|Frugal Friendship: |
Spending Time Without Spending Money
By Michelle Cushatt
Whether facing an insurmountable giant in my marriage or struggling to teach and tame my in-progress children, a good friend has often been the calming presence. More times than I can count, a friend came through at just the right moment with the perfect encouragement or advice.
Although I’ve long believed in the importance of relationships, recently my investment in this one area created a drain in another. With the ailing economy and a limited disposable income, my time with friends began to put a squeeze on our bank account.
Most of my friend time centered on food — usually the purchase of food. Whether coffee dates, girls’ nights out, McDonalds play dates or popcorn at the movies, food and finances seemed to go hand in hand. For a while I declined invitations to meet for lunch or grab a coffee. While my checkbook appreciated the break, my heart missed the shared community.
That’s when the concept of frugal friendship took shape. What if I intentionally crafted time with friends that didn’t require any monetary investment? Food could still be involved, but neither the food nor the financial strain needed to be central to the friendship equation. With a touch of creativity, I crafted a list of frugal friendship alternatives:
Get Physical: Take a walk, meet at the gym, go for a hike, ride bikes, train for a race. More than all the others, exercise has been my greatest frugal friendship investment, with the added bonus of better health.
Meet a Need: Serve together at the local rescue mission, volunteer at a children’s home, make a meal for a struggling family. Identify a need and partner with a friend in meeting it.
Start a Clothes Swap: Organize a clothes swap with a circle of friends. Each person contributes items they’re tired of wearing or that don’t fit. Take turns choosing one item at a time until every item is gone. Donate anything that’s left.
Tag-Team House Clean: Sharing house cleaning makes a chore seem tolerable, even fun! Block off one full day. Start at one house, followed by a break for a sack lunch. After lunch, move on to the other house, listening to music or sharing conversation while mopping and scrubbing.
Become Petition Partners: Years ago I met with a friend every Saturday for one hour to pray, in response to the struggles of her son. Over time, we included prayers for other family members. It’s now been over a decade, but those quiet mornings of shared prayer remain one of my sweetest — and most inexpensive! — friendship memories.
Rotate Brunch: Take turns hosting breakfast once a month. Keeping it both simple and homebound (rather than a restaurant) eliminates much of the expense without missing out on the treasured conversation.
Picnic at the Park: Nothing beats a sack lunch, warm sunshine and a shared blanket with children and friends.
Michele Cushatt is an author and speaker (michelecushatt.com). She’s also a wife and mother of three boys, ages 17, 16 and 12.