Money

I've lived on $60 a week for 6 weeks—here is my top takeaway

When I challenged myself to live on $60 a week for eight weeks, I expected the hardest part to be simply staying in budget. I honestly wasn't sure if I could stretch $60 to cover food, laundry, transportation and miscellaneous expenses in New York City.

It turns out, it's very much possible. I haven't gone over budget (yet) and I've even managed to save a bit each week.

It just isn't fun.

Six weeks into the challenge, I've spent about $315 of my allotted $480, and one of the top takeaways has had nothing to do with dollars, cents, or budgets: There is a lot of pressure to spend in social situations ... and it's hard to say "no."

The past six weeks, I've gotten used to saying "no" to a lot of social gatherings
Kathleen Elkins
The past six weeks, I've gotten used to saying "no" to a lot of social gatherings

Living up to your friends' or coworkers' standards is tempting — and if you're guilty of it, you're not alone. A survey by the American Institute of CPAs finds that 78 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds use their friends' financial habits to determine their own.

As I've learned firsthand, it's awkward to show up at a restaurant or bar and sip on a free glass of water while everyone else is ordering beer and appetizers. It's even more awkward explaining why I'm not participating: "I can't afford it."

It turns out that I'm not the only one who has felt embarrassed in this situation. As The Wall Street Journal reports, "Many people would rather struggle to pay off a large credit-card bill than utter the phrase 'I can't afford it.'"

The past six weeks, I've gotten used to saying "no" to things I normally wouldn't think twice about — concerts, brunches, and happy hours — but not without realizing how easily outside pressures can get you to spend money that you don't necessarily have.

While I'm excited to finish my cash diet and enjoy some of the social events I've been missing out on, this challenge has been a good reminder that choosing where to eat, what to wear, and what gadgets to buy based on what your friends do can wreck your budget.

You don't have to say "yes!" to everything.

That being said, the past six weeks have taught me that's much easier said than done.

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