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How to Manage Expensive Invitations When You Cannot Afford Them e.g. Weddings, Dinners, Baby Showers

How to Manage Expensive Invitations When You Cannot Afford Them e.g. Weddings, Dinners, Baby Showers

5 Tips to Manage Expensive Invitations and Events

Some stages of life can get expensive when friends and family are inviting us to expensive dinners, we have weddings to attend and it seems everyone is having a baby.

How can you afford it or how can you politely say no?

Recently, a lovely reader emailed and asked me to address this.

“Just wondering if you could address an issue I am facing with trying to be Thrifty ……How to diplomatically say No to expensive outings with friends. Recently I have been asked to dinner and the restaurants have been super expensive. I am now declining most invitations as I don’t see the value in spending on pricey food.”

So what can you do?

1. Evaluate How Important The Event Is

Before feeling guilty for not being able to afford something, evaluate how important an event is and the people involved.

If it is an extremely important event and close friends or family, you might want to look at options to afford it (tips on that further down). Anything that would negatively impact your career if you didn’t attend is important.

Expensive lunches or dinners with friends are important in the sense that social connections and relationships matter. They aren’t important enough to go into debt or stress over though.

Remaining close to your circle of friends can be done without expensive dinners or events. Do activities together that you all enjoy and are free or super cheap, see tip 3 for ideas.

When I was younger, I tried to attend every event, every dinner, lunch, work function, and anything I was invited to. It was exhausting and expensive.

Now, few of those people are in my life and hardly any of those events I attended matter. Some weddings, some birthdays and similar but most were for people who didn’t matter, or the work events didn’t advance my career.

Be ruthless with this, especially if you are on a budget or have big financial goals you are working on. Truly evaluate how important this event is and how important it will be in 5, 10, 20 years’ time.

2. How Much Does This Person Matter To You?

Along with how important the event is to areas of your life, ask yourself how much does this person mean to you?

Some people only take from us or are only there when they need something and aren’t true friends. People who treat you that way do not need to be a priority in your life (or in your life at all).

Those who are close to you and value you will understand if you can’t attend or can’t afford something. They’ll be open to other suggestions for things to do together because they want you in their life.

In my 20s this was hard to do and to see. As life progressed, my budget changed and my time was limited, I had to be more decisive about what I went to and who I spent time with.

Once I started declining invitations to events, it became clear who was only using me or the relationship was one-sided, and my life became easier. Their reactions said a lot about our friendship and since I had already taken the time to review whether this relationship was mutually beneficial or not, I was confident in my decisions.

They often faded out of my life and I felt better for it.

Your time, money and choices matter. Just because you’ve known someone since high school or played on the same sports team, doesn’t mean they need to be in your life forever or that you even have anything in common now.

I’m not saying to get rid of everyone in your life. Evaluate your relationships (friends, family and colleagues) to see how you feel about them all, how you are treated, what you have in common and what value you add to each other’s lives.

3. Brain Storm Alternatives

Please do not go suggesting alternatives about wedding plans, engagements, baby showers or similar as you are likely to offend. There are some exceptions to that but in general, it’s a big no.

Write down activities you enjoy doing and are either free or cheap. Think about your friends, the people who are inviting you out and things they might enjoy doing. Here are some suggestions.

Expensive Dinners/Lunches etc.

Instead of sitting down for an expensive meal somewhere, see if they’d be open to doing an activity. for a walk along the beach or a bushwalk, going to see some live music for free, attending a trivia night or similar.

When meeting up, many of my friends and I go for a walk with the kids in the pram and have a cup of tea or something we brought from home.

Check out a new class together as many offer your first one free. This could be a dance class, martial arts, yoga or similar. Look at options in your local area to see what there is and book it in.

If they really want a meal, consider a potluck or see if they are willing to go somewhere cheaper. Look for places you can get discounts, use coupons or that have a specific time with cheaper options.

Weddings/Engagements/Baby Showers

You can’t suggest an alternative to the actual wedding but you might be able to suggest alternatives to some of the expenses you will incur. For example, if it is a destination wedding you might be able to stay at cheaper accommodation.

Instead of the gift registry, consider a personalised gift or see if you can get what they want for less elsewhere. Most do wishing wells now though and not gift registries for weddings and engagements.

Gifts for baby showers can be simpler, for example, your favourite book as a child with a message inside as to why you love it and your hopes for the baby.

Borrow your outfit for the wedding instead of buying something new or look at options to do it affordably. At one black tie wedding I attended, I was able to make a dress out of a $2 satin sheet and I received numerous compliments for it.

Anyone who truly wants you at the wedding/engagement party/baby shower or who values you will understand your budget limitations.

4. Decline Invitations

Declining invitations diplomatically can be daunting, especially if you have always said yes and tried to accommodate everyone. Here is where learning boundaries, evaluating what you want in your life and what matters to you will really count.

“No, thank you.” is sometimes enough, depending on who you are saying it to and what the event is. You do not owe anyone an excuse or reason. If you give them one, you are opening the door for them to offer solutions or to pressure you into it.

If you want something more eloquent, try these or a variation of them, depending on how you normally speak and who you are speaking to.

“I am honoured you thought of me, unfortunately, I’ll be unable to attend.”

“I appreciate the invitation. I can’t attend this one though.”

Use words such as honoured, appreciate, thank you etc to convey you genuinely value them.

If you feel the need to add more, you can add “Unfortunately I am booked out” or “Unfortunately I have another engagement, maybe another time?”

Remember though, the more details you add, the more they might press you for information to ensure you can come or push you into coming.

For those friends who continue inviting you to expensive dinners and events that simply don’t work for you but you do want to do things with them, I strongly encourage you to speak to them about it and work out alternatives.

5. Budget It In/Find More Money

When the event and/or people involved are extremely important to you, you can’t avoid it and have to find a way to pay for it, here are some tips.

Budget it into your regular budget if you have the time to save for it and space in your budget to do that. If that’s not possible, you’ll need to find ways to make more to afford it.

Try 23 ways to make money in 2023 and 43 ways for single mums to make money. Open a separate account for this event or if it is regular lunches/dinner, an account specifically for those.

Decide on an amount you are comfortable with and start putting the extra you earn into the account to pay for the events.

If you are able to find ways to cut costs for it, that can help with budgeting it. Use these 9 tips to get discounts and cashback on whatever it is you are doing.

How do you handle affording these events or declining them?

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