buying an even vaguely comparable bottle of wine, and of course you can then share it around)… but then at the end, it turns into ” oh let’s just split it between us” from the folks who were drinking cocktails and had the Lobster platter with 2 desserts and a salad ”for the table” and the sparkling water ”for the table”… and the champagne ordered for… yes, ”the table”. Of course I realise it’s important not to take the food / drink if you don’t want to pay for any of it, but it’s clearly hard to keep track of who had what… and then you look like a total cheapskate for refusing to ”pay your share”. I absolutely always factor in a tip and through in a tiny bit extra ”just in case” and cannot stand miserliness and meanness… but when you’re on a tight budget and order accordingly… and then get hit with a huge bill… what to do in the moment?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oooo good question. We usually establish with the waiter before we order (or as we’re ordering) that Mr. FW and I are on a separate bill together. That way, it’s a conversation between us and the waiter, not us and our friends. But other folks may have different suggestions!

  47. Ashley says:

    Umm, can you host me for dinner?? All of that stuff on the grill looks AMAZING!

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