What People Pay Shouldn’t Change Our Behavior

Time to Rant.

I went out to dinner the other night with some friends, we ordered beer, and then a friend, ‘Danielle’, came in, sat down, and started perusing the drink list. “Ooo, a mojito, that sounds great! How much did you guys spend?” We told her $5.50, so she said great, and ordered the $7.75 drink.

A little confused, I asked why our price mattered, and she answered by saying that since we were spending so much for a beer (my apologies to those who live in NY), it justified her purchase.

That boggled my mine. She so obviously wanted the mojito and I just don’t get why the price mattered. She was obviously willing to pay $7.75 for a drink, so why not go for it?

Why did the price of other people’s drinks affect her purchase decision.

What made me go absolutely bonkers is that after talking about it for a few minutes, it became clear that had the beers been just a few dollars, she would have purchased nothing because it wouldn’t have been ‘that kind of night’.

WHAT????

If that’s the drink you want, just buy it! Don’t let other people influence your financial decisions. Do what’s best for you and what you can afford, because that will make you happier.

Danielle, which would make you happier, a $7.75 drink you want when your friends are drinking beer? Or no drink BECAUSE they’re drinking beer?

This type of behavior is very dangerous. If you follow your friends’ lead for small purchases, you run the risk of spending bigger bucks when you don’t always want to just because it’s the thing to do. Or it’s ‘that kind of night.’

Readers, are you as disappointed in Danielle as I am? Does this make you want to scream?

21 Responses to What People Pay Shouldn’t Change Our Behavior

  1. I don’t pay for anything based on what my friends spent.

    I mean, if I’m buying something and they bought the same thing, I’d want to know if there was a sale, a discount, anything.. so I could get a similar price, but not if I wanted the item in question like a drink.

    You’re there to enjoy it, so spend the money and have fun. If not, stay at home.

  2. I don’t think it wise to make purchases the same as your friends. Everyone has a different financial situation and we could assume we are the same but actually aren’t. What one person can afford may not be what another person can.

    I think we get much better at doing our own thing as we get older. We now have the maturity and life experience to give us confidence in holding our own ground; staying true to what matters to us. This isn’t so easy when your younger, especially a teen or a new adult in college. It is a lot harder to stand alone and be strong. This is the real problem though. Our money habits start when we are young and so if we don’t grow and realize we can do what is right for us even if no one else does, then we continue in this loop of following the pack right down debt lane.

    • Daniel says:

      @Miss T @ Prairie EcoThrifter, I think one important reason why it’s harder for teensand college students is because by saying no, it can mean being left out with bad alternatives. You don’t want to pay for the concert? Too bad, your other option is sitting at home while all your other friends have fun. As you get older, not all your friends are tied together, so branching out and doing something else becomes a more viable option.

  3. I wouldn’t be too concerned. Chances are she was using the rationale that ‘liquor is somewhat more expensive than beer’ logic but making sure it wasn’t too much more that she would feel she was getting ripped off. It was essentially comparison shopping. If you had told her that the beers were $2, then she probably would have thought ‘hmmm a 400% difference is too much’ but from what you told her, she figured a 40% difference between a beer and a cocktail was justified.

    The way she answered your follow-up question was a little more blunt and I can see why you were maybe put out a little, but the logic behind her statement sort of makes sense to some degree.

    • Daniel says:

      @Money Beagle, But if you want it, why not just pay for it! Especially when your alternative is not having something you want. Purchases should be based on the price, not what others are paying! When we do that, it leads to us feeling bad about ourselves, even if we’re happy with the price we got!

      • ira says:

        I think that Money Beagle makes a good point, although it’s probably not what influenced your friend. How much is a reasonable price for a mojito? What if the bar charged $12? There is no absolute way of deciding a reasonable value for the mojito. However, there is a way of assessing relative value. So, I might want a mojito and if I’m at a bar where beers are only $2, I might think that $12 is too much. But, if I’m at a bar where beers are $8, I might suck it up and say, well we’ve come out to an expensive place, and I want a drink, so I’m willing to pay a relatively (for this place) reasonable price, rather than just have a dull evening and not drink.

