Stop Asking Everyone to Buy Things

PartiesThis past month, I have learned to say no. I know, I know. Clap a little louder so I can hear you while I take a bow. In the past thirty days, I successfully turned down three in-person Stella & Dot parties; five virtual parties of assorted sundries like lotions, bags, makeup, and diet pills wraps magical concoctions that won’t work; a Stitch Fix subscription request; and an invitation to pay money to drink wine and paint. I am so proud. I also feel a little bit like a jerkface. But mostly, I’m just proud.

Most of these invitations have come with “easy out” opportunities, like a polite click of the “decline” button followed up by a text message thanking the host for the invitation and suggesting that we catch up soon. But one of these parties came with a never-ending email chain threaded between all the invitees. While I kept my reply short and sweet as a courtesy, here’s what I’d really like to say:

Dear Friend,

Stop asking everyone to buy things. Including me. I know you invite me because you think I can afford it. How do I know? I’ve actually heard you say — both to my face and behind my back — “Oh, she can afford it if anyone can.” Yes, those two married teachers are rolling in dough, aren’t they? Actually, you’re not wrong. I could afford a Stella & Dot necklace or six*. I can also afford to probably scoop up all the other non-essentials. But at what cost? Not only would these invitations easily max out both mine and Mr. P’s “mad money”** for the month, but they certainly would not bring us any closer to our goals, financial or otherwise. And just because you think this paisley print, penguin patterned tote bag is the bee’s knees doesn’t mean I want one. They’re not my needs, and they’re not my wants.

While we’re on the subject of needs, how do you think this invitation makes our other friend feel? You know, the one who just lost her job? Probably, you just wanted us all to feel included. But maybe that backfired. Hanging out with people is expensive enough when there is just coffee, a meal, or margaritas involved. But to come to a party — BYOB, by the way — and then purchase jewelry to pad the pockets of a salesgirl we don’t even know and make sure the host gets her items comped, come on. That is not what an emergency fund is for. I’m not even sure that’s what friendship is for.

In fact, if you really know me the way I think you do, you’d know that I’ve been spending countless hours decluttering my closets. I even helped you set up a Poshmark account. You’ve heard me decline invitations to meet up at the mall and suggest other activities instead. We even laughed while we agreed to make grocery shopping our new LOFT shopping so we could still spend time together and check off our to-do list at the same time. One time, you even asked me for help setting up a budget. I love spending time with you, truly I do, but please stop asking me to buy things.

Call me cheap. Call me Scrooge. Call me whatever you want behind my back while you sip wine, select bobbles, model handbags, and slather each other with seaweed wraps to trim an inch off your tummies. But please, don’t get upset when you call me about one of these parties and I decline. I’ve finally learned how to say no.

*This is actually hyperbolic. I looked up the prices of some–because I am spineless and considered just purchasing something to try to buy away my guilt–and my heart almost stopped. Seriously. I spent $700 for wedding shoes, and I think the prices are cray-cray. Especially considering there’s nothing to say how these items are sourced or manufactured.

**When I was really little, my grandma told me to go get some mad money out of the Pringles jar. I asked her why it was angry. Grandmas are the best.

So Tell Me…Would this post be more aptly named “how to lose all your friends”? Have you had to dodge any unwanted spending situations lately? What’s your strategy? 

Stop Asking Everyone to Buy Things

28 thoughts on “Stop Asking Everyone to Buy Things

  1. Oh my god YES to all of this. I have had so many of these invites recently, including one that literally took place in my office after hours (essential oils, in case you were curious.) I’ve come up with so many ways to dodge them, but this is exactly what I’m thinking in the back of my head! Especially the work one. Like… really?

    (And my great-grandmother used to stash money in old margarine tubs, lol, so I totally get the Pringles jar thing!)

    1. Oh, yes! The after-work party is a tricky situation. Invite everyone, but don’t pressure them, I think. Hooray for stashing money away in random containers 🙂

  2. Clap clap clap clap!!!! Way to stay strong. These situations are tough, and you’re totally making me cringe that when I was like 22 I hosted one of these parties. Ugh. But live and learn, right? I think as long as you’re not ditching out on the friends entirely, and you go do other less expensive stuff, it’s totally acceptable. Anyone who doesn’t understand that isn’t a supportive friend, and they should be on the block for weeding out. Not every friend is lifetime material, after all. 🙂

    1. So much wisdom in this comment. Sometimes you really do have to part ways, don’t you? Sometimes it’s really the only way to keep your best interests at heart and live authentically.

  3. Congratulations, Penny! If only more of us would do this, and good on you for having the motivation and discipline to reject this increasing culture of consumerism.

    It’s nonsensical.

    Keep fighting the good financial fight! 🙂

    1. Thanks. It really is an accomplishment for someone who is so phobic about confrontation. I can’t even tell you how many times I attended to be a good friend and then bought out of obligation (seems awful/rude to waste the rep’s time).

  4. As a guy, I’m not contacted as frequently as you ladies, but my go-to move has become the “unfollow” feature on Facebook. I don’t mind an occasional post about your new hobby/side hustle, but I’m interested in you as a person, not whatever “crap of the week” you’re asking me to buy. And once you stop posting about the version of you that is my friend, and nonstop posts of people I don’t know who were miraculously helped by this product, COUNT ME OUT! 🙂
    And clearly my use of “you” was in reference to mythical “friend”, not you “Penny”

    1. Yes! The unfollow/mute features on social media are nice. Side hustle away, but don’t make my friendship feel like a 24/7 sales pitch. I think offering around holidays or special occasions is great. Even just letting people know that you can offer that resource. But to make it all-consuming rubs me the wrong way, too.

