Friends and Finances: Why You Should Mix Them

Friends and Finances: Why You Should Mix Them

On a strict budget? The next time you go shopping, resist temptations by bringing along a pal who’s in the same boat.

New research suggests jointly abstaining from making relatively expensive purchases can strengthen interpersonal relationships. In other words, you can spin the somewhat depressing experience of having to turn down the new iPhone 6 into a feel-good bonding moment between friends.

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Researchers at Vanderbilt University and Texas A&M University conducted a series of studies to see what happens when two people try to combat their urges to overspend or overeat. Results showed that, for spending as well as eating, participants felt more strongly connected to each other when they both passed up the opportunity to indulge.

In one study, subjects were asked to envision themselves shopping with a friend—both were supposedly on a tight budget. They then imagined themselves coming across a desirable item that cost about $50 and either purchasing it or turning it down while their friend either bought the same item or passed it up. Finally, researchers asked participants to indicate how much that specific situation would make them like their friend.

As it turns out, people who “coabstained” (meaning neither one made the purchase) liked their friends the most.

At the same time, the study found that “coindulging” in a relatively inexpensive purchase (around $5) caused people to like their friends more, too. Conversely, friends who coindulged in the lavish purchase liked each other less.

Taken together, these findings suggest that working toward our money goals is more enjoyable when we’ve got someone to commiserate with. So whether your objective is to curb your shopping habit or cut your restaurant bill in half, consider enlisting a buddy to join you in the challenge. Just make sure it isn’t one of these friends.

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