Saturday, October 9, 2010

Question of the Day: Social Aspects of Being Broke

Studies show that people who feel financially strapped are much less socially engaged than those who feel more secure. Adjusting for income and education, the most financially stressed attend two-thirds fewer meetings of clubs and organizations than the least economically anxious. The broke not only go to movies and stuff that costs money less frequently but they also spend less time on things that don’t cost a cent like having friends over, going to visit friends, attending church, volunteering and participating in politics. The only thing financial stress seems to make us do more of is watch TV. Such social isolation can easily lead to clinical depression, which further isolates, and makes it harder to engage in the kind of productive, creative thought that can lead to novel solutions to your problems.

Have you had this situation? A friend says "Can I take you to lunch?" "Take you" implies he's paying, but you're not sure, and you have $3.23 in your bank account. Rather than risk an embarrassing conversation or an even more embarrassing moment when the separate check is placed in front of you, you find an excuse not to go.

Your neighbor has invited you over for dinner two times. You'd like to invite the neighbor to your place, but you only have ramen and boxed macaroni and cheese. The next time the friend invites you, sensing the growing disparity in the feeding-to-fed ratio you make up an excuse not to go.

Or this one-- you've been asked to be part of a committee at your church. The idea of "giving back" appeals to you tremendously, but on the day the first meeting is scheduled your gas tank is on fumes and you don't think you can make it to the church and to work the next day, so you don't go and don't join the committee.

I'm interested to hear your strategies for avoiding social isolation when broke. Post in the comments.