Friendships and financial inequality

A few years ago, I started spending time with a coworker outside of work. She was cool, fun to hang out with, and we had a lot in common. Except income.

She worked in a separate department and made significantly more money than I did. Hanging out with her and her friends usually involved dining at fancy restaurants, drinking at fancy bars, and talking about whether we'd go to Greece or St. Bart's — I hadn't been to either.

Today, we're no longer friends. It's not because we had some falling out or personality clash — we just came from two totally different worlds. After turning down a slew of invites, not being able to vacation with her, and generally saying ‘no' to friendly financial pressure, we grew apart.

Frankly, I just couldn't afford the friendship.

Financial inequality often becomes an issue in friendships. It's probably much harder to deal with in relationships, but it can still take a toll on friendships. It has for me, and lately, I've been wondering — how do you deal with making significantly more or less than your friends?

Problem #1: Guilt and Jealousy

When our friends begin to reach their financial goals, it can make us sensitive. It can remind us of our own goals that we're struggling to reach. GRS writer April Dykman once wrote about this topic, pointing out that one person's success can often signal a friend's failure.

I can relate. I have friends with some pretty big accomplishments under their belts. They've written movies; they've published books. I hate to admit it, and it's not very endearing, but I'm jealous. Sure, I'm happy for them and all. But more so, I'm jealous. I want to do those things, and the more they succeed, the more I think, “I'm not succeeding at that.”

Similarly, when our friends start to monumentally surpass us financially, I think it's only natural to self-reflect. And that self-reflection can lead to jealousy. If that jealousy inspires us to reach our goals, that's one thing; if it builds resentment, that's another.

Conversely, the other person — the one who's making more money — might start to feel guilty. Especially if you feel like your income inequality is causing a rift in your friendship, you might start to feel like it's your fault for “changing.”

Solution #1: Communication

For my MSN job, I interview a lot of relationship experts, psychologists and therapists. When I talk to them about relationship problems, their solutions always go back to one thing — communication. It might be cliché, but it's important. If you're having feelings of guilt or jealousy, it's important to talk about it. Money is an awkward subject. But the longer you bottle in your feelings, the more resentment will fester, and then awkwardness will thrive.

Last year, I met a new friend who loves going out all the time. I began feeling the same way I did with my old coworker — like we couldn't afford to be friends. But this time, I decided to not let that get in the way. I flat out told her, “I can't afford to do these things.” Interestingly, we still hang out, and since then, she's even told me, “I can't afford to go out to dinner. Let's hang out at my place instead.”

A simple act of communication salvaged — nay, improved — my friendship.

Problem #2: Giving and Taking (Advantage)

You should treat friends sometimes. Especially if it's your idea to go to a fancy place and you make more money than they do, you shouldn't have a problem with picking up the tab sometimes.

That being said, it's easy to take advantage of a friend who enjoys giving. Even the nicest, most polite of us sometimes take advantage of people without even realizing it. My parents, for example, always insist on paying when I visit them in Texas. While I don't mean to take advantage, I've come to expect it. It's not right, but it's easy.

After college, I started my first “real job.” The pay wasn't spectacular, but it was better than the near-minimum wage I was making while in school. A good friend of mine was still in college, making near-minimum wage. We would go for drinks every Friday night, taking turns on picking up the tab. But when I got my new job, suddenly it was assumed that I should start paying the tab week after week. When I inquired about this, my friend's answer was: “well, you make more than me now.” Our new income inequality meant that I had to make things equal by paying most of the time.

Solution #2: Set Boundaries

I told my friend that this wasn't how things were going to work. I shouldn't have to pay each time simply because I made more money. Also, I explained that I now spent a lot more time working and I moved into a nicer, more expensive apartment. So my “entertainment fund” was about the same as it used to be. It was an awkward conversation, and for a time, I felt like money caused a rift between us. But it needed to be said; boundaries needed to be set.

On the other side of the coin, all of us have that one friend who always insists on paying. Sometimes it gets to the point where you just get used to it — like with my parents. If that friend doesn't feel the need to set financial boundaries, find other ways to repay them. That could mean babysitting, helping them with home repairs, etc. You might earn significantly less than they do, but your time is still valuable.

Problem #3: Growing Apart

As your net worth starts to drastically differ from your friend's, growing apart may be easy. I hated nodding and smiling while my old coworker talked about what the weather was like in Santorini this time of year. Similarly, while I live a pretty middle-of-the-road lifestyle, I still have some friends who have to worry about paying the bills each month. It's hard for me to talk to those friends about certain topics. We can't talk about things like savings goals, for example. Or even simpler things — like cable alternatives or road trips. When I talk about those things, I feel like I'm inadvertently being condescending, as those are not even options in their financial lives right now. Sometimes, this makes conversation difficult, and often, I feel like we're growing apart.

Solution #3: Keep Traditions Alive

It's important to keep doing the things you were doing. If you used to invite your friend over for Sunday dinner, don't stop doing that just because you (or they) start making more money. Your lifestyle and priorities may change, but keeping the traditions alive will help ensure your friendship stays in tact.

I don't know all the answers, as this is something I'm in the process of dealing with. The sentimental side of me thinks that true friendship won't let a little thing like financial inequality get in the way. After all, laughter, love and understanding are the elements that make friendships thrive, and they're also free.

But there is the unpleasant reality that sometimes, friendships end. It's the last resort answer to all of this, but it happens. Maybe the income gap is too big an obstacle for a friend. Or maybe you set boundaries, and they just don't get it. For whatever reason, I suppose, sometimes, you just have to accept the end of a friendship and learn to move on.

These are the problems and solutions I've come across, and I'd like to ask — has financial inequality ever been an issue in any of your friendships or relationships? If so, what happened? How did you deal with it?

More about...Planning

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
175 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
8 years ago

There are no universal answers. We’ve been on both ends of this issue. We drew back from a couple we still like because we simply lost our taste for the (expensive) things they like and we could sense they pulled their noses up at the (more affordable) things we like. It’s a natural drift – sad, sure. But inevitable. It is what it is. We’ve also been on the other side, and we discovered that by accident. When I decided to cash out and go to graduate school in California, we way scaled down our possessions and lifestyle. Over dinner… Read more »

Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
8 years ago

It is hard when friends make more or less than you. Being a poor graduate, most friends are in roughly the same boat currently. One friend who became an engineer for a major transport company is faaar better off than me, which does sometimes make it easy to let him pay, but I try to avoid this by paying my share when I see him. Then again I have another friend who is a single mum with two very young kids. Her income is very limited, and it’s awkward to talk about certain topics, such as the occasional holiday. I… Read more »

Miser Mom
Miser Mom
8 years ago

When I was in high school, I interviewed all my English teachers, asking them what was the best and the worst part of their job. My favorite teacher gave an answer that echoes what you wrote about. She said all the friends who had the same educational background as her made more money, so that socializing on equal footing was really hard.

