How do friends influence your spending habits?

Great post over at Get Rich Slowly today from one of their guest writers, Neal Frankle: Peer Pressure and Money: Do You Spend Differently with Friends?

It definitely made me think about my spending habits when I’m out with friends. For the most part, I don’t tend to spend more. If my best friend and I go to the mall, and I’m not there to buy anything in particular, chances are that I won’t come home with anything. Not one thing.

But not everyone is as rigid and disciplined as I am with my money.

I’ll admit, it’s harder when you’re out to dinner with friends, especially at a new restaurant. What do you do when your budget only calls for spending a certain amount of $$$ on the meal? I think the natural response is to avoid alcoholic drinks (a total money-suck) and order something tasty but not expensive — pasta over the surf ‘n’ turf, perhaps. Then, when the bill comes, someone suggests splitting it equally.

What do you do? It’s hard to be the “jerk” and suggest everyone pay their exact share, but sometimes it’s the thing to do. I usually take the responsibility of divvying up the bill among close friends, because we all have a handle on each other’s financial situations. It’s not awkward because they understand.

But if you’re going out with acquaintances or new friends, I suggest going with the expectation of paying more than your “share” — if you can’t afford it, then don’t go.

How do you handle the unenviable situation of bill-splitting at a bar or restaurant? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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