my two cents

‘How Can I Afford to Pay $8,000 for Bachelorette Parties?’

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I’m at that age where my friends are starting to get married, and as much as it’s a happy time in life, it’s also an incredibly expensive one. While traveling to weddings is costly enough, the thing I’m really struggling with are bachelor and bachelorette parties. I’m grateful to be invited, and the people in whose honor they’re thrown are incredibly close friends of mine, but they’re really starting to add up. I feel as though the standard for these parties has been upped in the past few years: I’ve been invited to five parties this year, all of which involve travel. Some of them even require international travel, meaning I have to pay $1,000 in airfare alone even before factoring in lodging and the other activities planned. Altogether, I’m looking at paying $6,000 to $8,000 on these trips this year. I feel as though I can’t say no, nor do I really want to — these are my very best friends, after all. But how am I supposed to toe the line of being both financially sound and a good friend?

Lots of people will tell you that it’s absurd to pay $8,000 for your friends’ parties, and you should put it in your savings instead. They have a point, but I still don’t agree. I believe that enjoying yourself is a great use of your money — within reason. So is celebrating people you love and deepening those relationships in ways that are meaningful to both of you. (And so is your savings, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)

That said, if you’re feeling social pressure to go on these trips but aren’t actually looking forward to them (maybe you’re more of an introvert and group travel is your personal hell), then by all means, find a graceful way to decline! But it sounds like this is not the case, and you really want to go. The point is that you do have a choice, and you can say no. You have agency.

Which brings us to the tricky part. You can’t just manifest this money. It has to come at the expense of something you want less. You mentioned feeling tension between being “financially sound” and a good friend; I assume this means that spending up to $8,000 on these trips will shortchange some other major priorities (like saving) or even put you into debt. If that’s the case, your discomfort is a positive, healthy reaction. It means that you need to pay close attention to these decisions, and they may be tough.

I agree that it’s important to be financially sound, but that’s a series of actions rather than a state of being. More specifically, it involves paying your bills on time, avoiding high-interest debt, saving for emergencies, and investing part of your paycheck for retirement. But I also think it’s okay not to be 100 percent on top of all those things, all the time. Sometimes more immediate priorities will push longer-term financial goals to the back burner for a few months. As long as you have a realistic timeline for when you’ll return to those goals, that’s okay. Your financial plan will be more resilient if it’s flexible. (The one exception is that if your employer offers a retirement plan, you should absolutely take advantage of it. Especially if there’s a match.)

I’ve been where you are. In my late 20s, I dragged a suitcase to the office almost every Friday so that I could race to the airport or train station after work for whatever wedding or group trip was happening that weekend. In most of those cases, my choices looked like yours — I was invited; I wanted to go; I spent the money, and I went.

Looking back now, a decade later, I don’t regret any of this. And while I sometimes got stressed out about my bills as a result and certainly didn’t save as much as I could have, I did learn a lot about what mattered to me and what didn’t.

Namely, I learned that there were a lot of things that I was happy not spending money on. Rent was one of them — I lived in relatively cheap walk-up apartments in uncool neighborhoods and it was fine. Food was another; I typically ate eggs or cereal for dinner. I didn’t have a pet or a kid or even any hobbies, really; I worked late most nights. By my current standards, it was not a terribly wholesome or well-rounded lifestyle. But it tracked with what I cared about at the time, which was my career and spending time with my friends and loved ones.

I’m not advising that you move to a less expensive apartment or starve yourself to afford lavish trips with your friends, or that you can afford whatever you want if you simply cut back elsewhere. But this is a chance to think more broadly about trade-offs you’re willing to make, and how this moment will balance out over time.

Another way to do that, on a more micro level, is to review all your expenses weekly, line by line. (Or better yet, writing down everything you spend, every day.) That’s the easiest method for finding “holes” in your budget — i.e., expenses that don’t add much to your life and can be excised without much effort. I still do this whenever I feel like I don’t know where my money is going, and it always helps.

Reflecting on your day-to-day spending habits also keeps you honest with yourself. Maybe attending a fancy birthday dinner seemed like the right move at the time but, now that you’re looking at the bill, wasn’t worth the expense (it’s too late after the fact, but you’ll remember next time). Or you’ll realize that, realistically, going out for drinks just can’t happen this month.

Another thing to consider: Travel expenses for group trips can be negotiable. Chances are, if you’re feeling squeezed, other people are too. Don’t be afraid to reach out to whoever’s organizing the itinerary and say that you can’t quite swing spending more than X amount. You can also arrive a day late if it’ll save you a few hundred dollars. No one will notice — or maybe they’ll copy you if they’re in the same boat.

Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist based in L.A., suggests another way to think about this time in your life: “Try to picture yourself five years from now. What do you want to have accomplished between now and then?” This time frame is broad enough to give you perspective, but not so abstract that you can’t wrap your head around it. Resist the temptation to assume that you’ll have everything figured out by then; instead, think about the financial goals you’ll want to be pursuing, and how they might relate to the ones you have now. You don’t need all the answers, but it’s useful to think about what you’re hoping to learn.

Remember, this period is finite. I spent a few years sprinting around to weddings and wedding-adjacent things; now I have a toddler and a geriatric cat and a mortgage, and my idea of a good time is meeting a friend for a walk. I’m so glad I went to bachelorette parties when I did! But more importantly, I’m glad that they taught me to be financially nimble, and how my priorities can evolve.

The Cut’s financial advice columnist Charlotte Cowles answers readers’ personal questions about personal finance. Email your money conundrums to

‘How Can I Afford to Pay $8,000 for Bachelorette Parties?’