Those comments stuck with me. I hadn’t thought about how the career/financial choices I would make would affect my social circles.

Sonja B.
Sonja B.
8 years ago
Reply to  Miser Mom

I think that is great that you thought to interview your teachers and that they gave you candid answers!

Tom
Tom
8 years ago

When I was young and poor, I had a friend who was a millionaire. We got along swimmingly, because we understood the difference in our financial standings and simply did things that fit in with the lower budget, and paid our own ways. Now that I’m closer to his state than I was then, I have the same consideration for my current friends.

Ru
Ru
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

You’re lucky! I thought going to university I’d have friends all in the same “broke student” boat, but no, most of them are international students whose parents have deep pockets or who have some kind of inheritance to live off. They don’t do slumming it, they always want to eat in real restaurants and think nothing of spending £5 a day on coffee and cake (why would they? They can afford a personal trainer to help burn it off). It can be very frustrating and expensive to try and socialise with them because then just don’t understand what it’s like… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Ru

I had the same issue with friends from overseas. Their lives were full of constantly eating out at posh restaurants, spa treatments, shopping at all the big name stores (Burberry, etc) while I always had to pass up on their weekend getaways to Napa and beg that we eat at a place where it was less than $10/plate.

It got old after a while for the both of us so we ended up parting ways. I guess they were sick of the “poor American”.

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I think that’s a great strategy. I have a friend who often entertains some long-time friends who have far fewer resources than he does. He always insists on entertaining and buying the sort of food that they could reciprocate with rather than something so fancy that they’d feel uncomfortable.

Sometimes, it’s hard to know where other people stand in terms of finances. We don’t usually talk much about money and how much we have available, so it can be hard to tell if we’re doing things appropriately.

Cash Warren
Cash Warren
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Tom, I agree I currently have friends (a couple) who make way more then I do, but luckily they are very considerate and understanding. It also helps that they don’t flaunt or spend ridiculously. they have no problem eating where I want etc.

Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
8 years ago

I had a roommate that would nickel and dime us when we graduated from college. If the cable bill went up 27 cents he divided it by our percentage of the bill and wouldn’t refill the toilet paper if one of us forget it was our turn to buy. It was sad but that caused rifts and I don’t talk to that person as much anymore. I had no problem paying for these things but it was the extreme detail he divided everything by that just got too old very fast. Instead of splitting a bill three ways he’d go… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago

I suppose it’s a safe bet that of the two of you (you and your roommate), you had the higher income?

I doubt he’d have been so meticulous with the accounting if he really felt confident that it would all “even out” in the end. I’m guessing that your income was higher than his, and thus overpaying for community items by a few dollars a month was no big deal for you, but may have meant a cheque bouncing for him.

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I wouldn’t be so sure of that. I have a friend who does that and she makes FAR more than I do. As in, almost double. I don’t make a huge deal about my financial situation (I chose my career, after all, and don’t need much to live well, so I certainly don’t feel poor or destitute), but she does know about it, and I find behavior like that to be cheap and annoying.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago

yes, the one person I knew who did this made far more money than the rest of us. but she had other issues…

Jill
Jill
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

It’s more a function of personality than of financial status. I had one co-worker who would pull out her calculator and split the bill whenever we ate together. We all made roughly the same amount. It made her happy to have every penny in its rightful place, so we let her do what she had to do to be happy. Money represents more than just what it can buy to many people, which is why some people who have enough horde it anyway, and other people who barely make ends meet are quick to pick up the tab or give… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago

Yikes. Unfortunately, I can completely relate. I had an almost identical situation with a roommate. She was such a cool person, but after we became roomies and I got massively taken advantage of, it was hard to want to keep in touch with her. It’s amazing how different people can be once money is involved!

Carla
Carla
8 years ago

Sounds like an ex of mine I lived with 9 years ago. Everything was split exactly down the middle regardless if we lived together or not. Groceries, meals out, utilities, etc. He made a lot more than I did, but that didn’t matter. It was exhausting to say the least.

Samantha
Samantha
8 years ago

I don’t really understand this. If the bill changed, why wouldn’t you still divide it up by how many people were in the house? A $3 bill needs to be paid $1 each, and a $3.27 bill needs to be paid $1.09 each. If you didn’t divide it, who would pay it? And do you mean that he wouldn’t be the one to go out and buy toilet paper if it was your turn? What? Why wouldn’t you go out and buy it? I’m either really misunderstanding this, or I’m the nightmare roommate. I admit that I handled all the… Read more »

Katherine
Katherine
8 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

I agree. This sounds like a person who only wanted to pay his share and wanted everyone else to do the same. What’s wrong with that?

K
K
8 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

So, um, I hate to break it to you, but you are the nightmare roommate. I’ve learned over the years that people do not appreciate the meticulous dividing. That being said, I’ve always been with you! I’m that person. Usually the solution is “nightmare roommate pays all of the bills and handles all of the dividing and whatnot, and everyone else unbegrudgingly hands over a check”. I make nearly 100K/year, and live with two PhD students, who make 20K/year (maybe). The key is usually in the diplomacy. “This is the roommate agreement, everyone will pay everything equally. We will have… Read more »

Katherine
Katherine
8 years ago
Reply to  K

Where would the world be without nightmare roommates, then? Some people would always pay for lots of things, and some people would never pay enough. And they’d be happy and they wouldn’t care?

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

As for taking turns buying toilet paper, dish detergent and things like that, I tend to assume that stuff always evens out in the end. Then again, I used to live with two horrible roommates, and once when I came back from vacation, they were using paper towels as toilet paper. Apparently without me there, neither of them had the initiative to go out and buy TP.

I wonder where they are now…

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

For me, the nightmare situation wasn’t so much with the bills (I agree, its best if all of that is paid equally) but in other things. If I forgot my wallet one time, she would demand that I pay her back exactly the $5.13 or whatever instead of letting me, for example, pay for dinner the next night. Since I make it a point to always pay it back, I found that to be obnoxious as I spent all kinds of time finding change or writing checks for random small amounts. This is also the girl who, to save fifty… Read more »

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

This year a friend really wanted to have a big shindig for her 40th birthday. In San Diego. I’m a big fan of birthdays. Big, big fan. But right smack dab in the middle of the summer, with prior commitments already existing, air fare, hotel, pet sitter, and spending money for someone else’s birthday, was just not in the cards. I sent a very nice email saying as much. Also detailing how we were looking forward to a night on the town here to ring in her big 4.0. We’ve celebrated birthdays with this person for about 8 years. I… Read more »

Mom
Mom
8 years ago

Some friend. Youch!

