It seems like all of my friends are either getting married or having babies. While I love my friends, I can't afford all the parties and gifts that I'm expected to pay for! I am in debt and can't afford my own groceries let alone all of these celebrations. What should I do?
– Natalie, 28, Los Angeles
The decade between 25 and 35 is fraught with friend expenses: Weddings and baby showers and new homes, oh my! Here's how to afford the high cost of other people's happiest moments.
Acknowledge the Pressure
It's normal to feel that you are supposed to splurge on a dear friend's wedding or baby shower. It's part of the tradition, right? Wrong.
I've checked with hip etiquette expert Anna Post, and while you should always send a congratulatory card, you're under no obligation to buy a gift or pay for an event that you can't afford. Really.
That said, you may need to be straight with your friends about your circumstances—and there are discreet ways to do that. In some cases, giving a modest gift speaks for itself. A good friend won't fault you for being cheap if you give a $30 wedding gift.
The trouble is when you're invited to a big event, like a weekend celebration, that requires a plane ticket, hotel room or some other big-ticket commitment. At that point, you have to figure out what you can afford, and gently explain it to your friend.
Will that feel uncomfortable? Will you hate missing some of the fun? You bet. But you have to pick your poison: Sadness in the name of financial sanity—or digging yourself deeper into the hole.