A Letter to Your Friends

Dear Friends, I have a budget now.

If you’ve started budgeting and have wanted to tell your friends about it, but haven’t had the courage/know-how/time to do so, we’ve got you covered. Feel free to make this your own and share it around. 

Dear Friends,

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter. Maybe when I was applying to college? No, it was probably when I was applying to be a contestant on Survivor. Anyway, I’m writing you a letter because I’d prefer not to have to say these words out loud. Sure, I could text you or shoot you a Snapchat, but brevity and my slight uncomfortableness (I’m sure that’s a word) with this topic probably won’t play nice.

Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve changed? That’s a question. If you’re shaking your head, then stop reading this, tear this letter up, and/or light your computer on fire. But if you have noticed a change, maybe you haven’t been able to quite put your finger on what’s up. Do I seem a little more antisocial? A little more reserved in accepting invitations to hang? A little more prone to use the :\ instead 😀 in my texts?

I never intended to keep a secret. If it’s no one’s business but my own, it’s not really a secret. So if you’re keeping track at home, it’s a secret, but it’s not a secret — shhh! But even if I don’t need to explain myself, I want to. Some days I feel a little lonely, and some days are kind of hard. Don’t get me wrong — everything is fine. More than fine. In fact, I’ve never felt more freedom and control. But it’s complicated.

You see, I’m on a budget. And a pretty tight one to boot. I realized the old me (the younger one) wasn’t doing my bank account any favors. My financial trajectory was going nowhere fast. And I don’t want nowhere. I’ve got big dreams, peeps! Besides being a Survivor contestant, I want to be debt free. I want to get out of this paycheck to paycheck crap. And then I want the good stuff: owning a home, helping my kids with college, affording vacations, retiring comfortably. Despite my prior attitudes, those things aren’t trivial to me. Not anymore.

I’m not there yet. I’m still deep in the trenches, head down and trudging forward (don’t worry, I still believe in showering and stuff). But I’m making progress. To my credit, I am farther along with this than the 6,000 DIY projects I’ve pinned on Pinterest and said I’d do. In short, I’m trying to make sacrifices today that will make tomorrow better. My parents would be proud of that last sentence. I kinda want to delete it now.

Here are some of my recent oddities you may have noticed:

  • Bringing my lunch – I don’t actually love eating homemade sandwiches and leftovers as much as it may seem. But if PB&J’ing all day erryday is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Scratch that, I do.
  • Drinking coffee from the break room – I miss the cute barista at Starbucks, as well as hearing them announce my given name, Beastmaster, when my drink is ready. But the office coffee is getting the job done just fine.
  • Inviting you to a Saturday morning matinee – Seriously though, those Saturday morning matinees can’t be beat for the price or the rows upon rows of empty chairs I can call my own.
  • Checking books out at the library – The 90’s are dead, but lucky for me, checking out books from the library is still a real thing. No, it really is. The money I used to spend on buying books can now be spent on a different splurge — I actually have to pick and choose them now.
  • Murder face when someone suggests we split the check – Oh no you didn’t! I got a water, an appetizer for a meal, and used all restraint in my being from getting the tres leches cake so that I could stay on budget. I’ll pay for myself, thankyouverymuch.
  • Giving homemade gifts – I’m getting better at knitting every day, and your birthday’s coming up…
  • Passing on dinner for dessert – As much as I love a good meal out, my bossy budget says “nope.” So when I suggest that I’ll meet you after for dessert instead, it’s not because I’m trying to ruin your diet or make you fat. Promise.
  • Calling the great outdoors my new gym – Okay, so I didn’t give up my gym membership because I hate bros. I mean, I do hate them. But my budget hates them (and the monthly gym fee) more.

More of these will be added to the list before this is through. Maybe I’ll cancel cable to save up for a mini-vacay. Or nix the weekly doughnut run. Nah, probably not that one. But mark my words, I’m going to do it. I’m serious about getting serious about my money.

But I need you to know one last thing.

I’m still the same me. (Yay! or Sorry to disappoint! depending on who’s reading this.) I’m still the same person who loves all the nice stuff I used to buy in a “treat yo’self” moment. I even kind of miss seeing the gym bros. But for the time being, my priorities have just shifted a little. And I want it this way.

