Month of March , 2009

Girls’ Nights on the Cheap: Staying Connected Without Spending a Fortune

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Dawn Williams Bertuca and Tina VanZant Bishop are the Girlfriends-In-Chief at Girlfriend Celebrations, a website that provides original ideas for girlfriend gatherings. They founded the site in 2005, based on the premise that “Girlfriends Make Life Better.™”

“Knowing that women tend to nurture others but not themselves, and that few women give themselves permission to make friendship a priority, we make it easy to have fun and meaningful times together by publishing complete party plans for girls’ night out, girls’ night in, girlfriend gatherings and girlfriend getaways,” they say.

I was delighted that Dawn and Tina agreed to share their thoughts here on how girlfriends can stay connected during these trying economic times.

Does the economic downturn mean the end of girls’ nights?

Every girlfriend we know is watching her wallet a little more closely these days. A traditional girls’ night out—whether it’s dinner, clubbing, or a movie—can be expensive. If you can’t spend as freely as you used to, should you cancel your monthly date with the girls?

We say, absolutely not! We firmly believe that regular girlfriend gatherings are essential not only to your sanity, but to your health, especially during challenging times. The benefits of female friendship are too important to sacrifice simply for monetary reasons.

What are your top three pointers for budget friendly get-togethers?

The good news is that a successful girls’ night doesn’t require expensive outings or activities. There are many ways to have fun and meaningful gatherings without breaking the bank. Try these 3 budget-friendly approaches and you might find a new favorite way to spend time with the girls:


Turning “Girls’ Night Out” into “Girls’ Night In” is the most obvious way to save money while still enjoying your gal pals.

Swap parties are especially hot right now, because they let you “shop” for new stuff among your friends’ no-longer-wanted goodies. Try swapping clothing, accessories, home décor, books and magazines, or even (for the true recessionista) coupons.

Game tournaments
are another way to liven up girls’ night in with some friendly competition, while using entertainment items you already have. Play Scrabble, Monopoly, Hearts, Euchre, beanbags, or Wii games (we like the Dancing with the Stars game or Smarty Pants trivia for girls’ night). Award inexpensive prizes to the winners and be sure to take lots of photos!

Sharing a meal can be the centerpiece of your girls’ night, too. Making and serving food to your friends is a great way to nurture them, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Try a soup exchange, progressive dinner, or good old potluck supper. You might even try a cooking party where you make dishes to freeze or for a friend in need. If you use evite to invite your gal pals, you can set up your invitation so that your friends can sign up to bring items they can afford.  


If you simply must have a girls’ night out, lower your cost by planning creatively. See a community theater or high-school production instead of a Broadway musical; check out a cooking school for dining bargains; visit a beauty academy for your spa outing.


Entertaining maven Ina Garten once said, “The difference between a good party and a bad party has nothing to do with the food. It has all to do with the ... hostess having fun.” Stop trying to impress your friends! You don’t have to be posh to be popular. One flower in a vase makes a statement as well as a bouquet. A quality salsa and chips is a fine frugal substitute for your famous seven-layer dip. Group photos (perhaps with fun props) make festive but low-cost party favors that will be cherished far longer than a scented candle.

Remember that your girlfriends love you for your personality, not your purse. And if they don’t, it’s time to find some new girlfriends. Have fun together, ladies!

Other related articles from the Girlfriends-in-Chief:

Guide to Swap Parties for Frugal Girls’ Nights
Girls’ Night on a Budget

Follow this dynamic duo on Twitter at and

Big hurts, little hurts, and apologies


A reader of this blog wrote:

I have been trying to read some things on-line about how to deal with an ex-best friend and came across information about your book and your profile. I look forward to the release of your book and am curious as to its content, including your recommendations for dealing with relationships that have been damaged, which in my case would more appropriately be described as destroyed. 


My “friend” wants me back in her life desperately but doesn’t want to talk about what happened to us; she does not want to own up to the things she did and they were so devastating to me that there is no way I could be friends with her again by simply pretending none of it happened, and not resolving it (sweeping it under the carpet).


I have read an inordinate amount of feedback provided in response to individuals relating their respective stories and am disappointed to find that the majority of that feedback consists of recommendations to simply ignore the other person s opposed to honestly expressing one’s feelings about what transpired, how it felt/feels, and why or why not the relationship an be mended, etc.