Nihongo Dame Desu
Nihongo Dame Desu
8 years ago

I’ve never faced this with my close friends, despite significant income disparity. Because I think the issue isn’t income disparity, but *lifestyle* disparity. My husband and I are DINKS; we naturally have far more disposable income than my friends with two kids and one income. But because our lifestyle is fairly similar to there’s, we don’t have these issues. I don’t go to the Greek islands or regularly dine at Michelin restaurants. We all choose the same kinds of places to eat and activities to participate in on a regular basis, so not only is there no discomfort during conversations,… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago

Well said. You hit on what I was getting at below in my post — but got to the root of the issue.

Addie
Addie
8 years ago

This is exactly what I was thinking. So many wealthy people do not lifestyle inflate (how do you think they got wealthy?). My closest friends are all anti-snobbery, and I don’t think their lifestyles would be completely unlike mine should they become super rich. I have friends in different socioeconomic statuses. One very wealthy and one very poor. How does our friendship work? We just don’t get together too often and we do things that interest all of us (eating at a pizza restaurant, walking around a lake, going to Target, just hanging out at home). I don’t think it… Read more »

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago
Reply to  Addie

I have to disagree with that. As the low-income earner of the group, I enjoy seeing my friends more than once a month! What I like about my friends now is what I liked about them when we met in college: our ability to have fun and just hang out with some pizza/tacos/etc. It’s just that now, instead of cramming into a dorm room, we can sit in someone’s living room.

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago

That’s great for now, because you’re living a similar outward lifestyle to your less-financially-well-off friends. But while you’re piling up huge amounts of cash in your IRA and 401(k), they’re living paycheque to paycheque. Such a difference is easily overlooked today, while you’re in “save” mode (and they’re in “survive” mode), but what will happen once you turn 60 and want to retire, and they’re facing the prospect of having to work forever? Will you hold onto your job and keep clocking 40 hours a week so you don’t appear too ostentatious to your friends? Or will you finally put… Read more »

Kris
Kris
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I would be interested in some perspective from the more mature/retired readers of GRS. Could you comment on that? What happens when you retire? Or can’t work anymore?

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  Kris

I will jump in Kris as hubby retired at 60 (5 yrs ago) and I continue to work full time only because I love my job. We have both made good incomes and have always been frugal so our financial retirement future is rosy. One of our best friend couples will likely never be able to retire as they “need” a lot of things and expensive entertainment that we don’t. It is awkward at times when they talk about never getting to retire and the husband has developed some health issues that makes it harder for him to work. Yet… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Perhaps it’s just me but the fact that a person retires doesn’t seem like it would affect a friendship. How is this any different from being friends with a person who stays at home, either taking care of kids, spouse, or both? It can be even better because you don’t have to work around the same type of time constraints and a retiree has more control over his or her schedule. And as to failing health, I know of a number people who have failing health. That can impact a friendship regardless of job status and age. I think the… Read more »

Megan
Megan
8 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

I think retired vs. not-retired in a friendship could be difficult to navigate if the retired half has the wherewithal to move around or do new things. I think it would be difficult to maintain a relationship with someone who heads to Florida for six months of the year or decides they’d rather be sociable during an early tee time every morning instead of meeting up for happy hours like in the old days.

I also think it would be very difficult to be the last one in the group to retire, too.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

My mom is having this problem, she’s been retired 5 years and a lot of her friends are not only still working, but in serious financial trouble – one retired pair are basically homeless, moving from one kid’s house to another and talking about declaring bankruptcy. Two still-working couples are facing foreclosure at the moment. Others are looking at never being able to retire because of dependent children (one with a child with serious mental illness who will never be independent), or have lost jobs in their early ’60s and become dependent on their children. Mostly what’s happened is that… Read more »

Nihongo Dame Desu
Nihongo Dame Desu
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

My parents live in a retirement community. They have been able to retire (though my father still does some consulting because he finds it fulfilling) and many of their friends and neighbors haven’t yet reached that point. It still does not seem to be an issue because the choices for leisure activities are still within everyone’s reach. My mom hit the thrift stores on senior day with her friends. The have a rotating weekly happy hour potluck. They participate in the activities run through the community, like tennis club or beading club, which cost about $25 annually. Sure, my dad… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

This… except there’s so little to do in our town that socializing is generally going to be low-cost. Usually food and drinks at someone’s house because the menus on the fancy restaurants don’t change. My friends who make more do go on fancier vacations, but we’ve never vacationed with someone who wasn’t family so that’s never been an issue with us. Our (not living in the same town) family who make less either have similar lifestyles to what we have or they spend *more* than we do on the entertainment category. It depends on whether or not they budget. Seems… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago

“I think the issue isn’t income disparity, but *lifestyle* disparity”

Great point! Even if I made what my coworker/friend was making, I probably wouldn’t be spending it on designer bags and super fancy meals (not to judge–it’s not not my thing). The vacations, on the other hand…

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago

Exactly.

I only have a few friends I can talk savings or investment with, but other than that we’re on the same page as most of our friends.

It only becomes an issue for me with family members, who assume (since they know our income) we can afford to do whatever expensive thing they want to do. Except we have a kid, and they don’t. So we can’t.

CDB
CDB
8 years ago

Very well said! We have friends across a wide spectrum of age and income. Some are making the big bucks and some are just doing fine. But one of our favorite activities is running together every weekend – which I will note is free. We get together for brunch occasionally and run races together occasionally. But – generally speaking our commonalities (running + the things we talk about for hours on end every weekend) outweigh the lifestyle differences (primarily house sizes and travel expenses – interestingly enough we all drive pretty similar cars).

Ms Life
Ms Life
8 years ago

I had one friend (she is now late) who took advantage of me. This went on for quite a few years before I realized what was happening. I sat her down and told her that I would not help her again no matter what because of her ‘short handedness’. I stuck to my word and she stopped asking me for anything but we continued being good friends minus money exchanging hands. On the other hand, I have two friends who are the most generous people I know. When going out, we sometimes go dutch and sometimes any of us picks… Read more »

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

It’d be nice if money didn’t get in the way of friendship, but like you said “laughter, love and understanding are the elements that make friendships thrive,” not money. But money can create rifts in understanding, which decreases the laughter, and pretty soon the love dies too. Keep up that understanding, which means keep up that communication!

