I have a friend who’s doing well financially now, but was struggling a few years ago. She spoke to me once about a rough patch she was having.
A friend of hers was having a destination wedding outside the country. She was supposed to be a bridesmaid, and the expenses were really adding up. The cost of her ticket, hotel, and dress were going to be almost $2,000. She was having a hard time just paying her rent and student loans. Our conversation went like this.
Her: I just don’t know how I’m going to do this. The wedding is in 4 months, and I don’t have anything saved. I’m going to have to put the whole thing on credit cards, and I won’t be able to pay them back for a while.
Me: I know it sucks, but maybe you shouldn’t go. You could give her your apologies and send her a nice gift. Then you could take her and her husband out for dinner when they get back.
Her: (shocked) I can’t not go! She’s a good friend of mine. How can I not be her bridesmaid?
Me: She has to know having a destination wedding is expensive. I’m sure she would understand. She wouldn’t want you to put yourself in so much debt to be her bridesmaid.
Her: You just don’t get it. I have to go.
The conversation pretty much ended there, and the relationship between this friend and I was a bit frosty for a few weeks afterwards. She wound up going to the wedding, and I guess by this point those expenses are paid off.
I’m aware it sounds like she might have been indirectly asking me for a loan during this conversation. But I know her well enough to know that wasn’t the case. She was just venting. I guess she wasn’t happy with my advice, but she wasn’t mad I didn’t offer her money.
I’ve spoken in the past about spending money on the things that matter to you. I absolutely believe in that. So maybe that’s what my friend was doing about this wedding. I’m not saying I think it was a bad decision to go, but I also don’t think she had to go. Her friend probably would’ve been disappointed if she couldn’t come. But she most likely would’ve understood that a lot of people don’t have the budget for that kind of wedding.
People often spend money on things they think are necessary. But if they sit back and think about those things, are they really necessary? Is renovating your kitchen because it looks out-dated really necessary? Is getting a new car because your old car looks bad (but still runs fine) really necessary? Is buying something for your co-worker’s kid’s fundraiser really necessary?
It can seem like you have no options in all these situations. But there are always options. They may not be ideal options, but they’re options.
Don’t let what you want to do seem like an obligation. When it comes to spending money, there are few things that are absolutely necessary.