Please don’t stop inviting me to do stuff that costs money. And please don’t offer to pay for me. Sometimes I’ll join you, and other times I won’t. This is my journey, and I don’t want it to affect you or our friendship in any way. But I wanted you to know about it because it’s kind of a big deal in my life right now. And I’m terrible at keeping secrets.

Anyway, Taco Tuesday’s coming up… join me for some half-off tacos?

All my love,


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  • Reply Katie April 1, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Oh, I adore this! I am tempted to copy/paste and tweak/personalize and send it to my friends and family 🙂 Thanks!

  • Reply Katie Ball April 1, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Also, friends: I cannot come to your Noonday or Matilda Jane or Rodan+ Fields or Plexus parties! As much as I want to, I will not buy anything from you during this time of Extreme Budgeting… but I am happy to look through your catalogs and daydream! 🙂

    Poor Me

  • Reply Sarah April 1, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Also also, friends: It is literally impossible for me to take that spontaneous weekend trip to that nice beach resort with less than a week’s notice. Yes, I know that it is going to be cheap when split up between couples. Yes, I know that you really want me to go and it will be fun. But the budget says no. This is why me and my budget are frenemies. #iwillhateitandloveitforlife

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      Agreed. Much of while Johnny and I were paying down our student loans, I had a 90% hate 10% love relationship with our budget!

  • Reply Reece April 1, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    This is actually brilliant.
    What I found, when I stopped going out for a while, was that some of my friends were doing it too. It was only once we spoke about it that we realised we were both working towards buying our first houses, and that’s why we’d been acting that way!
    From then, it was actually really nice to have the guys around me who were going through the same. We helped support each other, and instead of going out every weekend…..well, we stayed in and got wasted at home and watching crappy films instead of going out. Much cheaper, same hangover, job jobbed!
    Thanks for sharing, this letter really did entertain me!

  • Reply Rachel April 1, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Just bought tickets for four different events. Me and the budget need to get better acquainted again.

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Haha, happens to the best of us!

  • Reply Tamara S. April 1, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Hi, I just wanted to thank you for your blog. I enjoy reading your posts. I wanted to let you know that after reading a few of your posts it was the reminder… and final push for myself to set up 529K plans for each of my kids. So far we are just putting $100 a month into each of their accounts, but at least its something and we hope to add more here and there. My goal is for each of them to have 20-30K by time they are 18. Thanks again!

    • Reply Joanna April 6, 2015 at 11:11 am

      That’s awesome, Tamara! That money will add up quickly, and by starting now, you’ll be able to take advantage of compounding interest. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Ronnica, Striving Stewardess April 2, 2015 at 3:39 am

    The offer to pay for this or that is the hardest for me. Because there’s no reason for my friend to pay: we have the same amount of resources (actually, I may have more since I’ve been more frugal).

    I think the best thing a friend can do for someone on a budget is to think of low- or no-cost things to do together (dinner in, instead of out; outdoor activities; renting a movie instead of going out; free events…).

    • Reply Joanna April 6, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Yes… you don’t want to be pitied! It’s something you’ve chosen to do, and you just want them to understand.

  • Reply Petrish @ Debt Free Martini April 2, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Saying no to friends while dancing with your budget is not easy, but necessary to reach your financial goals. I’m at the point where I no longer care what my friends think. I’ll see them more when I’m debt free.

    • Reply Joanna April 6, 2015 at 11:14 am

      I remember feeling that way a time or two. Johnny and I definitely said no to a few social outings while we were getting out of debt!

  • Reply BB April 4, 2015 at 12:54 am

    That was beautiful!

    Making budgetting decisions for yourself is one thing but then having to communicate that to your mates is another, particularly when they give you the “wow, what is wrong with you, you are lost to us” look.

    • Reply Joanna April 6, 2015 at 11:19 am

      Exactly! It’s such a hard topic to broach, but sometimes it’s nice to get it out in the open so your friends quit thinking you’ve gone and changed on them.

