At the end of the summer, I found myself limping towards the Labor Day finish line with my wallet bleeding out the few remaining pennies I had reserved for one last Friday rooftop hangout. For someone who gets anxious about not having enough friends, I certainly can’t afford to have any more. On a rare streak of stress-induced fiscal clarity, I decided to take a closer look at my July expenditures. It turns out, I spent $594.66 — or 21% of my take-home income after retirement and taxes — on hanging out with my friends. I feel insane. It’s not like I buy super-expensive cocktails or get bottle service. My Yelp filter is set to one or two dollar signs and I pack most of my lunches. So what happened? I assume it’s not too dissimilar than what happens with most of my peers. It’s summer. That means all-day birthday parties, Summer Friday happy hour, and friends visiting from out of town. My summer was probably much like yours or any other twentysomething trying to prioritize her friends. Unfortunately, all that socializing left me feeling like I’m pouring money down the drain. Living in a major city, there’s pressure to keep up with those who might make more than you. And in New York, where it can take an hour or more to ride the subway between neighborhoods — and most apartments can’t fit a crowd — we often end up meeting out. Add to that FOMO (I truly suffer from it) and I’m happily handing over my credit card for the promise of a fun time with friends. Ahead, I’ve broken down my costs to see how I spent such a formidable chunk of my income just playing with my friends. Sadly, this is probably a low estimate, seeing as I didn’t keep track of all of my cash expenses. Maybe next month, I’ll stick to drinking $8 six-packs and hosting game night in the comfort of my home.
Sometimes, it’s easiest to catch up with a friend over a quick lunch or a low-key dinner after work. I meet up with friends one-on-one about once a week, sometimes we’ll meet before hanging out with a larger group. I don’t usually get more than one drink — and we usually choose reasonably priced restaurants — but it’s crazy how quickly it adds up.
My friend recently got a new job and had a drinks night to celebrate. As usual, I was one of the last to leave — and spent more than $40 on five glasses of wine. Additionally, in a moment of weakness, I let myself get talked into sharing a cab from Brooklyn to Harlem. Note to self: You can handle an hour ride on the subway.
One of my best friends rode the bus from Cincinnati for a short stay as a way to celebrate both our birthdays. Living in the coolest city in the country means that I regularly have visitors coming to see the sights (and the best girl they know). Unfortunately, I usually use these visits as an excuse to splurge, which would be fine if I wasn’t hosting out-of-towners once a month. I normally cover a few rounds of drinks and potentially even a meal, because I know it’s expensive to travel and I’m genuinely so happy to have a visitor. This weekend was no different. However, we managed to keep the costs fairly low with some free adventures — a full day at Rockaway Beach (where we packed our own snacks with friends) and an afternoon exploring Central Park. We only stopped once to shop — at one of my favorite bookstores, Kinokuniya — and I somehow managed to escape without purchasing anything.
Luckily, the only other birthday party this month was on a friend’s rooftop, which was relatively cheap. I think it’s important to go to birthday parties you’re invited to as a nice way to show your friend some extra love, even if it makes my wallet a little thin. The birthday girl had drinks at a cute cocktail bar, which means double-digit prices, regardless of happy hour. I knew it was going to be an expensive night, so I had a free snack in the office and a late dinner when I got home to avoid spending money on food. But I had to show my love for the guest of honor, so I bought her a drink to celebrate.
Every year, my boyfriend and I take a bus down to D.C. to celebrate the Fourth of July with a good friend. This year’s trip included a BBQ, so we pitched in some cash for a pasta salad to share and came with a six-pack. Before boarding the bus for the return trip, we grabbed a final brunch with our host. My boyfriend and I split the bill. The ticket was paid on last month’s credit card statement, and wasn’t included here.
Throughout the month, I was busy with a handful of different events, including supporting a new friend’s band, going out with another couple for drinks, and staying out late after a house party. My drink of choice is normally a whiskey and Coke, which can cost up to $8 in Manhattan. There is rarely a night out where I don’t buy a drink for someone else. At first glance, roughly $600 doesn’t seem too stiff for a month of birthdays, drinks, and dinners, but when you look at it as a chunk of your income, it’s easy to understand how much of an impact your friends have on your wallet. A lot of these expenses seem unavoidable, but by laying out expenses, it becomes clear where I could cut out some extra dollars. And to my friends: I love you. My wallet does not.