I read with interest a lot of people's advice on here about planning their finances. Some even have budgets down to the last penny.

My question is pretty simple - if you're of that mindset - what do you do in situations when something comes up that's not part of your "plan" in a social context? As an example let's say you've done your monthly budget and you randomly get invited to a party/event. There's a bar and you're with friends who say "let's go out for a few more drinks/whatever" (e.g. after work). If the event was unplanned/unforseen in advance, you cannot have accounted for this. Do people of the budgetting mindset allocate some spare funds for this type of thing, or do they simply say "no it's not within my budget"? Or do they make up the difference another month? I'm interested to know what people do in this situation as it seems to not fit in at all with some of the advice given on this site, but is a very common scenario where I live (UK).

I'm interested in advice from a social perspective - how can you work around this situation whilst not seeming anti-social or not wanting to socialise with your friends in events that you get drawn into without much prior knowledge?

Edit - going for a drink is just an example. The question is not limited to this but literally any types of social event (e.g. cinema, dining, trip out, etc) that one may be invited to.

  • 1
    Way back when money was tight for me, essentials were the only things that were allowed outside of the budget (car repair, broken eyeglasses, worn out shoes, etc.). Drinking or spending more than I wanted in order to fit in was a non starter. You can still be sociable without spending what you can't afford to piss away. Jun 8 '18 at 15:29
  • "Down to the last penny" is a smothering view of budgeting, it's not anything like planning your life down to the last moment. If your plan was "don't socialize" then stick to the plan, otherwise budget for socializing. But it's not really about socializing, is it? The crux of your problem is that you made a plan, and now you don't want to stick to your plan. Well, is your word good? Jun 8 '18 at 16:43
  • I budget to the last penny and I have a disposable income envelope. I have about $20 a week for social things. If I spend $30, then I just use the disposable income to cover the difference. I put about $50 in the disposable income envelope every week to cover things like this.
    – Corey P
    May 2 '19 at 16:44

I budget every penny, and for situations like this, I build in extra to the categories that might have extra spending. Instead of drinks it might be lunch out, or other social spending. I simply know myself and I leave some breathing-room in the budget for unplanned meals out or entertainment.

This works fine for me because I live very comfortably within my means. The problem with unplanned social events is that they can put stress on a budget if they are happening too frequently. If you don't have a lot of extra room in your budget, the answer is to decline unplanned social invitations. If you have no trouble meeting your savings goals, put padding in the categories of spending that are likely to be affected.

The other side of budgeting is tracking the actual expenses so you can compare your planned expenditures with your actual performance. I happen to know within 10% what I can expect to spend eating out in a typical month because I have been doing this for years. If you are new to it, you should expect to miss your spending plan more frequently while you are getting a feel for it.

I do have a category that I put loose change into. My budget categories are all filled to what I expect to spend, and if I have say $621.17 left. I add $500 more to short-term savings and I put $121.17 into the "fun things" category. I either record the night out as a "fun things" expenditure, or I remove money from that account and put it in another account as needed.


or do they simply say "no it's not within my budget"?

This is more of an Interpersonal Skills question... but, depending on who's asking, yes that's exactly what I'd say. Just not so formal.

Typical responses would be:

  • Sorry, bro, I'm tapped out. Catch you next week!
  • I've already got plans; wish I could go. Maybe next week!
  • +1 for "Interpersonal Skills question". Really belongs there. The answers, yours and others are ISSE, not MSE. Jul 30 '18 at 15:53

Nathan, gives a fine answer, but for a different perspective here is what the wife and I do:

First off, at the beginning of the year we come up with money goals that we would like to accomplish. As with good goal setting some of those need to be easily achievable, and some need to be a bit of a stretch. They also need to be prioritized. This is an important aspect of budgeting as you know what to do with money that is left over at the end of budgeting cycle.

Secondly, you know basically how much you spend for a typical night out, and on average how often those nights occur. So lets say you typically spend 40, and they occur 3 timers per month. If you are meeting your other goals then you can have a "night out" category for 120 or even 150. However, if you are saving for an important goal, you might have only 50 in your night out category (limiting your self to 2 nights out at 25 per).

So you get asked out for a night. If you have money you say yes. If not you say no. If you are trying to limit yourself, bring only that amount of cash and only spend that.

If, at the end of the month you spend less than you anticipated, then you put it towards one of your money goals; or, you in turn ask someone out.

That is what we do. Our category is called "extra spending" and it goes to anything from movie tickets to gifts we did not budget for. Sometimes when we have money left over, my wife goes to a discount store and buys about 50 greeting cards. Then when an unexpected birthday or sympathy comes up, she goes goes through her file of greeting cards rather than running to the drug store and paying their inflated prices.


Budgeting every penny is much easier than you might be thinking. It basically means allocates your last month income for this month budget. For example, I earned 200$ last month; I'll spend 100$ on investments, 50$ on groceries and 50$ on medicals this month. Simple as that.

In my case, I created party category and allocated some money every month. Let's say it's about 100$. I manage like this:

  • If I used 20$ last month, I refill the category budget back to 100$ this month.
  • If I barely use 100$ or want to save some money, than I reduce the budget and reallocate to other categories.
  • If I'm expected to use more than usual, I budget it more with my best guess within my capability. Consult with other party members if possible.
  • If I overspent,
    • A little bit is OK. Simply reallocate the budget. If groceries is underspent, move some money into party
    • Spent too much? Either I refuse to spend any further or reallocate the budget. Depends on the situation.

How much and strict your budget is up to you. But roll with the punches. If you feel OK to overspend, do it. There is no budget police to catch you. Of course, there is a line to keep your balance. If you feel uncomfortable, refuse politely. I'd say "I can't afford that for now." rather than "no it's not within my budget"

I focused on the budget side. If you want to focus on the social relationship, I recommend you to look into interpersonal.stackexchange.com(Link).

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