Every time I’m back at home from college, it seems like money instantly starts flying out of my wallet. It is truly alarming, like my credit card suddenly sprung legs and grew a mind of its own. I am home, triumphant that I have survived another grueling quarter of school. I wanted to celebrate that achievement, ring in the holidays, and enjoy the countless reunions with old friends that occur within these three short weeks. Somehow, this wholesome, simple wish has turned into a spending spree. I feel conflicted about asking to see old friends, knowing that it will probably mean grabbing a cup of coffee or going out to eat. (And I don’t even like coffee! I hate coffee!!!) As terrible as it is, I find myself asking “Is keeping up with this person worth the cost of the meal we’ll sit down to have?” And I’ve decided the answer is no. Let me explain: Meaningful relationships are priceless, but nurturing these relationships should not be financially burdensome. More than anything, it is emotional labor and time that create a strong friendship, but money is often confused for these two things.
I don’t think people like spending money in order to see their friends. But going to Starbucks is so easy, so casual, and devoid of the risk that inviting someone to my house might carry. In case the conversation is stale, I’m free to go once I’ve finished my coffee. Chatter fills the cafe… and any awkward lulls in conversation. Inviting someone to my home would be cheaper but it would also mean more intimacy and fewer social cues to guide the interaction. I think it’s a trade well worth making, good for both wallets and the relationship!
This week, my last week of Winter Break, I took a stand against grabbing coffee. Instead, I used my creativity and frugal muscle to find other ways to see my friends. My friend Michelle and I spent a day together cooking, talking, and playing with her dog at her house. I hadn’t had a chance all of break to spend time with her one-on-one, and it was great to talk to her in the cozy setting of her home rather than a loud, busy restaurant. On New Year’s Eve, my best friend who had just finished a summer abroad in Spain came over ring in the new year with me. We made sangria (one of her favorites in Spain), popped microwave popcorn, and watched the Grinch on Netflix while cuddling up in bed. We were out by 12:05am on January 1st. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to start the new year.