They say money can’t buy you love, but sometimes you need to spend a little to stop yourself from losing touch with the rest of the human race (and no, your boss and the gossipy aunties in the office don’t count).
Still, even if you’re the sort who’s content with a round of kopitiam Tigers, your friends might have long abandoned their uniform of Red Bull singlets and flip flops in favour of tailored shirts and cufflinks.
Does that mean you’re doomed to having to replace your entire social circle? Not necessarily. Here’s how to keep group outings affordable without having everyone bail on you.
1. Be the organiser
If you find that you’re getting left out of more and more outings and you seem to say “bo jio” more than you actually go out, let me tell you first that it’s probably got nothing to do with the fact that you don’t want to spend millions on a night out.
Instead, it’s probably got more to do with the fact that you always shrug your shoulders indifferently and say “dunno” when people ask for suggestions on what to do, or complain that other people’s suggestions suck without offering any of your own.
Take things into your own hands by organising some outings yourself. Your friend just broke up with his long-term girlfriend and wants to party? No problem if you can find a good happy-hour or free-entry night (Tuesday night at Ku De Ta, anyone?). But if you keep silent you only have yourself to blame when you find yourself standing in the queue fishing for $35 to pay the bouncers with.
2. Don’t whine and complain
Nobody wants to go out with someone who whines, complains and tries to guilt-trip them when they suggest something a little more expensive. So don’t be that person.
Even if you want to deflect an expensive suggestion by suggesting something cheaper, do it in a tactful way instead of passive aggressively trying to make everyone feel bad that they’re earning more than you. Similarly, it’s fine to be upfront with your financial situation, but remind everyone that you’re broke one time too many and things are going to start getting uncomfortable.
One of my friends tells people he’s allergic to shopping or runs off to play a couple of rounds of Street Fighter at the arcade when his girlfriend tries to drag him out for a spot of retail therapy with her girlfriends. She takes his behaviour a lot better than she would if he were to complain about how much she spends or how tight his budget is.
3. Tactfully suggest something else
Trying to steer a group in the right direction is like being a politician. Come across as pushy and autocratic and you will face resistance. But charm the masses into thinking they picked your suggestion unbidden and you will ruffle no feathers while getting to enjoy a cheaper activity than the overpriced hotel buffet or gimmicky mass run your friends picked at the start.
There’s always that one guy in the group whose suggestions everyone always ends up adopting. Notice he’s not the one skulking around in the corner or the one who says “okay lor” to everything. These people are usually incurably enthusiastic about their own awesome suggestions rather than take-it-or-leave-it indifferent.
4. Show up, even if you don’t stick around for everything
Thanks to our overcrowded urban landscape, an evening out on the town often means being herded from one place to another. Overstay your welcome at a cafe and you’re then on to your next destination before the waiters come after you with parang. And at each destination, your wallet bleeds money.
Of course, the cheapest option would be to flat-out reject any activities that don’t fall within your budget. But do that more than 3 times in a row and you can be sure your friends are going to start feeling alienated. The trick is to show your face and get some social interaction while artfully dodging the more expensive activities.
How do you keep costs down when you go out with your friends?