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Money saving

Have you ever avoided a social situation because of the cost?

Posted 05 December 2015

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Are you under pressure to spend on a social event that you can’t afford? If so, you’re not alone. Read on to find out what you can do.

Picture the scene: A friend calls you and tells you she’s getting married. Great! What wonderful news. Who doesn’t love a good wedding? But, at the back of your mind there’s an annoying feeling of dread and worry that’s become more and more familiar recently. And it all comes down to one word: money. 

 

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It seems that many of us have to make tough decisions about which social events we choose to take part in because of the cost and the pressure our finances are already under. In fact, according to This is Money, some people are finding that a big social event is the reason they have to borrow in the first place, with 18% of invitees saying that they’ve paid for stag and hen dos on credit. They also estimate the 25% have paid £300 or over to go to a pre-wedding shindig. 

Weddings are beautiful things, but let’s be honest, they are often beautiful, expensive things. Apparently, the average cost of a hen do mounts up to £157 in total (the average cost of a wedding comes in at a hefty £20,500, so if you’re the one getting married make sure you read our blog on avoiding wedding day debt). If a friend is getting married, especially a close friend who will invite you to their stag/hen do, inevitably you will need to shell out to be part of their big day. This can put you in quite the awkward position – you don’t want to let a friend down, at the same time “Emma’s hen do” isn’t a good enough reason to get yourself into financial difficulties.

Even though it can be difficult, there may be some big social events that you won’t be able to attend, if they simply fall outside of your budget. Although it may be unfortunate, you should make sure that you’re not jeopardising your long-term financial situation for the sake of a party or weekend away. 

The little treats

Depending on your personal circumstances you might find that it’s not just the big events like weddings you have to forego, but the little treats as well. Have you ever asked yourself whether you can afford the electric bill and go to pub with your mates? Is it sometimes a choice between a night out for someone’s birthday and being able to afford your credit card repayments? Of course, how much you want to socialise, and how much you think is an acceptable amount to spend on socialising, will depend on who you are as an individual and your habits already. 

Although most people understand that they should put certain things first, like their priority bills and any debt repayments that they might have, we understand that it can be hard to do this consistently and feel like you’re enjoying an acceptable quality of life at the same time. Although the details may vary from person to person, most people would agree that everybody deserves to be able to see their friends once in a while and enjoy life to a certain extent. 

Are you struggling a little, or drowning completely?

If this is you, it’s important to realise that the research shows that you’re not alone. Many more people than you think are in this situation and most of them have been through times in their life when money was tight and they couldn’t do everything that they want. 

What you need to think about is whether or not you can see a point in the future where your situation will improve and you’ll be a little more relaxed about what you say yes to. Are your debts something that you can budget for, or are they taking over completely and pretty much stopping you doing anything social? 

If it’s the latter, it may be time for you to look into a debt solution. A debt solution would put you on an agreed payment arrangement with your lenders. Crucially, it may be able to bring the amount that you’re paying down so that you’re able to manage it and have a more acceptable quality of life as well. 

Now there are pros and cons to all debt solutions and none of them can be said to be an easy fix, but if you have debts that will take years to pay off and very low disposable income or none at all, then it will be worth looking into whether one of the solutions could be right for you. Take a look at our debt help page for lots of info on the various solutions. Don’t forget you can always pick up the phone and talk to us if you’re unsure about anything. There’s also lots of free advice from The Money Advice Service

If you just need to cut back…

If you can look to the future and see an end point to your debt, and think that you could manage the repayments if you just cut down on some social events or treats, then it might be time to make that sacrifice. You still face the problem of having to tell people that you won’t be able to make that hen do or birthday party though. And, of course, there’s the fear that you’ll be missing out. Here are some ideas of how to get round the problem while you’re watching the pennies:

Work to a budget. A lot of the “umming” and “ahhing” is eliminated if you’ve already worked out what you can afford. If you know that you can afford your priority bills and debt repayments and still put £100 aside for socialising every month, anything over that is automatically a no. 

Be honest. Don’t just say no and make up excuses over and over again – you could risk damaging a good relationship. People are far more likely to suffer hurt feelings if they think they’re being rejected than if they know you just can’t afford it. You never know, if you’re honest, you may find others in your circle of friends are in exactly the same boat. 

Find an alternative. Okay, so maybe you can’t afford to go to the cinema and then out for a meal. But could you afford to have a couple of friends over and watch a movie with some snacks? Get them to bring a DVD over that you haven’t seen and you’re getting basically the same thing for a fraction of the cost. Getting creative is a big part of dealing with a temporary cash-flow problem. For example, always look for the cheaper alternative and if you do go out to eat, check online to see whether you can find a voucher for your restaurant of choice. 

No matter how stressful your financial situation is at the moment, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. For some people setting and sticking to a tight budget will be enough to help get their finances back on track.  For other, whose debts are unmanageable, there are debt solutions out there to help people in just your situation. Don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to money problems, tackle them head on and you could be debt free faster than you think. 

 

by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.