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago

Agreed! It always goes back to communication, doesn’t it?

Justin @ The Family Finances
Justin @ The Family Finances
8 years ago

This was a great article. My wife and I are experiencing something very similar with some close friends. I met my wife at my college roommate’s wedding. I was an usher, she was the maid of honor. Anyway, both my college roommate and my wife’s friend come from a ton of money. My roommate’s dad owned an engineering firm, and my wife’s friend’s dad was the CEO of a local hospital. Our incomes were pretty similar at first, but since we’ve all started families things have really changed. My wife and I decided to scale back, so she could be… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago

Yeah, it’s hard not to get envious sometimes, and I hate that feeling. When I find myself getting jealous of something I know I can’t have, I just make a list the things I DO have (In your case, your beautiful family). Simple, and corny as hell, but it helps.

tentaculistic
tentaculistic
8 years ago

It’s hard when relationships get pulled on by negative emotions, especially when we often don’t have a lot of control over them. One thing you might try is to read the Millionaire Next Door – there’s a whole section about how people whose parents help them out with monetary gifts often struggle much more with money than those who don’t, and gets deep into the psychology and pattern setting that entails. It might help you turn things on their head mentally – instead of jealousy over their advantages, you may be able to feel sorry that they’re being screwed over… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago

Interesting article. I’m wondering if this is more applicable to single people or people without kids. I can honestly say I’ve never even given thought to if I can/should continue to be friends with someone because of this issue. Once you have kids, you don’t do a lot of retail/restaurant entertainment and your vacations are with your family. It doesn’t matter if they go to the Dominican Republic and we go camping. Then again, one of my good friends is single, no kids, while I’m married with kids. She makes more than me and obviously has many fewer expenses. But… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

I’m usually the singleton in the crowd and I agree with you — it’s the things you have in common and lifestyle that matter. Not only do many of my friends have a two-income household advantage, often one of those incomes is higher than mine! But you would never know it when we’re having a barbecue or getting together for coffee. No McMansions or luxury cars, no balking at coupons, buying used or hand-me-downs. They understand that I can’t spend on x because I’m saving for a home or a car because they’ve been there too. Over the years, I… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

I was thinking the same thing about it pertaining more to people without kids! All our friends spend their time doing the same cheap (or free) things we do. Vacations, cars, and homes might vary wildly, but for the most part those decisions don’t involve our friends anyway. I will say though, that when somebody loses a job, we do try to cover for them. For instance, we’re doing a trivia night for a local charity in a few weeks with four other couples. We’ve done this night pretty much every year for the last ten years. Two of the… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I think it’s important to remember that just because a person is single or doesn’t have kids doesn’t mean they have a ton of disposable income. I’m not really sure where people get the idea that singletons and DINKs are living it up because they don’t have kids. The ones I know are saving like crazy because they have big expenses like houses, weddings, kids coming up. (I don’t doubt that many singletons and DINKs are living it up — but so are many families.) What I find makes a big difference is the spending habits and values of a… Read more »

SweetCoffee
SweetCoffee
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Totally agree Elizabeth. We are the low-income family in an extremely rich community; it’s taken several years for us to find a scarce few wealthy folks that while they do have money for mansions and expensive summer camps and classes for their kids– they are not dinks and they are loaded– they also do low-cost activities we all share with our kids like swimming (their pool), the beach, camping and hiking (although sometimes we are stretched to do camping and hiking due to supplies, clothing, gear, gas, etc.).

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

You’re right. But when you have kids, you seek out other people with kids. And we’re at a point in our lives where our interests are all pretty similar regardless of finances. Homes, cars, and vacations show the disparity in income, but it’s not too visible in other ways.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I’m not sure who implied that single people or DINKS are better off. The reason I brought this up was because it seems that these people might have more disposable TIME which presents more opportunities to socialize as compared to people with kids. Having more social opportunities/events presents more decision making as to participate or where to go. For a family, an evening at the local pool with a pizza delivery is just as likely to be the “entertainment” for a people who makes 3 times as much as we do. Sitting in a football stadium on a Friday night… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

@Eileen — it was the “many fewer expense” part I think implied money rather than time. I find that some of friends with kids assume I have more disposable income than they do because I’m not paying for a house or for kids. In the meantime, I’m trying to save for a home on one income (while they have two) and keeping on eye on future big expenses — like a small wedding and adopting a child. It really frustrates me when people think I’m living the Sex in the City life. (Of course, I realize that’s not what you’re… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

The kid versus no kid thing can be a bigger deal than money/no money. One of my longest friends I ended up taking an indefinite break from, and unfortunately I think alot had to do with difference in our lives since I moved on from graduate school (mainly, choosing to have kids). She was pretty vocally against the thought of me having kids, and tried to talk me out of the second one. she never had kids nor wanted them, and changes that have come out of being a parent (lack of unlimited time to do, whatever, and art stuff,… Read more »

Becky
Becky
8 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

I think this situation might have less to do with having/not having kids, than it does with your friend’s openness to let you live the life you desire. In my case, I’m the single one without children, but I would never dream of telling my friends to not have kids. I’m not sure it would be the right choice for me, but I can see how much they love being parents and am so happy that they are happy!

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

If you do not have kids yourself, it can be hard hanging out with people who have their kids with them…..kids crying, fussing, fighting etc. A few hours of that and even me, a grandma, is happy to seek a quiet place.

KC
KC
8 years ago

I guess I’m pretty lucky. I have friends who make far more than I do, and are much better off financially, but their idea of a good time is hanging around the house having a girls night. I will say that my friends who like the lavish vacations and dinners, myself included, are the ones who really can’t afford it. Fortunately, most of these friends don’t live in the same city so my splurging is limited to when they come into town. And as far as vacations, they know I always say I can’t afford to go, but they still… Read more »

Chasa
Chasa
8 years ago

Great post Kristin. Great food for thought.

Paul
Paul
8 years ago

I had a situation with a friend many years ago. I was visiting him and we went out to dinner followed by drinks and a cab ride back to his house. Along the way, he always picked up the tab. The next morning, he asked for some money to help cover everything. At the time, he was working as a fund-raiser for a charity and I was a low-ranking enlisted in the military. I knew he made more than me, but I think I was assuming that he was making a lot more than me and was not surprised when… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago

Great article, Kristin!

