How to Get Simple When Your Friends Are Not

You’re giving away the stuff you don’t need. You are paying off debt. You are becoming more aware of what is really essential and starting to live life on purpose.

You’ve probably realized that one of the essentials is friends. Spending time with people you love is on the top of the list. The only problem is that your friends haven’t been changing with you.

How do you spend time with the people you love as your new simple self?

Your friends haven’t changed, and you shouldn’t expect them to. You loved them before and you can still love them just the way they are. You may have to modify the way you play, but if they love you too, it’s likely that they will be open to your recommendations.

Share your new lifestyle, but don’t impose it on your friends. Tell them about your plans to pay off debt, and consume less if you’d like, but don’t expect them to embrace the simple life. They will learn from your example, not your preaching. If they need preaching, send them to me. 😉

If your previous life of mindless consumption included expensive dinners out, trips with friends, and shopping sprees, consider these suggestions.

  • Potluck Dinners. Spending hundreds on dinner, wine and a generous tip used to be fun, but now that you know what’s really important, host a dinner at your place or a barbecue in a park. Everyone brings a dish and/or beverage and you can spend more time engaging, rather than trying to get a server’s attention.
  • Get Outside. Instead of meeting for lunch, coffee, or a movie, suggest a walk, hike or game of tennis. You can connect and boost your heart rate at the same time.
  • Meet Up. I haven’t used this site before, but I know several people that have. You can connect with like minded people regarding specific activities.
  • Other community events. You don’t have to be Italian to go to the Italian festival. Check out what’s going on in your town or city. Chances are there are festivals, free classes, and other events to take advantage of. Challenge your friends to each suggest an activity and then vote on one per month as a group.
  • Movie night. A night at the movies can get pricey, so invite the gang over for movie night.
  • Volunteer together. Sign up as a group to work at your local soup kitchen or other organization.

Now that you and your friends won’t be fighting over dinner bills and driving home feeling guilty that you put another $200 on your credit card, you can really get to know each other and have fun. A new lifestyle may introduce new friends, but it doesn’t mean you have to dump your BFFs.


  1. says

    I love this! Instead of going out for lunch a few weekends ago, I made lunch for my 2 girlfriends at my house – and we had a much more relaxing time sitting on the patio, enjoying our food, and chatting :) Next time, the potluck would be even better!

  2. DanaK says

    We do potlucks & dinners at our house & our friends’ homes quite often. We were doing this before kids but now that most of us have kids, it’s an even better option.

  3. says

    I love hosting game nights! Cards, board games…whatever everyone feels like playing. Asking everyone to bring snacks to share means we all get to try something new.

  4. says

    some great ideas here. I’ve definately found it hard to balance my simplier way of life with the expectations of my friends. However one of my friends and I have started to met up for walks rather than for lunch, coffee etc. it’s lovely relaxing, cheap and healthy way to meet up especially as I have an eleven month old who much prefers to sit in the buggy taking in the scenery than being strapped in a high chair in a restaurant or cafe while my friend and I try to have a chat.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Emma, I agree that meeting for a walk is a great idea. Lighter on the body and the wallet. I just popped over to your blog and your little boy is adorable.

  5. Colleen says

    I LOVE this. Even though most of NY friends aren’t on the same bath as I am, we’re all trying to spend less, so these ideas are great! Makes me want to have people over sooner.

    My current challenge is that I have one friend who, although he knows what I’m trying to do, makes comments about how people who say they don’t want to be so materialistic/ don’t want to buy, buy, buy/ want step off the traditional work your way up the corporate ladder are essentially doing that to mask their own shortcomings/failures. Advice, short if completely writing him off?

    • Jamie says

      Well some people go out and hit retail therapy to masks problems as well so that is a weak argument and not very friendly. People put each other in a box and you’re stepping out of the box they have thought of as you, their problem not yours. Chin up and move forward with your plan with or with out them. Good luck.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Just let him know most are trying to step off the hamster wheel. Instead of working hard to make more to consume more, you want to work less, make less, have less and experience more actual living.

      Not sure if he’s invited to your first get together! 😉

    • says


      Have you tried having an open conversation with him, letting him know that he hurt your feelings? Sometimes something as simple as telling a friend how you feel can open up a new world of understanding. Perhaps he’s feeling nervous that your new lifestyle is taking you away from him. A good talk has the chance of clearing things up between the two of you.

      On the flip side if I had a friend who persisted in saying things like that (shortcomings/failures) I’d have a heart to heart and if that didn’t work I’d start to distance myself from him. Life is too short to have unfriendly friends! Good luck with that situation.

