Saturday, I spent the night out on the town with two of my good friends. As we hopped around our little college town – from bar to bar – we soaked in this momentary distraction from the stress of graduate school. That night, like many before, we started treating for each others’ drinks. I’d buy a round, then one of my friends would. After each drink, we’d say, “thanks for treating.”
Many times, this pattern starts, and it actually makes the entire time more enjoyable for us all. There’s no pressure to treat, and no set expectation to purchase a certain number of drinks. Instead of buying our own drinks, one by one, we benefit and soak up the joy of reciprocity.
The joy of reciprocity is similar to the Starbucks drive-thru treat effect. Every now and then, you may enter the drive thru and be surprised to find your bill already paid. What’s happened is that the car ahead has treated for the drink, and hopes you’ll treat for the person behind you. In purchasing drinks for the next vehicle, it’s a gift that pays dividends for the future and immediate moment.
Research shows that giving to charities and helping others creates happiness in more ways than self-centered purchases could ever give. By engaging in these moments to treat, which also include a reciprocal component, there’s a shared happiness – the best kind of energy. But it takes a spark: someone needs to treat first.
That first person must pay it forward and treat for others, which takes a risk. The reciprocal, circle-like giving may never be returned; in fact, as I mentioned, that unknown portion creates the fun. If I treat first, my friends may forget or never return the favor, and that’s okay. If the cycle continues, that wonderful energy gets shared, creating a giving environment.
Taking a risk and treating for a round of drinks may not seem frugal. In reality, nearly every time I do this, my friends treat, too. People want to participate and enjoy this process. Many times, I’m not actually paying for more than one round, and the reciprocity continues throughout the night.
There’s an individualism and isolating effect to only paying for your own bill, and this creates a different dynamic. The alternative is not only equally frugal, it pays dividends psychologically. By the end of the night, we are more connected, energetic, and positive than we ever could’ve been by simply treating for our own drinks.
The question that remains is how you can incorporate this joy of reciprocity into your everyday life. What moments can you reach out to help, treat, and/or offer something to others? What times can you do these things, without any expectation for reciprocity – just letting it naturally occur? What holds you back from doing it more often?
Use your free-time/weekends to enjoy those you care about and make room to share. The energy and positivity that this reciprocity contains can help boost your stamina to be frugal. You need that fuel for a frugal week ahead!