An Ally We Need, But Aren’t Talking About

By Elizabeth Guillen

College – a cornucopia of memories we can one day reminisce about. At American University, these memories can range from the time to your friend laughed so hard they spit their water out in TDR to the time you danced at the 9:30 Club.

 via Unsplash

via Unsplash

Yet, there’s something we’re not talking about when creating memories – money. While spending money is fun for some, it can be a stress-inducing activity for others. It’s time to talk about being supportive to our friends with financial circumstances different than our own. This what a typical conversation looks like when my friends and I attempt to make plans for the weekend:

Friend: “Let’s hang out”

Translation: “Let’s go to ... the movies, the bar or out to eat.”

My interpretation: Let’s spend money.

Going to school in a city is filled with endless excitement, and for that, I am grateful. I have the opportunity to explore different neighborhoods or coffee shops, go to the movies or bars, or walk down M St on a laid back Saturday.

However, behind this fun is a cost that is unspoken about or glossed over in college, and those are the social costs. Socializing has turned into a financial transaction, whether that be ordering wine on GoPuff, going out to Panera, or Ubering to Grand Central.

While it’s only “three dollars per person,” three dollars add up when it’s spent multiple times over the period of a weekend. After a few “three dollars” I’m short $30. To some, that may seem like a small fee for a “fun time,” but that’s money I could be saving to buy textbooks or put food on my table.

So, whenever you ask me to hang out and bar hop or go to brunch, I see that as multiple Ubers and a meal plus tip. After a while, I can no longer afford these privileges and I’m positioned to repeatedly decline. While sometimes you are aware and offer to “cover” me or “put the Uber on [your] parents’ account,” this isn’t what I want, so the excuses continue.

The thing is, it gets exhausting thinking of excuses and for you, it may become frustrating that I “don’t make an effort.” However, effort is in action, but it is in trying to find a way to not disappoint you. I promise you that I do want to accept your well-intentioned financial pressures, but it’s my financial limitations saying no, not me. I want to be your friend, but I need you to be my friend and ally.

What I want is a money-free hang out which may range from walking around the neighborhood or using our Upasses to go to a (free) museum.

Let’s redefine “hanging out” and make it an inclusive activity; believe me, if thought goes into it, there are many ways to accomplish it. While socializing was once stress-reducing, it is now a burden. This should not be the case for anyone.

I’m sorry if this limits your idea of fun, but I promise that a movie-night in with homemade popcorn isn’t all too bad. How about we do that this Friday?

Be an ally: don’t offer to cover, offer to stay in.