Edmund Greaves counts the cost of jetting off on a friend’s stag weekend
I have found peer pressure to be one of the more corrosive aspects of my personal finances in the past few years.
You know how it works. Its 4.45pm on a Friday and the WhatsApp group is buzzing. “Who’s around for a swifty?” your merriest mate asks.
“Yeah, game for a few,” you respond.
Before you know what’s happened, it’s 2am and you’re on the night Tube sandwiched squarely between a couple who’ve tied their tongues together and some drunk fella shouting obscenities across the carriage at a poor group of girls.
You wonder how it came to this.
The shame of the night before is as much financial as anything else. We all know the feeling. Realising you’ve spent half your salary on a night out unleashes dread like no other.
For me, in my first couple of years in London this habit made me lean on a credit card to get by. This was not good. I racked up debt.
More recently, I’ve learnt to say no, but I don’t always get it right.
There is a balance to be struck. You can’t become so penny-pinching as to void your life of any of the enjoyments of youth.
But a drinking habit (and let’s face it, you’re buying packs of cigarettes, takeaways and other things too) is bad for your health as well as your wallet.
Such events are often couched in terms of ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out). This thoroughly misleading idea puts the pressure on the individual to conform to what everyone is doing.
It is good old peer pressure.
Credit agency Noddle recently did some research on the cost of FOMO. The firm found that it was costing millennials billions of pounds every year. On average, FOMO costs each spender £500 annually.
This doesn’t just end at Friday night drinks either.
Millennials, we are told, are particularly driven by a desire to ‘experience’ things and spend our money accordingly. And missing out on group experiences (and the ability to relentlessly post them on social media) is driving a curious pressure to conform.
Noddle says it found a quarter of its survey respondents admitted to going into debt to avoid missing out on something. Across the entire UK population, one in three (35%) admits to spending money due to the fear of missing out. But this rises to three in five (58%) among millennials.
I have not escaped the clutches of this dreaded group-think.
My most recent submission to peer pressure is agreeing to go on a stag party trip to, of all places in the world, Andorra.
Andorra is a popular ski resort. Which is great, except I don’t ski. So, in my infinite wisdom as an expert negotiator (Theresa, I’m still waiting for a call), I spoke to the best man who was organising the trip with a stag tour operator.
In doing so, I negotiated my three nights in the tiny principality down from £350 to £250, saving on a ski pass I would never use.
Despite this, the whole trip including travel, insurance, hotels, food and drink will still cost me the best part of £600. That’s a lot for three nights on a non-skiing holiday.
The truth is that had I been invited by a friend I was less close to, I would have turned down the opportunity. The cost is just too high for the reward.
Indeed, I turned down another stag do last year. It was a weekend in Ibiza and the group was budgeting £1,200 for a weekend (yes, you read that right). My mind boggled at the thought of spending that much money on something I really didn’t want to do.
So I just said no.
One of the difficulties that arises from this (and I always think of that episode of Friends where this is addressed) is that groups of friends often earn different amounts of money. This is normal in a society where we work in a wide range of careers that pay very differently.
It’s very easy for your mate who works for a big bank to shell out on a weekend in Ibiza. It’s not so easy for your freelancer friend who goes from gig to gig and is forever having to horde cash for the slow months.
If you are the former, think about your friends before pressuring them into expensive social activities. If you’re the latter, it pays to say no. If your friends don’t respect or understand that, take it from me they’re not very good friends at all.