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Why The “F*ck It” Mentality Is Harming Friendships

Photographed by Sophie Hur.
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You have good intentions. Tonight, you will spend $40 on your dinner out with a friend. They suddenly suggest, “Shall we share a bottle of wine?” and later, “Let’s just take a look at the dessert menu?” You fear checking your bank account notifications, as the money keeps being spent. New total spend: $70.
Our friends would never want us to overspend or panic over our finances, and yet it’s easiest to throw financial caution to the wind because we’re enjoying ourselves in their company. Joy, 28, who wants to keep her surname private so as not to offend her friends, routinely finds herself caught in this pattern. She says: “I’m definitely a ‘f*ck it’ kind of person when with my friends and eating and drinking out. I’d always rather spend my money on experiences or having a good time.” She’s also “played the inevitable game of transferring” between her current account, savers account, and uses a credit card to get through the month.
“This is such a common occurrence for me,” she says. “Recently I popped into a bar near the office with some pals from work, for what we insisted was only going to be one quick drink. I got a beer to keep the cost low (£6, great) ($11.70 AUD) but before we knew it, I was speeding off for the last train home after we had paid £62 ($121 AUD) per person, after several bottles of wine and multiple portions of truffle fries. It was only Tuesday.” For Joy, it’s a “rare occurrence” to push back on friends when they suggest activities that will heighten the bill, even though they all talk about money more these days, given the cost of living crisis. It’s so easy to say “f*ck it” once the good times have already started, especially when surrounded by those whose company we love. The greatest drain on your bank account might inadvertently be your friends.
A study published this summer found 36% of American Gen Z and millennials have a friend who “drives them to overspend”, with the consequences being as severe as causing them to get into debt. Millennials and Gen Z say dining out, drinking and nights out are the biggest source of financial drain when with friends, as well as holidays, clothing and birthdays. The main reasons for doing this are that they don’t want to feel left out, they struggle to say no, and they want to please their friends.
While there’s no shame in treating yourself and a spontaneous night with friends can boost our mood, overspending can have severe mental repercussions — especially when it’s done routinely. An interesting relationship exists between spending and mental health. It is not uncommon for people to spend to make themselves feel better, but then a cycle of spending and experiencing anxiety and lowered mood can also occur when we spend too much,” says Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo, a chartered psychologist. “Impulsive spending can have far-reaching effects. You can easily find yourself with repeating patterns of behaviour and where factors such as alcohol (a disinhibitor) and peer pressure are involved, this can be a losing battle.”
Interestingly, the more we break a rule we set for ourselves — such as a budget — the more likely we are to continue that pattern of behaviour. Dr Quinn-Cirillo says: “Although flexibility in how we live our lives is important at times, consistency is key to adhering to boundaries.” Varying incomes within friendship circles can complicate this further. Roisin*, 28, who doesn’t want to share her real name as she’s a teacher, is on a very different income to her friends, who work a mix of typically higher paid industries. “For my best friend’s birthday, she planned a day out. We started at Harry’s in St Christopher’s Place before moving to a number of Mayfair bars. While it was an incredible day and so much fun, I spent around £245 ($480 AUD) in one afternoon.” It doesn’t help that she previously worked in a more lucrative industry too, so got used to spending more to maintain a lifestyle that now is hard to achieve when spending less. We may also be at different life stages as our friends, for example, if we’re living solo while they are in a dual income household, or we have a child, own a home, and a whole host of other financial responsibilities.
Overspending when socialising is a “common issue” for Roisin, because, she explains: “I don’t think my friends always understand how much less my pay is compared to theirs. I am one of the only ones in my friendship group to own their own home, so I am even more torn at times because I’m not sure they understand just how much goes out of my account on payday. I struggle to turn plans down as it’s uncomfortable to talk about money, and I think I put pressure on myself to cling too much to the life I had before, filled with incredible restaurants, bars, holidays.”
Because she overspends when socialising, Jasmine, 30, who also doesn’t want to risk offending friends by sharing her full name, “always dreads” looking at her bank account — even after getting paid. “Seeing as I’ve essentially re-started my entire career in the last year, I’ve got friends who are much further along, which means they have more money,” she says. Her friends are conscious of this, but still Jasmine has to “take it upon” herself to tell her friends “No, not until I’ve been paid” as the end of the month nears. “Oftentimes I’ll push back and ask to do something more budget friendly like cook at someone’s flat instead of going out, or spending more time on a walk instead of at the pub. There has also been a lot of language used on TikTok lately around ‘money comes back, time doesn’t’, which doesn’t help this mindset.”
In fact, this phrase has 26.1 million views, and counting, on TikTok. It promotes an attitude of being carefree with money, with the logic being that you can earn more, while your days to enjoy yourself are limited. It’s the Gen Z answer to the attitudes of yesteryear: work hard, play hard, or easy come easy go. This outlook is fun to defend when you’re two cocktails down while laughing the night away with friends, but the next day it might have you grimacing. James Jones, financial expert at Experian, tells us to tread with caution. “If your friends are ‘enablers’ it’s likely you’ll need to work on developing your financial discipline,” he says. “It is possible to prioritise your financial wellbeing while still being able to have a nice time with your friends. The way to do this is to have clear financial goals, to talk to your friends and hold each other accountable, and use bill-splitting apps like Spitwise so that you’re only paying for what you’ve had on a night out, instead of someone else’s glass of wine.” 
So much of our friendships revolve around consumption — activity hang outs, bars, restaurants — but there’s also a growing call for socialising in lower-spend ways, like having a night in together. Dr Quinn-Cirillo adds: “If we live too rigidly this may mean we miss out on valued activities and time with others. However, we can also assert boundaries around what we do with others. How can we connect with people in other ways? Being creative and flexible about how we socialise is important. By speaking honestly with your friends, you may be surprised to find you’re not alone in your concerns. We can get a little caught up in herd instinct, which means following what others are doing. Start off by practising what you would like to say when these situations arise.”
As Joy puts it: “Ultimately, we’re all adults with different financial situations; our expenses are our own to make without judgement from others.”
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