We have gone through similar situations with friends and family members over the years. I don’t think I have lost any friends altogether but I know that relationships have been strained. Our situations typically involve other people wanting us to spend crazy amounts of money on entertainment, restaurants, and drinks.

Right now we have little kids so it’s just easy to say we can’t go out and spend money for other reasons. I usually blame it on nap time or not having a babysitter =)

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago

I see your smiley, but you raise an important issue. I’ve had a few friendships deterioriate after the couple had children, and it’s very sad. My wife and I were very close to one couple, but after they found out they were expecting their first baby, they moved several provinces away to be closer to family. I was saddened, because I was looking forward to being a part of their baby’s life, but was never even given the chance. Other friendships have suffered similarly after the addition of children. Friends who would used to travel with us or go out… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, I am not saying this is the case for you – but in my experience, my friendships that did not survive my becoming a parent were because those friends expected everything to stay the same, especially the part about spending the same amount and quality of time together. When one becomes a parent, the lifestyle shift is seismic. Any decent parent learns quickly that Junior’s needs come before wants, including the want of getting together with friends just to hang out. My suggestion for childless people who want to remain friends with those who have children is to find… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

What if you don’t like kids? I run into the problem of friends with kids, and I certainly never complain. I try to be accommodating – we always hang out at my friend’s house, rather than going out; I expect that the kids are always going to be there, and that her attention will be divided, and her time limited. But what I kinda resent is when *I* have to give attention to the kids, too. I’m not there for them; I’m there to see my friend. Is this something that’s inevitable? Do I have to build a relationship with… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Imelda, I do understand how you feel; I have plenty of friends who don’t like kids, and truth is, I’m not thrilled with quite a few of them myself. (It’s easier when you’re the one who can discipline poor behavior!) But yeah, it does largely come down to “like me, like my kids”. I can make an analogy with a friend of mine who has a dog, and it’s definitely “like me, like my dog.” Any outings must be arranged around the dog’s needs – either time away from home is limited, or the dog must come along. When I’m… Read more »

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Imelda, I have had the same problem. I try to give the kids the benefit of the doubt. I found with one friend that I actually quite like her son and am interested to see what kind of person he grows into. (Her daughter, on the other hand, I prefer to avoid.) With another friend, I see him so rarely and his life is so difficult right now, it was worth it to spend time with his four-year-old, since it made my old friend so happy to have us there.

Another Kate
Another Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Imelda, on one level I understand what you mean. I felt awkward around most children before I had my own. But when people talk about not liking kids, I’m always a little taken aback. I mean, you don’t have to be crazy about kids, my own included, but not liking a whole class of people, to which you yourself once belonged? That’s sort of like saying, “I don’t like men. Do I have to build a relationship with my friend’s husband?” You might not like your friend’s husband in particular, but if you don’t like men in general, you need… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Honestly, I have never thought of my kids as poinsonous before!

It’s probably just because people’s priorities sometimes change when they have children. Things that used to be important to me aren’t anymore….like going out all the time. Now that we have kids, I would rather save for my future and theirs. I would rather spend my weekends with them at home watching them grow up. My kids are way more important than my friends.

Kris
Kris
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I absolutely agree that kids are a much bigger deal than money. It smarts, but it is something you get used to.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I don’t resent my friends who are having kids. I know the relationship will change and that makes me sad, but it’s what they want and so I’m happy for them. I’ll do what I can to maintain the friendship – I’m not a baby person – but I don’t have high expectations. I also know it’s a somewhat temporary situation. My friends with older kids have no trouble hanging out and coming to parties occasionally – at least as much as the folks whose lives are busy for other reasons. So I’m sure I’ll see these friends again one… Read more »

ChezJulie
ChezJulie
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, I have been there as far as having friends drift away, sometimes for years, after having kids. One thing to keep in mind is that this is the biggest issue when the children are small. Once they are in school, your friends can relax a little. But when their kids are small, they are literally responsible for the lives of little helpless people and that’s just got to come first for them. I’m sort of confused by all the responses about people who felt like they could only see their friends if the kids were there. I have maintained… Read more »

EAP
EAP
8 years ago
Reply to  ChezJulie

I only wish that my bestie who had kids would have even once gotten together with me without the kids. I didn’t have any expectations that her kiddos wouldn’t be around, but it gets hard to have an adult relationship when ever time you see that person you are doing activities/eating foods/ conversing with a toddler. I think people with kids sometimes forget that they can turn into bad friends and they need to put in some effort to maintain adult friendships if they want their friends to put in the effort to like/be around their kids most of the… Read more »

Lina
Lina
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

You could divide my friends with kids into two categories. Those with spouses that take responsibility for the kids when I visit and those who don’t. I realise that I have to show some interest to the kids and that is not a problem. I have also realised that I prefer to visit those that have thoughtful spouses that deal with the kids so that I can talk with my friend without beeing interruptet every minute. These friends are also much more interesting that those that always are taking (as it seams) the whole responsibility for the kids. I am… Read more »

Tara
Tara
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I have an aversion to kids, just like some people have an aversion to dogs or cats. When I was younger and one of my friends became a parent, I scale down the friendship to email and rare visits only because I know I won’t enjoy spending time with them any more. I don’t want to hear them talk about their kids endlessly and I don’t want to be subjected to the constant demands for attention, noise, smells, etc. that young kids create. By the same token, I would understand if someone felt that way about my dogs. So I… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago

Hey Holly! Yeah, I’ve learned to just flat out say, “Sorry, but I can’t afford this right now.” Whether I’m really broke, saving up, or I just don’t want to afford it…friends don’t ever ask, they just understand. Things like birthdays or celebrations are a bit harder to say ‘no’ too, though. As for the kids conversation, I have a friend who has kids, and we still hang out. We just usually do kid-oriented things. It helps that her kids are pretty awesome company. I can’t imagine resenting a friend for having kids, but then again, I didn’t know her… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

I think that part of it- as someone mentioned above- can be about the particular ages of the kids. My kids are really babies- ages 3 and 1. They need a lot of attention and there are a lot of things that I cannot do because bedtime is 8pm, for instance. I used to hang out with people who did not have kids before I became a parent. I will admit that I used to get annoyed when they couldn’t go out or spend money. Now that I am on the other side of the fence, it makes perfect sense.… Read more »

Kris
Kris
8 years ago

I am not sure everyone is simply talking about going to the bar at 10 pm at night when you should be at home with your children. I think we are talking about me the fact that I just drove 45 minutes to come see you and all I get to do is talk to your daughter about legos. Not that I mind! Really! But it seems like kids interrupt and are given license to do so, when I could be at home doing ten other things that I need to get done. I think it is just the idea… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago

