How to Politely Get Out of Doing Stuff When You’re Broke
Being broke and having friends – especially rich friends – is hard work.
Nobody wants to come over to your shitty apartment to shoot the shit anymore. Everybody wants to do brunch, or grab $20 cocktails at a rooftop lounge, or at the bare minimum split an Uber on the way to whatever event you’re attending.
But just because you’re broke – or simply on a budget – doesn’t mean that you want to become a hermit who just works and watches Netflix while nibbling on ramen. So, what to do?
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Sure, you could tell your friends that your account balance is zero and beg them to consider going to that free concert in the park instead of that new avocado bar, but then you risk being annoying af. You know, like that one vegan friend who always poo-poos every restaurant reservation their group makes because they need a “special” menu.
So if you’re not trying to be annoying, what’s the best way to tackle this issue? We asked Myka Meier, the founder of Beaumont Etiquette, about how to decline bougie invitations classily, and how to be on a budget without always ditching your friends with rich parents.
First, let’s break down some common situations you may come across, and what to do.
Situation #1: Your friend wants to split an Uber, but you low-key want to take the Subway.
Myka: You could turn your reasoning into logic that is hard to argue: “The subway is so much faster than getting stuck in traffic, but if you still want to take an Uber, I’ll meet you at the restaurant!” The key is to not leave it up for discussion and instead state what you are going to do and why, and not phrase it in a way that leaves it open for opinion.
Galore: We admire Myka’s give-no-fucks attitude, but I think all my friends would think I was a freak if I said this to them. The good thing is most of my friends who want to take Ubers aren’t from NYC, so I can usually convince them that the subway is faster – which it is 99% of the time. If I’m dealing with a friend who is from NYC and she wants to Uber because she can’t walk in heels or whatever, tell her that you’ll swipe her into the Subway. You can definitely be adamant, but like, in a non-psycho way, and maybe she’ll offer to pay for the Uber since she wants to take one so badly.
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Situation #2: Your friends are splitting a birthday gift for a friend, but it’s more expensive that you’d hoped to spend
Myka: I would recommend saying something like, “So sweet of you to include me, but I already thought of a little gift idea I’m buying/already got her something.”
Galore: We second what Myka said. They might be a little annoyed, cuz they might’ve needed you to make the cost do-able, but if they needed you so badly they should’ve confirmed the price with you first. If you already agreed to split a gift and then they suggest something out of your budget, suggest asking someone else to go in on it to split the cost more evenly. Pretty sure nobody will argue with that!
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Situation #3: Your friends choose an expensive restaurant, and when you try suggesting another place, they’re not down.
Myka: If you can’t afford to go to the restaurant your friends have chosen even after you suggested a less expensive place, you have a couple choices pending how close you are to them. You could be honest… or you could just tell them you’ll meet them afterward wherever they land. If you make something a big deal, it becomes a big deal. So if you can’t attend something for financial reasons, no matter how you choose to communicate it, you don’t want to make it dramatic or try to get everyone else in the group to change the plan just for you. Just accept this time the dinner/event isn’t for you and you’ll try your best to make it the next time.
Galore: Such a good point about not making things a big deal. It’s one thing to be broke, it’s another thing to be annoying. Nobody wants to know you as the person who’s constantly complaining about having no money. Plus, they’ll start calling you out when you do spend money, since so many of us are “selectively broke.” You know, like you’re “too broke” to go to your friend’s birthday dinner, but you buy a new Minimale Animale bikini the next weekend. Just say you’re busy and you’ll meet them out after and it’ll be NBD.
After pondering these situations, you may simply wonder if it’d benefit you to simply make friends who are in the same financial situation as you are, but Myka says nah.
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“If they are real friends, they’ll want to spend time with you, whether it be just a walk after work/day at the park, or a full a night out on the town,” she says.
She also says you can totally tell your close friends that the real reason you’re suddenly dipping on plans is because you’re on a budget, but if it’s not a close friend you probs should leave money out of it and “politely decline.”
Her last tidbit of wisdom?
“When talking about money, remember the word ‘cheap’ refers to quality, so instead, I teach people to say ‘inexpensive’ to refer to cost.”
You’re not a cheap bitch! You’re an inexpensive bitch! Now go on out there and stack some racks without losing all your friends.