  • Reply Five Friday Things | Hungryforbalance.com April 10, 2015 at 10:40 am

    […] This post from Our Freaking Budget- very funny, and useful. I always find it awkward telling people we can’t go out with them because we don’t have the money. […]

  • Reply Peter-Christian Paulin April 20, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    You guys really seem like such a sweet couple and I love how you work together as a team. Your blog has really been a great sense of support for me knowing that I’m not alone in my struggles.

    The bf and I currently both live in the most absurdly expensive city in the country, San Francisco, and for years we lived outside of our means. What does that mean? Finding ourselves -$10k in credit card debt, living in a fabulous condo that eats up 40% of my take-home pay (not so fabulous), and all while keeping up with the Joneses…which got us into a huge financial mess. Fortunately, starting last January, I’ve made huge strides to cut that debt down and cut back on A LOT of things. So long bubbly sunday brunches and patron-packed Friday (and Saturday) nights, hello Lifetime channel and popcorn. But your blog really made me feel normal and sane again given that I live in a city full of 25 year old CEOs who have net worths that will make you want to cry (and this is the norm here). And in a city where seemingly no one seems to care about how they’re spending.

    While living in the fast lane from 22 – 26 was great here, it became apparently real quick by 27 that I was not on a good path security-wise. Due to my situation I’ve accepted the reality that San Francisco, not matter how fabulous it is, is no longer smart financially and has been inhibiting me from achieving my goals for quite a while. I’m currently trying to set myself up for a major move to Seattle, WA which is a whole other struggle in of itself.

    Anyway, kudos to you guys for your amazing blog and inspiring others to not only live better, but not feel ashamed of being on a budget and taking control of their lives. Feel free to interview me for your post, btw,

    • Reply Joanna May 9, 2015 at 11:49 pm

      Way to go on taking control of your finances, Peter-Christian. Oh boy can we relate to that feeling of big-city living where it feels like you’re the only one trying to watch your spending. It sounds like you’re willing to do (and are already doing) whatever it takes to get where you need to be financially, which is awesome. Good luck getting yourself into a more financially-friendly city. I hope it all works out soon for Seattle! We’ll be in touch soon about the interview :).

  • Reply Phoebe January 27, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Loving your blog! On this subject, I’d say our friends are easy but it’s situations with family that I’ve found to be more difficult. My husband and I have a large family (6 kids) and lived pay check to pay check for many years simply because we made a meager salary. Once we started making more money, we bought a house that was technically within our budget (but still a bit of a stretch for us) and then the market crashed. We ended up having to short sell when my husband’s company down-sized and we’ve spent that last six years trying to make much better financial decisions and get into a position to save for emergencies, retirement, and college.

    Now that we are making good money, we are still trying to live frugally to save for the future but our extended family doesn’t often understand that. Birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions are often met with uncomfortableness as everyone heads to a nice restaurant to celebrate. For us, it’s a matter of the fact that a sit down dinner with our large family costs close to $100 (even if we just order the very basics or split meals!). My parents and siblings who have families of 2 or 3 just don’t often understand our position. It really comes down to a difference in circumstances, lifestyle, and goals. We sometimes get so frustrated having to be the ones to suggest a much more cost effective option (everyone to our house for dinner!) or say no to these family events. On occasion we might cave but later regret it if it puts us over budget for the month.

    Family vacations are another issue. My extended family often likes to rent beach houses for the summer, which is great if you can split it 3 or 4 ways! But because of our family size, it always becomes an issue for us and people often think we are trying to be difficult if we say no. We also run into the issue of my parents offering to pay for us, which I am fundamentally against. I’m not against family helping each other out but I think that often times if you let someone help you, you could possibly open your personal financial decisions to scrutiny and I don’t like to be in that position. (If we’ve been scrimping and saving for a new couch for 3 years, I don’t want to have to second guess going ahead to purchase it because I let my parents pay for our portion of the beach house for that three day weekend.) Do you guys ever run into this issue or is your family just super understanding and on board with your financial journey?

  • Reply Andrew J. May 26, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you for this post, I resonate with everything you wrote here. Having been forced into learning how to budget (or drown in my out-of-state school loans) I feel like I’m the only one that feels this way. It’s encouraging to know that I’m not alone. Thank you both for writing so many helpful posts to learn from and to share.

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