What lurks behind those happy, enviable Instagram posts of vacations, weddings and parties with friends? For many Americans, the cost of attending friends’ celebrations can often result in feelings of regret and the need to take a hit financially.
A new survey from Novi Money reveals how much people spend on friends’ celebrations, and how friends attend even when they can’t afford to. Questions convey experiences from 750 respondents who attended a friend’s life event in the past two years.
Our survey shows that for many Americans, celebrating their friend’s life moments can become a financial burden. So much so that many carry regrets as a result of attending or use money as an excuse not to go. Despite this, most will attend a friend’s celebration out of obligation and peer pressure, even if they are concerned about the cost.
- 1 in 3 Americans said “no” to at least one friend’s event in the past two years because of how much it cost. The most skipped events are: bachelor or bachelorette parties, gender reveal parties and trips with friends.
- 41% of Americans have gone to at least one of their friend’s milestones events despite not being able to afford to go.
- 1 in 3 Americans regret going to their friends’ weddings and bachelor or bachelorette parties because of costs.
- In contrast, only 1 in 10 regret attending “Friendsgiving” because of cost. 75% of Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, which seems to offer the best value for the money since it costs among the least of friends’ events.
- 26% of Americans add to their credit card debt or borrow from a friend or family member to attend their friends’ celebrations such as graduations, weddings, bachelor or bachelorette parties.
Celebrating with friends can be costly
Investing in the relationships that matter in our lives is important. When it comes to celebrating friend’s milestones and events, that investment can often be financial as well. Below is a look at the average cost of attending friend’s big events.
The most expensive? Our survey reveals that Americans spend $508 on average for one trip with friends, the top expense among events with their besties by far.
Following a trip with friends, a friend’s wedding-related costs typically top the list. Americans typically spend $273 as a member of the wedding party, another $201 if they go to the bachelor or bachelorette party ($201), and $148 when they simply attend as a guest. Those Hangover and Bridesmaids movies have a point—it’s not just the bride and groom who bear the burden of the cost of a wedding, their friends often have to dig deep as well.
If Americans are looking for an event that tends to be more affordable for their friends, birthday and graduation parties, baby showers and baby reveal parties and a good old Friendsgiving tend to hit the wallet a bit less.
31% have had to say no because of cost
Our survey also found that sometimes this price tag can be too high. 31% of survey respondents said they had to say no to at least one friend’s event in the past two years because of cost.
We looked at which events Americans had to skip due to money. One third said they had to forgo their friends’ bachelor or bachelorette parties, gender reveal parties or trips with friends because of money. Despite the higher price tag, only 1 in 5 Americans chose to miss out on their friend’s weddings.
Friend’s baby showers (21%), friend’s winter holiday parties (18%) and friend’s Thanksgiving (18%) were the least likely events to skip, most likely due to the lower costs.
Over 40% will go regardless of affordability
While one third have said “no” to attending friend’s events because of cost, the survey finds that 41% of Americans have gone to at least one of their friend’s milestones despite not being able to afford to go.
The top events they attend even though they can’t afford to go? Bachelor or bachelorette parties, baby showers and gender reveals. Nearly 40% of Americans surveyed have attended bachelor or bachelorette parties and baby-related events despite not being able to afford to go.
That costly trip with friends? Even though a trip with friends is the most costly occasion at $508 on average, 1 in 3 Americans go even if they can’t afford it.
28% of Americans have regretted going to an event because of cost
Whether they can afford to go or not, many Americans who attend their friend’s life events, especially celebrations around friends getting married, have regrets because of the expense.
The bachelor or bachelorette party that’s so much fun and has its own hashtag? One in three who attend wish they hadn’t because of the costs.
Imagine a wedding (maybe even your own): One in three members of the wedding party and 1 in 5 guests regret attending because of the money they had to shell out.
The regret of attending events is more pronounced among respondents who attend their friend’s events despite not being able to afford them. Compared to the 28% of overall respondents, 48% who attended an event they couldn’t afford regretted the decision.
The good news: celebrating the holidays with friends comes with the least regrets regardless of affordability. Perhaps because they don’t cost as much as bachelor parties and weddings, or perhaps Americans genuinely enjoy Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hannukah with their friends (the “family” they choose).
1 in 4 Americans borrowed money to attend a friend’s event
The majority of Americans typically use cash or a credit card they pay off each month to pay for their friends’ life milestones. Yet, a surprisingly high portion of Americans (26%) take on debt to do so, by borrowing on a credit card that they don’t pay off or taking out a loan from a friend or family member.
Nearly one in four Americans put costs of their friends’ events on credit cards with a balance, resulting in a financial burden that some friends might carry for a while.
Friends don’t want to let friends down
Why do Americans attend friend’s life events even if they can’t afford them?
The reasons vary widely. A commanding 62% of Americans said they have attended events despite the cost because they didn’t want to let their friend down, while 50% said they attended out of a feeling of obligation.
Then there’s the power of social pressure. One in three Americans didn’t want to appear “cheap” to their friends. Similarly, their other friends were going and they didn’t want to miss out (36%).
Men speak up about money more than women
Breaking through the silence of obligation and peer pressure, men seemed more comfortable than women saying no to an event if they didn’t want to spend the money.
The survey finds that across all types of events, men are more likely to use money as an excuse not to attend a celebration with friends even if they could afford to go. This is particularly true for attending a friend’s wedding (23% of men vs. 17% of women) and “Friendsgiving” (18% of men vs. 10% of women).
Your friends worry about money. How can you help?
Celebrating with friends on their achievements and milestones makes life rich and meaningful for most Americans. Could there be a way to savor time with friends without money worries?
Our survey finds that nearly 1 in 4 Americans have had to forgo other financial goals because of their friend’s life events. What can friends do with each other—even for each other—to lessen the load?
|23% of Americans have had to forego other financial goals (savings, paying down debt) because of spending for friends’ life events|
“When you’re invited to a friend’s celebration, take a moment to align with what’s truly important to you“ says Risa Dimacali, CFP®. “If your budget is stretched, have the conversation with your friend and look for ways to celebrate that’s more affordable. Your friend might not only understand, but might also be on the same page.”
Chances are, you’re not the only one worrying about expenses for your friend’s life event—he or she may be concerned, too. Another Novi Money Survey on wedding costs and debt reports that 46% of couples exceeded their wedding budget, and 1 in 3 couples took on debt for the wedding. Of those who borrowed for their wedding, 82% found the debt repayment stressful.
If you’re missing out on contributing to your emergency fund or retirement savings plan, or if you’re already saddled with student loans or housing costs, think twice about going to a friend’s event—or any event—that exceeds your budget or that you’re unable to pay cash for. Make a separate plan to celebrate with your friends in a way that doesn’t break the bank. In the end, both of you might be happier and your friendship could grow tighter as a result.
This survey was conducted through AYTM Market Research on November 12-13, 2019. The survey collected 750 responses from people ages 18 to 65+ who indicated they had attended at least one friend’s life event in the past two years. For more information about this survey and Novi Money, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.