I know what you mean- I really do. I just think it’s hard to understand how time consuming having toddlers can be until you’ve been there. At any given moment, my one year old might be trying to eat crayons or climbing up onto the fireplace. My three year old might ask 25 questions in a span of 5 minutes. As crazy as it can make me, that is just the way they are. She is being taught to stand there and wait to be noticed and not to interrupt…but the key words are “being taught.” Unfortunately, she wasn’t born… Read more »

K
K
8 years ago

Honestly, I dislike this topic: 1. Its been done several times before. not much can be said. Booorrring….. 2. Do people really hang around with people like this? Come on, friends are friends cause they like each others’ company and interests, not cause they go to resstuarants and spend money together. 3. Who picks up the tab for able bodied adults? If that’s acceptable now, I am going to start making me friends pay. How rude to have someone else pay for you. 4. Just don’t attend every get together. A close brunch of my friends loves those $$$$$ resturants… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago
Reply to  K

Hehe…for this topic being played out, you sure did have a lot of things to say about it! 😛

I see what you’re saying about friendships not being based on going to restaurants. But when you’re in the early stages of a friendship, oftentimes you do “go out” a lot. Also, some friends just really love bars/restaurants and don’t spend much time at home. I still consider them true friends, but like someone else said, we just have different ideas of how to spend our lives (and money).

Carole
Carole
8 years ago

My late parents lived in a neighborhood that was less than what they could easily afford. Their neighbors seemed to resent that they could travel extensively when they (the neighbors)could barely afford to vacation once a year. Also neighbors noticed their more expensive car. It’s something to consider when dealing with others.

Pamela
Pamela
8 years ago

I figure it’s best to socialize at the financial level the person who makes less money can afford. When I made more money and I wanted to hang out with friends who didn’t make as much, we’d do less expensive things–dinners at each other’s homes, rent movies, go to free events in town, etc. As far as trips go, I haven’t been on a trip (except for work) in six years, so. . .that’s probably moot for me, though I’m happy to live vicariously through my friends, as long as they don’t expect me to try and keep up. I’d… Read more »

amber
amber
8 years ago

Kristen brings up an interesting point about parents always paying. Mine do this too. I wonder if it is a generational thing? Do Gen-X’ers parents also cover them? Baby boomers? I doubt it. Yet I don’t think our relationship will ever get to a point where we can go out to dinner normally together and have me treat. I have done it a couple times, much to their amusement, even though they know I can definitely “afford” it. there is something else going on there.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Same here (I am kind of on the border between Gen X and Gen Y). I see my family about once a month, sometimes twice. They almost always pay for food, but once in a while I will pick up the tab. They appreciate it but don’t expect it regularly.

They also still spend an exorbitant amount on my Christmas and birthday gifts, which sometimes makes me uncomfortable since they are 5-6 years from retirement. However, my mom takes great pleasure out of buying things for others so it’s hard to object.

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Haha – I’m Gen X (43) and whenever I visit my parents, my dad always gives me $150 for gas. 🙂

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

I make 2x as much as my mom and my husband and I probably make 3-4x as much as my parents. My sister makes more than I do. I stopped letting my mom pay and lectured my sister on how she could NOT let our mother keep treating her. My mom has finally gotten used to it. I can’t lecture my in-laws like I can my family, so we do it about 50/50 but it always takes planning and/or sneakiness on our parts for us to pay the bill, which is additional stress and effort (but we do it anyway).… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

I’m apparently the only parent here (retired with middle age kids) who got totally SICK of paying for all their restaurant meals with us. Two of our three kids have NEVER so much as bought us a hamburger.

I’ve tried to change the boundaries in other ways but it bred a huge amount of resentment, but I guess that’s a topic for another post.

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne

How terribly sad. 🙁

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I pay about half the time with my mom – we generally pay our own tabs, but occasionally we or my folks will do an invitation and say “and i’d like to pay”. My dad likes to throw money around so he generally pays, but we see him very rarely. My in-laws like to pay, they used to come visit my partner & take him and all his friends out and pay. But in recent years we had The Talk about how we make as much money as them these days and want to be grownups and pay our own… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne

HAHAHA! Yes, the giving tree. Not very popular in my house. ‘Mommy, what does “say doe mass oh kiss tick mean”?’

http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/childrens-literature-we-hate/

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

I think parents like to pay because it makes them feel like they’re still parents.

Also, my parents hate when I give them expensive gifts. They like the gift itself, but any possible joy they could get from it is obscured by the fact that their daughter spent too much money. As my mom once said, “anytime I look at it, I just think of how much money you spent.”

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

“As my mom once said, “anytime I look at it, I just think of how much money you spent.””

The only reply I can think of is, “So Mom, does that mean every time you look at me, all you can think of is how much money you spent?” 😀

Sam
Sam
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Gen X here and we just got back from a trip to see family, we paid for breakfast with my parents and paid for lunch with Mr. Sam’s Mom and Step-Dad, paid for fixing to make dinner at home at his Mom’s house and we paid for dinner with Mr. Sam’s Dad. So we picked up the bill 3 times on the trip.

wiferkhart
wiferkhart
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

It might be generational – or just family politics. My DH and I are Gen-X and when we visit my Boomer parents they refuse to let us spend money on anything. (They even balk at letting us fill up the gas tank when we borrow their car while visiting them!) Over the years, I’ve watched DH and my dad “battle it out” for who gets to pay the check. Thank God, they both approach it with a sense of humor. We’ve also mastered the art of sneaking away to chat with waitstaff and pay the bill before it ever gets… Read more »

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Yeah I’m GenX and my dad frequently pays for stuff. (I’m the ‘poor’ one in the family – dad and bro are engineers, sister’s other half is a computer scientist, I married an actor.) Funnier, my husband is a late boomer (born 1958) and his dad ALWAYS pays when we go out. 😀

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

No matter what my mother always treats. I don’t know if its because she knows she makes way more than I do (with a fully paid off home, no car note, etc) and/or she knows I have medical/health care expenses on top of my lower income or if its just because she wants to treat.

When she came to visit me in Portland last year, I treated her for brunch when I picked her up from the airport. She still insisted on paying the tip and everything else until she went home.

I don’t think that’s every going to change.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

My dad makes significantly more now than he did when we were growing up and has absolutely no debt. His expenses are also significantly less now that he is a widower. I think it is a point of pride for him to be able to write me a check for my birthday or Christmas at this stage. I’ve certainly never asked for money from him, but I think it would be condescending to refuse it. He’s so full of himself when he does it!

