How To Help Your Wallet By Saying “No” To Fun Stuff?

Part of making, and sticking to, a budget that actually works is having to occasionally decline invitations. Often times our friends, family members, and especially our significant others will make requests upon us, which demand the allocation of our resources.

Have you ever thought, “that sounds like a lot of fun, BUT deep down is it worth the cost?”

Surely this decision crosses our minds multiple times a day.  And most of the time, we’re forced to decide upon one of various potential outcomes using the best of our judgement.  The extent to which we allocate resources to the chosen outcome (i.e., how much money it may cost) often influences our decision, one way or another; however, depending upon the significance of the request, our ability to comply may be limited.

For example, my  brother who lives out of town recently was in-town because he was invited to go to a wedding (and apparently his frequent flyer miles were expiring soon).  His ability to decline the invitation (from an ol’ college friend) was somewhat limited; however, the cost of complying with such an out-of-state wedding invitation was probably sufficient enough to warrant a pass this time around.  

This article will attempt to explore the potential consequences of declining invitations, by exploring several aspects of decision-making related to: cost avoidance, relationship building, saving money, and whether this can be considered a skill in itself, or not.

Building Fun Stuff into The Budget

The most common method of developing a financial plan is outlining a budget, either through spreadsheets, smartphone apps, and the like.  Therefore, the first step to learning how to decline invitations is knowing whether it’s truly affordable or not; as part of the budgeting process is determining how much in resources to allocate to various categories.

Similarly, having enough money to pay for something doesn’t mean that it’s affordable either.  The budget should be designed in such a way that spending money reduces the total amount of that spending category by a certain percentage.  For example, let’s say I’ve saved up $280 in my “fun stuff” budget category this month.  When my bro asks me to get drinks on Fri., the cost of compliance for that invitation may be ~$28, or %10 of my total reserve.

Seeing as though we don’t get drinks 10x/month, accepting or complying with his invite seems like a safe bet.

Let’s look at another example:

Every year my buddies from college go on a fishing excursion in the Florida Keys; with more or less the same guys making up the core group, and one or two other people rotate in/out.  It’s a known activity that occurs around the same time of year.  And the related expenses are presumably accounted for during the preceding months.  To be part of the team any given year, I’d have to put my name in the hat well in advance.  Which means having to book a flight or contribute to booking the accommodations to secure my spot in the adventure.

Quite candidly, I haven’t spoken up about making the trek with the gang in five years.  That’s mostly because my budget hasn’t been aligned with the cost of compliance (or vice versa).  As even a $1k “fun stuff” category would be 100% allocated towards financing the various expenses related to such an intensive expedition (our circle is big on fishing).

Furthermore, there’ll likely be fun stuff to do while on this vacation.  Meaning that if $1k were the baseline cost of the fishing trip, I’d still have to plan on additional spending from another budget category (e.g., vacation funds).  Thus, to accept or comply with an invite to the Keys means fully having enough money saved in advance for all related expenses.  And conversely, if the trip’s not in the budget it’d make more sense to pass on going.

So, these two examples highlight why the budget is such a useful tool in aiding our decision-making processes.

As to the percentage of how much a “fun thing” might best cost (in terms of deducting from the appropriate category); it’s difficult to definitively state, but 10 – 33% is probably Okay, with never complying with invitations that cost >50% of my total “fun stuff” budget category at any one time.  Unless it’s a foreseen event like a vacation, which would completely use one or more specific categories (or a large portion of those categories).

Determining Magnitude of Fun Events

The importance in actually declining invitations lies not only within our desire to live frugally.  But also with demands of successfully employing a savings strategy.  And to urge you to consider declining invites with some frequency, consider this: remember how you perceive others who’ve said no to your plans in the past?  How does it make you feel to get non-compliance from friends and/or family members?  You’re probably a little upset temporarily, but are quick to shrug it off and go on with making the best of things.  Right?

Well, that’s exactly what the other person will be doing too.  Hence the importance of determining the significance of fun events.  How’s that done?  By privately ranking the magnitude (or degree of impact) of fun that that event will have comparatively to other similar, and non-similar events.  That way we can more easily determine whether the percentage cost (from above) is appropriate for the benefit we stand to gain by participating, with our full moxie to boot.

Here’s another example to help clarify what I’m talking about.  Every year, some guys get together (some of the same Caribbean fisherman from above) for an annual camping trip; which is dedicated to a fraternity brother of ours who tragically passed away a few years ago.  We honor the fallen brother, and have a great weekend that comes with an affordable price tag.  Specifically, an entire weekend camping might be no more than $100.

Even if my “fun stuff” budget category was only at $400, that’s a relatively comfortable 25% cost.  With the potential to make some pretty terrific memories, the cost v. benefit analysis for complying with this invite is one that seems worth it to me.

Especially since I missed the last *ahem* four years of the trip….  And it’s not likely that the other three weekends of August will be “nearly” as costly either.  Therefore, since the magnitude of the camping weekend is relative to it’s cost, this seems like another safe play.  Had I been invited to a wedding the weekend before or after, the relative magnitude of the camping trip may have been affected (i.e., downgraded); however, with seemingly nothing to compare to within the same month, compliance is probable for that fun thing.


Determining the importance of activities/events will help in the decision-making process, by applying a cost v. benefit analysis of compliance.  And frequency of fun stuff invites may affect our decisions too.

Consequences of Declining Invites

Quick aside: this post is quickly taking on a life-form of it’s own!  It seems as though I have much more to say about this topic than originally anticipated.  And I keep finding new, relevant material to reference as I write this.  Thus, a two-part post may be in the works.  So stay tuned for a sequel, as I try to manage the current post-length of this article.

I’d like to quickly touch upon the consequences of declining invites before wrapping up.  For one, having decided to participate in something vs. respectfully declining means spending money vs. saving it.  The magnitude (i.e., the size and importance) and frequency (i.e., how often) of events that are declined, in this manner, will dictate the rate of savings.  Along these lines, finding fun things to do can come intrinsically; however, humans are social creatures that need interaction to survive.  Without buying and selling goods, there’d be no marketplace.  But that doesn’t necessitate becoming a “Yes man,” who agrees to anything that anybody asks of him/her.  We just have to feel our way through things, because nobody’s goal should be to alienate themselves by constantly burning bridges.

Featured image  courtesy of Traveler, from Conde Nast: Chiles, Hot Air Balloons, And Breaking Bad: The Best of Albuquerque