Although you and your friends at school share similar interests, your financial situations most likely are different. So when it comes to making choices about how each of you uses your money, things can become awkward. Knowing how to deal with it will help you maintain good friendships without breaking your bank.
Eating in—While Your Friends Eat Out
Your friends often may want to eat out or grab drinks instead of going to the cafeteria or staying in. If you have a paid-for meal plan, eating out is like paying for the same meal twice. Try compromising: Go to a couple of meals each week with your friends, but encourage them to eat in, too. Propose a potluck meal or a progressive dinner, stopping by a different person’s dorm or apartment for each course of the meal. If all else fails, suggest eating a meal-plan dinner on campus and going out for dessert or drinks after.
When you do eat out, remember that many restaurants give discounts to students who bring their student IDs. Some restaurants may even coordinate with your school to allow you to eat out and use your meal plan to pay!
Some of your friends may have more money to spend than you do. It may seem as if every time a break comes up in your school calendar, they take trips out of town—or even out of the country. As much as you'd like to go with them, you might not always have the financial resources to join them.
Sit down with your friends and plan ahead for what trips they're thinking of taking. If you know what's coming up, and one trip sounds more fun than another, you can make an effort to budget for it and save enough money. If you are going on a trip, check out ways to Travel on a Budget.
When taking an extravagant vacation is not an option, look to other friends who have budgets that are more aligned with your own financial situation. Don’t be surprised if you find a great group of people with whom you can attend fun, low-cost events closer to home over vacations and school breaks.
Lending Your Car
If you have a car on campus, do your roommates and friends constantly beg for a ride or even ask to borrow your car? Worse, do they not give you gas money for the favor? This may not be too big a deal if you're going to the same place anyway or in the same direction, but over time it can be annoying, inconvenient, and expensive.
Start an upfront policy on money for rides, unless you’re the one inviting others to ride with you. For example, you might require frequent passengers to pay into a gas fund, or have them give you a certain amount of money for gas before you leave for your destination. This way, they’ll learn not to expect a free ride, and you won't be left paying for everything. Be businesslike when explaining your policy and consistent in implementing it.
And as for letting friends drive your car, be cautious. Sure, it's a nice gesture if one of your friends is really in a transportation jam, but if there’s an accident you’re the one who’s responsible for the insurance and liability. Talk with your parents to see what they think about you loaning out your car. If they say no, or if your car insurance doesn't allow anyone but you to drive the car, you've got a built-in reason to refuse requests. If you set a “no driver but me” policy, stick to it—no exceptions.
Saying No to Money Borrowers
If you have more spending money each month than your friends, it's possible your friends will hit you up for cash. They may say they'll pay you back later and then not always follow through.
It may sound hard-nosed, but the easiest way to deal with this is to head it off from the start. Make it known that you simply don't lend money to friends—and then just say “no” any time you’re asked. If you occasionally want to “treat” your friends, that's fine. But lending money to friends knowing that you most likely won't be repaid is just setting yourself up for frustration and resentment.