Panda
Panda
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Gen X/Gen Y cusp here… My parents used to treat all the time, but now we share. There’s sort of an unspoken system.

1) If it’s just me and my mom, I pay.
2) If it’s me and both my parents, then they pick it up if it’s dinner. I pick it up if it’s breakfast/lunch/brunch/coffee/etc.
3) If it’s me, my parents, and my partner we trade-off if it’s a nicer meal, go dutch if it’s casual.
4) If I invited them out for a nice dinner, we pay, but they always chip in to cover wine or something.

Melanie
Melanie
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

My parents still insist on paying most of the time, as do my husband’s parents. I’m Gen Y and he’s on the cusp of Gen X/Gen Y (I’m 28, he’s nearly 32). His parents are local, while mine live in my hometown a couple of states away. We’ve been married four years. We’re DINKs, and I’m not really sure where our income falls compared with theirs right now. All of us are solidly middle class, though, with no overly expensive tastes. I can probably count on one hand the number of times either set of parents has let us pick… Read more »

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

I’m 31, with two slightly younger brothers. My parents also liked to continue to treat us, but in the last few years, I’ve taken to picking up the tab on at least one meal per weekend visit. (One brother and I live far away, so we only see our parents three or four times a year.) My mom was laid off over a year ago, and my dad was just laid off this summer. Despite their saving an emergency fund and teaching us children good personal finance habits, I am seeing their financial house crashing down. I owe my good… Read more »

Lina
Lina
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

When I am out with my parents we take turns to pay the bill so I pay about every third meal out.

My mother insists on buying things for me but I feel silly taking money from my parents (as I make more money than they do) so I refuse to take it is not a birthday or christmas present.

If I buy groceries to them I refuse to take money or something else that is not that expensive.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  Lina

Same here–my mother will occasionally take me clothes shopping, or pay for me to have my hair done at a nice salon. But she doesn’t give me cash unless it’s my birthday or Christmas, and then it might be $100. I guess this way, it feels like she’s treating me to a nice extra, rather than actually supporting me.

Denise
Denise
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

I’m either Gen X or Gen Y depending on what source you use, but as soon as I graduated college & started a decent job, I was expected to start picking up the tabs. My parents look at it, that they took care of me growing up, and now it’s my turn to start taking care of them. This means that I also have a much greater say on where we go out.

Thus, everyone’s responses is so unusual to me! 😉

Penny
Penny
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Gen X here too. On our own my husband and I rarely eat out, and almost always at an inexpensive restaurant. In contrast, my in laws like to eat out, and at pretty nice restaurants when they visit (once a month probably) and after some early awkward attempts to pay, we let them treat. They also are much more financially comfortable than we are. Admittedly this is a nice treat for us, and we are always very grateful. But we also don’t expect it and always offer to make, or help make dinner (the option we can afford). It will… Read more »

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
8 years ago

I think there has to be some sensitivity on the part of the higher-income friend as well. It shouldn’t just be up to the lower income person to “have the talk” to straighten things out.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago

I’ve been experiencing a bit of this. Back when I was broke, my friends were doing well, financially. Now two of my best friends have had divorces the past couple of years and are struggling. I’m doing much better financially and its hard because much of their hardship could have been prevented. One makes more than double what I do but still lives paycheck to paycheck. I think we’ve all drifted apart in more ways than just the financial. I completely changed careers and now we find there isn’t as much to talk about. Yes, we all used to work… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

I love this article, it deals with things we often don’t want to recognize but happen nevertheless. Friendship is predicated on equality– if you can create or maintain that in spite of income differences, then the friendship thrives. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s something else. I just remembered the movie “Y Tu Mamá También,” when (spoiler alert, but this came out ages ago) the class differences between the two friends suddenly rear their ugly head when they run into a conflict. There’s another side of the whole issue though (I’m loving that Morrissey video, haaa haaa haaa). Which is that… Read more »

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

For a second there, I was confusing your movie reference with the movie “Todo Sobre Mi Madre” 😀

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Yes! Part of the reason I hate envy so much is that it keeps you from being happy for your friends. But like you said, you can transform envy into inspiration. I love that 🙂

LC
LC
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

I dislike the use of Envy and Jealousy interchangeably, as they are really not (I’m seeing it often throughout the comments). The former implies that you wish to possess something awarded to or achieved by another whereas the latter implies a feeling of resentment or ill-will as a result of someone else’s possessions or achievements. To me, it’s an important distinction. To envy a friend’s position isn’t an evil act, you just wish you were in the same position, and (IMO) allows you to still be happy for them and not detract from their “win.” To be jealous of a… Read more »

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago

If a friend expects you to pay for dinner because you make more money, that person is not a true friend. He/she is taking advantage. Now, I understand the lower-income friend being annoyed if the wealthier friend is always suggesting expensive restaurants, or loading up on drinks and multiple courses and then wanting to split the check in half. But expecting a friend to treat you to a cheap dinner, and actually feeling entitled to it? No way.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago

Kristen, I too loved your article; it’s a great topic. In my case, I lost a friendship at least in part because of differences in how we handled our incomes, which were about the same. (There were other, underlying reasons too, related to different cultures and our respective marriages.) “Jenny” and I had boys the same age who liked each other so we got together frequently for playdates; our family incomes were probably about the same, and $ for outings usually meant McDonald’s or similar. But Jenny had a lot of problems with credit card debt, opening new cards to… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

It’s sad that your friend would let that get in the way of your friendship, I’m sorry to hear that.

With people who have been friends a while, I feel like it’s usually more about those underlying issues you mentioned and less about the money. Maybe the money just makes it worse or is used as a scapegoat or something…I dunno.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

I think Jenny’s issues with me came under the umbrella of “lifestyle disparity” and that covered more ground than just income or how we handled money. If $ had been the ONLY disparity, then we would probably still have a friendship, or if $ had been the same, she might have continued to overlook other disparities (family background, neighborhood lived in, state of marriage, & even number of kids). But I honestly think the biggest disparity was in whether we were happy with what we had. I definitely wanted to improve our family’s lives and reduce problems, but at any… Read more »

Paula
Paula
8 years ago

When I was younger, I always was the person that picked up the check. This had to do with the fact that I was still a people pleaser and then lived in a more urban area with better restaurant choices. Now that I have many more years of life experience, therapy and common sense under my belt; this is a non-issue. I’ve always been able to afford to eat out and pay for others to do it with me, but now I am content to live frugally and do as I wish. My friends are happy to join me in… Read more »