My response:

Thanks so much for your note! In response to your suggestion, I've posted on the topic starting below and continuing on the Huffington Post


No friendship is conflict-free and even good friends say the wrong things or make mistakes occasionally. Some hurts are big but most are relatively minor.


If you’ve insulted a good friend or done something stupid, apologize immediately. Sometimes your friend will make allowances for your lapse because you share a bank of goodwill based on history and trust. But you’ll need to be careful not to make the same mistake again.

However, if you’ve made a big blunder or blurted out something totally regrettable, all you can do is try to apologize. To read some tips on how to make a meaningful and appropriate apology, read my latest article on The Huffington Post.



Junior High Redux: Bounced from a mom's group



Hi Irene,

It's been two months since I attended a Mom's group and had a falling out with two of the mothers. They have pretty much soured my relationship with most of the other mothers in the group.


Three months ago, I cancelled a play date at my house because a predicted snowstorm was announced on the news. One of the mothers, Sandy, tried to make me look bad by sending out an e-mail to the whole group saying that she was shocked that I was canceling. I was mad so I sent another e-mail to everyone explaining that the mayor had asked people not to drive and that all local schools were closed.


Sandy defriended me on Facebook, I assumed, because I had cancelled the play date. Another mother, Beth (who is good friends with Sandy), told me that she thought that Sandy was overly upset, but that I shouldn't have sent my e-mail afterwards. I was really good friends with Beth whom I trusted. I shared my thoughts and feelings with her when I was unsure of someone in our group and she did the same with me.


Anyhow, she went behind my back and started talking to Sandy about me. I later talked to Sandy, who told be that Beth went back to her telling her all this stuff I had said about her. Beth said I was exhausting her with my worries about who was mad at me and she made me feel terrible. She later told me that she didn't want to hang out with me any more so I defriended her on Facebook.


I apologized to Sandy and said I wasn't serious about most of the stuff I had said about her (that she thought I was a bad mother; that she was overly opinionated for believing that babies should be trained a certain way, etc.). I explained that I was upset when I said those things to Beth and that I needed a break to forget about it.


After that, things seemed good. I ran into Sandy at our babies' swim lessons and she was friendly and sweet but since the swim class ended, I haven't heard from anyone in the group. Only two of the eight Moms seem like they still talk to me. Since then, Beth has become friends with the moms who used to annoy her.


I know that my baby and I are better off without most of these people, but I'm still bothered that most of these moms took Beth's side. It bugs me that things ended so badly with them. I had fun times with this group and I had hoped to watch our babies play together into toddlerhood. I have joined other groups, and this has helped me feel better. I still wonder how I should act if I run into these former friends around town. One of my friends, who wasn't in the group, thinks I should give Beth a dirty look if I ever see her again.


I haven't been through something like this since junior high. A lot of these moms are not true friends. It still hurts to be the one that everyone excluded.




Dear Leticia:

It's a horrible feeling to be excluded from a group and I'm sure you are reeling from the experience. You chose to respond defensively to Sandy in a very public way. While Sandy shouldn't have sent the initial email to all the other moms criticizing your decision, you only escalated the conflict by responding with an email that went to all the moms. It might have worked out better if you had called her directly and explained your position. My guess is that someone else would have come to your defense online.


Then you made the mistake of gossiping about Sandy to Beth, whom you knew were both good friends. When Beth got upset about this, you defriended her on Facebook. Although it's someone else's suggestion, now you are considering giving her a dirty look.


This is a mom's group that came together because you all had kids of similar ages. You probably should have eased yourself into the group and studied the people and their relationships with each other before you treated them as close friends with whom you would share confidences.


You made the mistake of lashing out at Sandy by email and defriending Beth on Facebook, actions I suspect you would have been hesitant to do face-to-face. Although this commonly happens on the Internet, it's something you should be careful about in the future.


It does seem like at least some of these moms act like adolescents but you also bear some of the blame. Try to learn from this experience. Next time, take it more slowly when you join a new group. Another suggestion: Always take the high road and treat people the way you would like to be treated---especially if you are going to see them again! As easy and tempting as it may be, don't respond to a nasty email with another. Don't defriend someone on Facebook when you are likely to encounter her again in your town.