    • Karen T. says

      My mother has basically said the same thing to me, which is hurtful, but I don’t want to write her off. Jamie, if I delivered your message (about retail therapy masking problems) that might hit home — which would probably cause her to write ME off for a while! I think I’ll try Tanja’s idea of an honest heart-to-heart, but I’m not sure how that will be received. As you can probably tell, my relationship with my mother is not all I might wish it to be. If the difference wasn’t minimalism/materialism, she would find something else to criticize. While it’s true that unsupportive people can interfere with the life you truly value and desire, sometimes you don’t want to walk away from them. I will still live according to my values and beliefs, and I will try to remain gracious, non-preachy, and non-retaliative when my mother makes her digs.

    • Carrie says

      -ah, and here I was thinking “wow, she found a great way to socialize and save on her water bill!” :o)

  6. says

    Well this one made me think. One of my goals is to live simply but i find myself caught up in the madness of life time and time again. If I had to explain what goals/rules are for my simply life to my BFF i’m not sure what i would say!

  7. says

    I don’t like to eat out, so when I meet friends there I usually tell them “I already ate at home” or have an appetizer or so. So far nobody has said anything – after all, why should you eat if you aren’t hungry? I just order a beer or a coke.

  8. says

    Courtney, I love the way you mentioned “get outside” as an alternative. Some of my absolute best times with people have been going on a hike, going to a lake or creek for a casual day of swimming, or just sitting around at a park gabbing.

    The one idea I’ll add to your list is having a backyard fire party. Just a little fire pit set up in a backyard, a bottle of wine (o.k. maybe a few bottles of wine), and some potluck finger food. Those have been my absolute favorite parties. Nothing formal, just sitting around talking and laughing! Lucky for me, most of my friends were much less consumer-oriented than I was (ie, a bunch of hippies), so I didn’t have to face much of a challenge in this department!

  9. says

    “Preach the good news always, and when absolutely necessary use words.” I’m moving toward a personal intervention with myself: I call it “listen, dummy.” The world is pulsing with beautiful rhythms, stories, abstract beats, and beautiful faces.

    Radical listening is my new MO for socializing. I am tired of my own thoughts. I realized my friend, EH, is this amazing natural storyteller. I’m a lit/media teacher, and I am humbled by her. She throws herself into life and has a storyworthy day, everyday.

    Her secret? She listens intensely to life, then chooses marvelous things to say.

    A group of expat educators, we don’t have a lot of ways to spend money: game nights, storytelling, “family dinners” (potlucks), “poor but snappy” traveling in Latin Am. We carve out tribes and live a little more paleo…

    It’s wonderful, really.

    Thanks Courtney. It’s been far too long since I stopped by for a listen,

  10. says

    These are great ideas – and eco-friendly too. Recently, I took a bicycle ride to the beach on a date with my boyfriend. In our Singaporean lingo, it was “cheap and good”. We had a very good time and managed to get some fresh air and exercise too!

  11. says

    Amen to the article. I am on a similar path and we are lucky to have a few friends that share similar views so it is a great support system and sounding board. As for our other friends, they are tolerant which is fine – everyone makes their own decisions… and eventually they will see the light!

  12. says

    This really resonates with me. My husband and I have always been frugal but now we are consciously making an effort to get rid of all of our things as well as save money. We are quitting our jobs and traveling the world in 2012. Anyway, all of our friends know that this is our goal and while many are supportive, I do find that there are a few friends we just don’t connect with as much anymore. I don’t think it’s because they mind doing things other than eating expensive dinners out, etc. but because they take our new level of frugalness as an attack on their lifestyle. Really, I think it makes them question their own priorities and, finding discomfort in that, they distance themselves from us.

  13. Majeeda Rosa says

    I get together with a few friends each month for an old fashioned crafting bee! Knitting, quilting, jewelry making – whatever it may be – we’ll work on our projects around the table, laughing and chatting about anything that comes up. Small owned are available and folks stay for a few hours and leave when they’re ready, open house style. Very gratifying and projects get completed!

  14. Myra says

    The things you mention here are great ideas and I have tried them. They worked very well for me for a while, but the different and changing agendas between my friends and I created an insurmountable distance between us it seems. I finally found peace and pure happiness since embracing minimalism in every aspect of my life. I don’t regret it and I see what few real friends I had, but I do feel sad sometimes that I can’t share my happiness with the people once so close to me. Now I am making more conscious efforts to meet more like minded people and I am confident that I will. Thanks for writing about the subject–it doesn’t make me feel so silly for wondering what went wrong. :)

  15. says

    This made me chuckle a little bit because I had a purging garage sale this weekend – and my girlfriends were my biggest customers! :-)