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Have you got yourself in “social debt”?

Have you got yourself in “social debt”?

Category: Debt

Updated: 27/06/2017
First Published: 25/06/2014

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Do you feel obliged to take part in activities even if you perhaps can't afford them? Do you feel embarrassed to say no, despite the fact it is going to mean overspending as a result?

Well, you're not alone, as 48% of those questioned by the Money Advice Service admitted to falling into debt as a result of their social lives, with the average "social debt" racking up to a staggering £1,260.

Most people can admit to spending a little too much on a good night out, but if this is happening regularly then it could be becoming a problem, and worryingly 56% of adults say they usually spend more than they plan to on social occasions.

Insecurities about appearing tight or stingy could be a key cause of this with 58% claiming to be worried about appearing this way in front of friends, and a further 32% admitting this has contributed to their overspending.

Social stigmas about being tight-fisted could be getting a lot of people in debt as 67% of those questioned will find themselves out of pocket at the bar, spending more than they expect to get back on rounds of drinks. There's definite pressure, however, as 35% of those questioned felt that people who don't buy rounds are stingy while over 34% think it is simply being rude.

When it comes to food, it seems the same stigmas arise about splitting the bill, but 32% of diners felt they lose out by paying for more than they have eaten. Only 26% ventured to split the bill based on what each person has had, with 59% feeling uncomfortable to suggest this.

Perhaps affording to take part in something in the first place is an issue too, with 25% going out for meals they can't afford and 17% going on a holiday they don't have the money for, just because they don't like to say "no". However, the typical British politeness can't be blamed for everything, as a further 36% admit it is simply a lack of self control.

Whatever is making consumers overspend when it comes to social occasions, it becomes even more worrying when 20% have had to cut back on food due to it and 9% have not been able to pay utility bills.

Jane Symonds, of the Money Advice Service, says:

"Most of us spend a little more than planned every now and again, whether it is buying a few more drinks than we expected to on a night out, or getting a taxi home at the end of the evening.

"I'd urge anyone in debt, due to their social spending, to take action now to avoid getting any further into the red and instead work at clearing it. You'd be surprised at how empowering saying 'no' can feel when you see how healthy your bank balance looks, and you can spend the money on things you really value or need."

When people do go down the sensible route and cut back it makes them feel positive (35%), with 33% feeling great about not wasting money and a further 20% admitting to feeling proud of themselves. So, you need to harness those feelings and work on being careful with your hard-earned cash. There's no reason to miss out on things altogether but picking and choosing which of those social events are really important to you could help you save.

Perhaps you could take a look at what two-for-one, or discount, vouchers are available – there's nothing wrong with a bit of savvy saving. Then make sure you put what you do save away in a high interest bank account – possibly an ISA – and once you've stashed away a bit of cash for a rainy day, you won't feel so guilty indulging in a few well-earned nights out.

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