I'm glad that you have found a new group where you can start anew. Since your child is so young, it should be easy for her to adjust to the new kids. Act friendly and open when you bump into these other women. Since they live in your town, you may find yourself on the same committee of the PTA or sharing the duties of class mothers. By then, this upset will be long forgotten by everyone.

Best of luck,




America can no longer afford to fail our citizens with serious mental illnesses


This is off-topic but important:

Please read my latest post on HuffPo and check out your own state.

Then do something about it! Tell a friend, call your legislator, and join your local NAMI so you can make a difference .




Michelle Obama: First Lady, First Friend


Sleeveless dresses with well-toned arms, sensible but stylish flats, and now what might be a real first: A ‘Girl’s Night In’ at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue during her first days at the White House.

Not only is Michelle Obama a first lady with style and panache but by all reports----she is fiercely loyal to and appreciative of her female friendships. Read my latest post on The Huffington Post.  


What makes Michelle a woman with whom you would want to be friends? Aside from her arms, I love her seeming ability to successfully juggle husband, children, self-care, career and friends and come out smiling! It isn't easy to strike that balance.  



Friendship and Money: Minimizing Losses

Given the uncertainties of the global economy and the high rates of unemployment, money seems to be on everyone’s minds these days. This is the second part of a two-part interview on Friendship and Money with MSN Money columnist Emma Johnson. Part I of this interview can be found here: She’s Fired, You’re Not.

How do economic inequities between friends affect relationships?

In a perfect world, money wouldn’t affect friendships. But there are a few things going on here. For one, in our culture we measure success in terms of professional accomplishments and money, and we often judge ourselves by these sticks. So when one friend gets ahead financially, another might start feeling left behind and less successful all around.

The other thing that happens is that money often has a big impact on our lifestyles. When one friend starts making big bucks, she might move to a tonier zip code, start worrying about private schools for their kids, and spend weekends researching a second home to buy. This is her new life. The friend from way-back-when can’t identify with these new concerns, and vice versa. These are not trivial differences and can create big rifts in how people relate.

There are practical considerations, too, depending on the relationship. If a pair of friends is in the habit of spending money together – be it dinners out, shopping or vacationing – that can all come to a grinding halt once one party can no longer afford it. Worse, the unemployed woman may feel the need to now live beyond her means just to keep that much-needed friendship alive.

Should women talk openly with each other about their financial woes or those of their partners? Why?

I believe we all need someone to talk to about the important things in our lives. We’ve been raised to believe that talking about money is impolite, but it is such an important part of our lives – and often our worries – that the practice of bottling up all our money woes might just be at the root our country’s lousy financial habits.

Blabbing about the nitty-gritty of your income, credit card statements, taxes and inheritances is probably not a great idea most of the time, but there are no holds barred when you have a really truly great friend who will not judge you, will give you some tough love when needed and, most importantly, listen. On the other hand, if you’re tickled because your husband got a raise, your great aunt died and left you a chunk of change and you found a wad of cash in your attic, remember: no one likes a braggart.

Are there circumstances when you should lend a girlfriend money to keep her afloat? What are the perils? What safeguards would help preserve the friendship?

Lending money to a friend or relative is always a tough situation, and can be a real stressor in the relationship. Whenever you get together, the money will be on everyone’s mind, but no one will talk about it. And there is no better way to create resentment than to have an unpaid debt between parties.

If you do decide to lend money, write up a contract signed by both friends, and have it include terms of the loan, repayment dates, interest, etc. But lending money should be a business decision, not an emotional one, and that is tricky between friends. Ask yourself:

  • What is this person’s financial history?
  • What is the likelihood they will be gainfully employed soon?
  • Is the loan for a true emergency or basic living expenses, or something frivolous?
  • And perhaps most important, Will this loan put my own finances in peril?

In an article I wrote for Psychology Today about friendship and money, I profiled a woman who made all her own money and had a very modest existence, one she shared with a girlfriend who later came into a significant inheritance. The newly rich friend felt guilty about it and insisted on treating her friend to meals out, vacations and trips to the mall – which the working woman resented very much. They were able to talk it though, but that financial inequality proved to be a big deal.

Emma Johnson is a New York journalist who writes about business, finance and money topics for publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and Psychology Today. Her series on MSN Money, “Jump Start Your Life,” explores money topics for people in their 20s and 30s.