You’ve cut back. Your friends keep spending. What now?

Follow your priorities, not someone else's.

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    You've cut back on spending but your friends keep spending on things that no longer interest you. What do you do?
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Kelly writes in:

In the past three months, I’ve paid off all but $2,000 of my credit card debt. I feel happier about my money than I have in a long time. The only problem is that my social life seems to be falling apart. I don’t have as much interest in the things my friends are spending their money and time on and I find myself doing other things a lot. What do you suggest?

Bear with me for a second as I go down a bit of a strange road.

I’ll admit it. I’m not a good housekeeper, and neither is my wife.

Yes, we keep our house reasonably clean and we make an extra effort to clean when guests come over, but on a day to day basis, housework is lower on our priority list than it seems to be for many other people that we know. Quite often, we do minimal cleanup during the week and wait until Saturday for a real housecleaning – and, even then, we don’t scrub the walls or things like that on a regular basis.

Our priorities are simply different. There’s no wrong or right about it. Some people value housecleaning more than we do. A few of our closest friends spend literally hours each day on housecleaning because keeping their house sparkling is a very high priority for them.

So what’s a high priority for us? Time with our kids and with each other. Learning new things. Finding ways to have fun without spending a mint.

If we were to simply follow the lead of some of the people in our social circle, we would probably spend more than we do. One of my closest friends is becoming a small-scale land baron. Another one buys lots of Leroy Nieman serigraphs and, on occasion, original art. Yet another close friend really, really values his three automobiles.

Our money goes towards financial stability, because that’s what we value.

Placing that value highly, even if it’s not in line with what our friends seem to value, hasn’t damaged our deepest, most important friendships. You don’t have to value exactly what others value – you just have to respect it.

Instead, our friendships are usually based on the things we do have in common. Almost all of our friends really enjoy hosting and attending evenings full of board games, usually with a potluck meal. Even though there’s a variety of political perspectives, we all value political discussions that don’t turn into insults, so we often discuss politics together in a setting that would often result in arguments and fights. We all value reading and learning new things. None of us, at this point, is in a bad financial state, as we all have our debts under control.

For all of the things we do differently, we have those key things in common. You don’t have to do what your friends do, and you don’t have to value all of the same things that your friends value.

If you value living frugally, that’s fine. You don’t have to spend like your friends do. Instead, find ways to accentuate the things you do have in common. What do you both value? That’s the basis of a strong friendship.

Kelly, it seems to me that you’ve adopted stronger financial practices as a significant value in your life, and that’s great. It’ll help you to stay afloat no matter what the river of life sends your way.

The question is what else there is in your life. What other things do you value? How do you spend your spare time? What do you think about? There’s a good chance that these things still overlap with your friends – and if they do, seek ways to spend time with them that match up with those values.

You might find that your values actually are pretty far away from some of them and that your friendship was really only based on one value, one that you’ve moved away from as you’ve grown as a person. That’s fine – I discovered that myself when I started re-evaluating my life. If that happens, it simply means that it’s time to start socializing in ways that will help you meet people that match up well with your current values.

I firmly believe that if you surround yourself with people who mostly value different things than you do, you will be unhappy. I also firmly believe that if you seek out groups of people with which you share at least some values, you’re likely to build great relationships and friendships. Even better, if you can seek out multiple groups in this way – a group that matches one value you hold dear and another group that matches another value you hold dear – you’ll not only build friendships and relationships, but you’ll be able to make some powerful connections, too.

Good luck!

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