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Is Peer Pressure Making You Poor?

Keeping up with the Jones' now has some competition. It's keeping up with Charlie and Norm, your buddies from college. Could it be that many of your financial troubles stem from trying to keep up with the expensive tastes of your friends that go beyond your meager budget? Many of us are almost unable to decline our friends when we really shouldn't do x, y, or z, because it just isn't in the budget. These concert tickets, beer nights, new clothes and so on, add up to mounting credit card debt that for so many seems preferable than telling our buddies "hey man, I can't really swing that right now."
These choices can have a dramatic effect for years to come as you may find yourself working down a massive credit card debt, while more financially sound people are working down their mortgages.

Decide What You Want

First and foremost, you decide your goals. That is vitally important. Your friends do not have to manage your obligations, you do, and they may not have the same goals and desires. This is totally fine, but your friends need to allow you to decide what you want and you need to be strong and stick to your proverbial guns about staying on the path towards getting there. 
I had to pay for college with student loans like so many others, but I decided early on that I did not want this debt hanging over me for two decades beyond my graduation. I made it my goal to pay them off in 10 years, not 20 and it has required a bit of diligence and some sacrifice. I have stuck with it and am on track to getting them completely paid off in a little under 3 years.
This has meant that a lot of fun (but expensive) things my friends have done, I did not participate in. However, I recently found out that my close friend is actually saddled with credit card debt as a result of his expensive, but fleeting tastes. One huge benefit that came out of it is was that my friends stopped trying to get me to get on the spend-spend-spend bandwagon and began to invite me to more frugal things that I could attend without a lot of expense.
It was hard to say no. Brewskies with the buds, those hot new kicks, they are all so tempting and all that stuff adds up fast, because, look, let's face it, I'm still relatively new to my career and am working up that proverbial ladder, I can't spend like I'm two tax brackets higher than I really am and expect to stay financially solvent.
For me, my goals revolve around eliminating debt. Yours might be to buy a house or car, to start a business, to send your kids to college, who knows! It is up to you to decide what your goals are and more than likely, your goals do not include credit card debt so you could get golf clubs because your buddy decided to take it up (and probably abandon it a few months later).

Surround Yourself with Like-minded People

While you are not likely to find a whole group of frugal friends, you likely already know someone who can at least provide support for you. Maybe you can find a friend and make reaching your goals a mutual challenge. Challenge Rob to a "who gets this paid off first" contest. 
When it comes down to it, how you spend your money and what your personal goals are are your business alone. Friends will either support and accept your goals and the limits they place on your budget, or they won't. Friends who don't want to hang out anymore because you can't afford a monthly gym membership just simply aren't worth your time, and it isn't likely that your friends will have such a lack of understanding.

Stand Firm in Your Goal 

You know what you want in life, don't feel bad that you want to stick to your plans and achieve your dreams. Telling your friends politely, but firmly that something is just outside of your budget is not a crime. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the words "I cannot afford to do that right now" and more truer words have likely never been spoken. Not only is this being honest, it is empowering too, as you are sticking up for goals that you set for yourself, and are not bending to the will of someone else.
You do not have to abandon your friends and live a paupers existence to meet your goals, but cut back on the costly trips to bar and exchange those for potlucks (with beer) at your apartment or something similar in nature. This means that everyone still gets to hang out without it breaking anyone's bank in the process. Peer pressure should never cost your goals.
The economy is awful right now and many people are in the same proverbial boat. You might find your friends relieved when you make more fiscally responsible suggestions for social events as they may be struggling with their own financial limitations too.
While it is not easy to say no, think about the future. You do not get to your goal of being free of student loan debt, or owning your own home, by throwing money wildly into the wind for every little thing. Our friends, while they mean well, can often end up draining us financially if we do not set limits early on as to what we are capable of. Surrounding yourself with friends who will respect these goals and even share them will make it much easier to stick to your proverbial guns so you can get where you want to be. Standing firm and saying "sorry, I just can't afford that right now" is part and parcel to reaching that goal of truly being debt free.
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Alice Bryant's picture

Alice Bryant is the Editor of Creditnet and a personal finance expert with over a decade of experience writing about credit cards, credit scores, debt repair, and more.

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