  5. I remember those parties, particularly Pampered Chef. Fortunately I’m not really in a circle of friends where anyone is inviting me these days, and that’s fine by me.

    I think saying “not my thing, thanks” is a fair response, and needs to be put out as ok. I hope you inspire someone who feels a social obligation to go to a shopping party they don’t want to attend to buy things they don’t really want or can’t afford. There IS social pressure to attend these things and to buy something when you attend. It’s not like going into a shop where you feel like you can leave any time without buying. So I think it’s a good thing that you’re validating the choice to opt out.

    1. Oh, Pampered Chef. That’s another good one! I *always* buy if I attend, because I feel like I’m disrespecting the sales rep’s time if I don’t. So I try not to go unless I will actually use a product being sold.

  6. I love it. I love it. I love it. For many years I had a hard time saying no. Now I’m a “no” machine. The other day I was listening to a James Altucher podcast and he was interviewing Derek Sivers. Derek has a great way of helping him decide among the various requests he receives. If he doesn’t immediately get a “f–k yeah” feeling about a request, he says “f–k no.” Time is short and money is short. If don’t learn how to say “no,” you’ll waste a lot of both. Thank you, Penny, for showing us the power and utility of “no.”

    1. Sounds like a great episode. You’re absolutely right. As much as I want to support my friends, I can put my funds towards many other things. Hopefully, they understand.

  7. I’ve been struggling with this too lately! I can handle the easy “click to decline” ones, but the actual conversations are more tough. I want to support the endeavors of my friends, but I just find it hard to believe many regular people have much financial success with these things. It puts me in a tough spot. And my friends KNOW I don’t spend much, they KNOW I’m into minimalism…and yet these still ask. Or the endless fundraisers for their kids….oh man…

    1. Right! And for kiddos…I’m more OK with kids’ fundraisers, but I also feel like kids should be doing the asking. My parents always made me make the phone calls to relatives and things like that.

  8. Like Jover, I have my Y chromosome to thank for not getting inundated with these kinds of invites. My wife gets them occasionally from relatives and she turns them all down, usually with a simple click or a “sorry I can’t make it”. But I think like Emily said, “not my thing, thanks” should be a perfectly acceptable response. If you lose any friends over this, they were definitely not worth the cost. Stay strong and stick to your plan.

    1. Ah, yes. That Y chromosome would be quite helpful in these circumstances. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if anyone will ever try to capitalize on this sales method for men (craft beer, tools, who knows what else).

  9. Ugh. I currently have like 7 virtual parties happening right now – the ones where they add you on Facebook automatically… I hate those. I just ignore them and wait for the “virtual party” to end so I don’t look like the rude one “Maggie has LEFT THE CONVERSATION.” Just stop people. I hate all your crap! If you are a representative, I get it. Tell us what you do. Tell us what you sell. And then if we want some, WE WILL COME TO YOU. I like to buy things on MY terms… not yours. FYI.

    1. Exactly. I’m happy to support you if I have a need/want. But please don’t make me feel so obligated that it seems like our friendship depends on it.

  10. Maybe I don’t have friends – but I never get invited to these! lol. Actually, I’ve heard of all of these types of ‘parties’ but luckily all my close friends just like hanging out on back porches and sharing a bottle of wine or a six-pack while the kids throw dirt at each other…

    Years ago I went to one of these for like scrapbooking or something. I thought it was like a hang out and do arts & crafts. When I was telling my mom about it later she was like “Um, you are supposed to buy something” and I was like “That is so dumb, its overpriced”

    1. Sounds like my kind of a terrific time! I also feel obligated to buy at these kinds of parties. I know plenty of people go for the socialization and the snacks, but I feel even more guilty attending and NOT buying than I do declining. Ha!

  11. Long overdue, and excellent post by the way. So tired of both my girlfriend and I getting bombarded to buy things to “support” a friend at some outrageously inflated price. I hate direct marketing. A lot.

  12. I love it! I’ve never been invited to one of these sales pitch-themed parties, but I could send this letter to friends all the time for everything from weekend trip suggestions to “who wants to go to the most expensive restaurant in town?” Argh!

    1. Ahhh, yes. That’s the other thing I’m juggling this year with many people turning 30. I want to celebrate you, but I do not wish to celebrate you in Riviera Maya and try to take two days off work the last week of the school year. Glad I’m not alone!

  13. I see where you are coming from in terms of mass-produced items. However, If someone is helping out an artist friend who makes jewelry or pottery or other handmade items, then I think it is different. In those instances, you are getting something one of a kind if you choose to purchase and making a difference in an individual’s life, and maybe helping them make ends meets.

    1. It’s definitely a work in progress. I’m such a pushover sometimes, but I’m learning to stand my ground. I hope others understand, but I’m learning to not lose (as much) sleep over it!

  14. Thanks for this post. I sometimes get so excited when I see a message pop up from someone I haven’t heard from in a while… only to discover that the message is a group invitation to 157,962 of her closest friends to buy something from her latest pyramid scheme. Boo.
    I’ve contemplated writing back that while I won’t be attending the party, I’d love to get together sometime. But usually I just ignore the whole thing.

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