Friday, November 2, 2007

Social costs

My Open Wallet has an interesting post about the impact of being social or antisocial on personal finance. I agree with her, that in some cases being antisocial is cheaper, and in others, it's definitely more expensive to be exclusive.

Being Social
I live with a roommate, and thus split the cost of rent, eletricity and cable, and also have almost-unlimited bread-borrowing opportunities. I *might* be able to get my own place for what I'm spending now, but it would be a crappy studio apartment, and I sure wouldn't have cable and internet. Plus I would miss out on the lifestyle aspects of sharing a living space, like someone to talk to and who will take out the garbage when I'm sick. Splitting cab rides is cheaper than taking one solo. Going out with my boyfriend means he usually (but not always) pays, or we split the bill.

On the other hand, going out with friends is almost always NOT cheaper for me. I'm a strict vegetarian, and my entrees are usually $2-$20 cheaper than the omnivores around me. Unless the difference is hugely disproportionate and the group wants to split everything equally, I usually just go along with it--I figure that into my budget when deciding whether to go out. I'm also really lucky in that the friends I go out with most frequently (colleagues from my old job, actually) are extremely considerate of the difference and try to take it into account (which actually makes me more willing to pony up an even portion). My closest friends and I prefer a restaurant which is pay-when-you-order, and when we go elsewhere we frequently cover-me-then-I'll-cover-you-next-time.

Being Antisocial
I'm a homebody by nature and prefer to spend every weekend at home puttering around and cooking every meal. This keeps my food bills lower than they might be--usually. I'm on a kick of trying a new recipe each weekend, and I know at some point I'm going to wind up with something I hate so much that I'll throw it out without finishing it. There goes the cost of groceries I might not have otherwise purchased! Also, cooking for one often results in a lot of waste in general, as ingredients or leftovers go bad before one can eat them. My boyfriend and I recently gave up going to the movies in favor of renting DVDs from Blockbuster. One adult admission in NYC runs about $10.50, so it's a significant savings (we were going to 2-3 movies per month). Factor in the cost of snacks at the theater vs. at home, and it's even more pronounced. I'm not actually sure that this qualifies as antisocial, since we certainly weren't socializing with others at the theater or even each other, and now we can talk to each other over the movie or pause it and talk about a part we liked.

However, I already lean toward the crazy-cat-woman and frugal-till-you're-just-cheap end of the spectrum, so being antisocial might have associated non-financial costs that aren't healthy for me. While I don't purposely blow money just to make sure I'm spending time out with people, I do build it into my budget knowing that the costs are going to come up (an example would be budgeting for tea/pierogies at bimonthly book club meeting). I tend to pick relatively cheap enterprises (I get books from the library instead of purchasing them, and our meeting places tend to be very reasonably-priced coffeehouses and the like) and I don't want to be that person always complaining that they have no money for this or that, especially when I CAN afford a few luxuries in my life (and in fact, I think it's necessary to prevent going crazy!).

So, to sum up. Neither being social nor being antisocial is harder on the wallet--it all depends on the specifics of the situation and how you personally approach the instances.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting post ... hubby and I encompass both ends of the social spectrum. He is very social and I gravitate towards the homebody end. It's always interesting, and we tend to balance each other out. Financially speaking, we have budgeted a larger "non-accountability" allowance for him, to accommodate his social tendencies. And, that's o.k. because it suits our preferences. On a more mental health and personal type level ... he helps me to be more social and I help him to reign it in sometimes. We make a good team. Interesting post, thanks!

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  2. I find that most relationships have opposites in some ways--spender/saver, socialite/homebody, etc. The most important thing is to balance the relationship so that it works for both parties, and it sounds like you and your hubby have it worked out just fine!

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Thanks for commenting!