        There’s a difference between being influenced by friends to do something you don’t want to do, and using relative pricing to figure out if your purchase is worthwhile. This is analogous to “sticker shock” when buying a car. It’s really hard to know how much is a reasonable price for a new car when you haven’t bought one in many years. However, when you look around at all the different prices for different models, you get a better sense of how much value you may be getting for purchasing a particular model.

        Now, none of this exonerates your friend…

        • Daniel says:

          @ira, I think it’s a fair assumption that my friend gets an occasional mojito, so she knows what she’s willing to pay for a drink. I can’t ever imagine her paying $20 for one, and if she found them for $2, she’d have 3.

          She should have a set price that she;s willing to pay in all situation. The apples to oranges comparison of mojito for beer will result in 3 situations:

          1. Both drinks are cheap and she buys and has a great time.
          2. Both drinks are expensive and she buys and her wallet is sad the next day.
          3. Beer is cheap and mojito is expensive and she passes and is sad the whole night.
          (beer will never be more expensive)

          When 2 out 3 situations result in your wallet or you being sad, there needs to be a different solution.

  4. Wojo says:

    Yikes! This is like textbook peer pressure/influence right here. I guess that old saying that your net worth is near your closest 10 friends might be true.

  5. Lbergs says:

    I can understand where she is coming from though, –on bigger purchases that would be a stupid rule to follow, but in that moment she wanted to spend around the same amount that everyone else was spending. It’s more of a social thing… maybe a peer pressure thing? Regardless, I get it.

    • Daniel says:

      @Lbergs, I don’t think that peer pressure is a good reason to make purchases, and it’s definitely a slippery slope. What’s a big purchase and what’s a small one? You seem to not sweat the small stuff, so maybe I’m making a big deal about something I shouldn’t worry about, but it definitely bothered me.

      • ira says:

        So, Lbergs, you’re okay with Daniel going out drinking with other women while you’re out of town? Very cool of you. And, Daniel, whether or not you’re right about this, it shouldn’t BOTHER you – maybe just make you wonder, question, ponder, but really not worth getting worked up about.

  6. I think it’s kind of nuts what she did. If she wants the damn mojito, she should get it, regardless of whether or not her friends or drinking – if she doesnt want the mojito, she shouldnt get it at all. However, on the other hand, if beers were 5.50 (redic, I pay like $2) and a mix drink (far more potent) was only a few cents more, I’d strongly consider the mixed drink – just to get more value for my money.

    • Daniel says:

      @Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog, That makes sense, then you’re comparing products and it’s hard to argue with that. More alcohol content = far far better. But when it’s about enjoyment? Not a question in my mind.

  7. krantcents says:

    I guess I don’t understand it! It should not make any difference what other people are ordering or spending. People are what they are and they don’t change. Why bother?

  8. Carrie#K says:

    Ah, but what people pay has always influenced our behavior, prices and laws are calibrated to make the most of that instinct.

    If I really wanted a mojito, I’d order a mojito, but that said, if everyone else was drinking coffee, or had no money to spend on any drink, it might influence whether or not I bought a mojito.

    It’s not just the monetary aspect but the social one too. Do I want to be the only one drinking? Do I want to spend less money than anyone else? Do I want to spend more money than anyone else? Do I care? Do my friends?

    Man, I could really go for a mojito now. What’re you all drinking? What’d it cost? What do I care?

  9. 20 and Engaged says:

    I’m not necessarily disappointed, rather, confused. The only time my purchases are influenced by friends is if we’re going out to eat and I’m not the one buying. I’m always considerate of others’ financial situations and choose things that are budget conscious. However, if I’m paying, I don’t care what other people are buying.

  10. If Danielle is pretty enough, she shouldn’t pay for any drinks ever.

    Just sayin’

  11. Jerry says:

    She’s ridiculous. You are right to advise not to follow your friends’ lead on purchases. Do what you can afford according to your budget. And, if you are worried about it then your insurance for not spending is to not go out!

  12. Rusty says:

    That’s really strange. Did she pay on credit? ;)

    I think she was wanting to feel like she had more money than everyone else, a boost to her ego. It’s a weird question to ask. She could have asked, “So what did everyone else get?” which isn’t as out-there.

  13. Kind of funny, but I don’t know her so can’t really offer much opinion. I try not to have people influence my spending, but sometime it does happen.

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