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

I have dear friends who are stay at home moms that are married to super successful business men. Both of them have second homes down here in Florida. So while I have some anxiety that I’m not keeping up with them, I enjoy spending time with them at their vacation homes and living their life which is not my life (i.e. shopping on Louis Vuitton store). I have other friends who were unemployed for an extended period of time and who are now employed but still struggling. And then I have friends who are basically my peers. For the folks… Read more »

Old Guy
Old Guy
8 years ago

My wife and I are nearing retirement, and are now empty nesters. As such, we FINALLY can start doing many things we put off previously, such as travel. So now, when we get back from a two week vacation in Europe, all the people we want to talk to and share with are smiling blandly and saying “It must be nice.” After a quick assessment, we are now convinced that we must start looking for friends who are at the same place in life that we are. In other words, we are looking for people who can keep up financially… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Old Guy

Totally agree here. My husband and I just made the average American income but we handled our money well. We’re now retired and live in a modest retirement area, but we travel like crazy. I really have to play it down because it’s clear people envy us.

Theresa
Theresa
8 years ago
Reply to  Old Guy

I’m with you!! Though not retired, I hate when I get snide remarks for being able to afford nice things or have a savings account. Why should I have to apologize for managing my money well? Especially when it usually means that earlier on you sacrificed a lot in the name of savings.

LC
LC
8 years ago
Reply to  Old Guy

I hate when people attempt reduce your happiness to “It must be nice.” How condescending and selfish, especially when you’ve worked hard and shifted your priorities (and they have not shifted theirs) in order to afford something important to you.

JMK
JMK
8 years ago
Reply to  Old Guy

We’re 49/52 and planning to retire in about 8 years. Kids are 11/18. We make good incomes and so do most of our friends and relatives. The difference I see is mostly in where the priorities for spending fall in each household. Oddly is seems to work because we all accept that we have very different priorities so we don’t begrudge where/how the others spend their money. We want to retire early and still take a major trip every year with the kids. To accomplish that we buy used cars with cash, rarely eat out, get our 3 TV channels… Read more »

Megan
Megan
8 years ago

At the risk of sounding like a fangirl, I’m totally digging Kristin’s posts!

Unfortunately, I’ve been on the “poor” side of the spectrum. When I was broke, I ended up resenting some of my friends who had the important-sounding titles and big salaries (and who worked very hard and took advanced degrees to get those titles). Now that time has passed, I realize that this was all on me – *I* was the one who made it an issue. If I could go back in time, I’d totally do things differently with these particular relationships.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago

I feel this is always an interesting balance. My friends and I mostly don’t talk about money. But we mostly seem to enjoy doing similar things – happy hour, brunch, parties at someone’s home – so disparity, if it exists, doesn’t come up. No one has a problem with less-expensive options. My family always spends a lot more than I do, and it can be strange. My sister and I were talking about a much-looked-forward-to book that’s coming out next month; I have it on hold at the library while she has it on pre-order at Amazon. My dad does… Read more »

Allyson
Allyson
8 years ago

I have an issue with family members. My sister-in-law and her husband seem to think that my husband and I are just rolling in money, which we’re not, and therefore resent us for the money that they think we have. It doesn’t make much sense to me because I worked all through undergrad, worked through law school, and my husband is working his way through undergrad. We made our choices, she chose to get married right out of high school and have two children before she was 25, and never had any more education after high school. She and her… Read more »

Tracey H
Tracey H
8 years ago

With friends, the biggest difference is whether they have defined benefit pension plans (we have no pension plan other than our own investments) rather than actual income (those who have pensions have way more disposable income than we do). Family has actually been the harder situation. When siblings (and siblings-in-law) want to spend huge amounts together at Xmas time (let’s buy Mom & Dad a big-screen TV or send them on a trip), that was really difficult to deal with when I was a SAHM (actually, I’m still home!). When 3 siblings all want to spend hundreds of dollars on… Read more »

shakestir
shakestir
8 years ago

I can completely relate to this post. My husband and I had female friend that we love dearly. She is on disability and works part time so her finances were always strained. My husband and I have both had times in our past when we were the ones without money so we knew how it felt. Whenever we went out with her we always paid her way, happily so. Why did we stop seeing her so much? Because she never, ever reciprocated. I am not saying she needed to take us out to a five star restaurant, but she wouldn’t… Read more »

Clare
Clare
8 years ago
Reply to  shakestir

This is such great advice. It really is the gesture that matters. Sometimes if a generous friend is determined to treat me, I’ll insist on paying the tip. Or I’ll offer to pick up a favorite coffee drink and bring it over to a friend’s house.

LC
LC
8 years ago
Reply to  shakestir

I read an article once that suggested that when a friend unexpectedly and even frequently “treated” you to something, you put your share in savings as if you had spent it and then, once a little has accumulated, pick up the tab for them. I liked that suggestion, especially as a gentle rebuff to those who would say, “but I can’t afford to do that for them” because, guess what? You CAN do something… precisely up to what you would have spent on yourself! (Though it doesn’t work if that person feels entitled to receive the treat). Just a thought,… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

DH and I generally take turns being the “hosts” with our close friends. One friend is kind of manic about never being in anyone’s debt. She can’t stand “owing” me $5 for lunch.

At our age (and with most of our friends being DINKs like us) we’re long past the sort of issues that arise in a person’s 20s, and none of us are hurting for money.

But we’ve learned that in order to keep some relationships close, we have to be the organizers and sometimes that means we’re the ones paying. We’re okay with that.

Rebecca
Rebecca
8 years ago

I actually just ended a friendship over this….because my friend made so much less than me. It didn’t bother me at first, but I could never call her up and say, let’s take the kids here (cause she didn’t have a car), or let’s go to the zoo on half price day (cause she didn’t have any money). Even inviting her to have lunch at my house got to be too much because she always felt indebted to me for feeding her grilled cheese (yeah, I’m a highroller). I didn’t care about the money disparity; I needed a friend far… Read more »

BD
BD
8 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca

From someone on the other end, it really does hurt. I am in the *exact* same situation as your friend was (no car, no money, nothing), and I have no friends either, partly because it’s awkward for them, and me (I’m exactly like your friend, I feel indebted).

So people like her and I….just end up being alone.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  BD

I could not have said it better myself. Doing everything on the cheap gets a little old after a while when they actually have money to spend and you don’t.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
8 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca

I hope you communicated your feelings before you let the friendship drift away. While she clearly wanted to do something to pay you back, did she know that for you, her friendship itself and her ability to listen to you and be there for you WAS the payment back? If you didn’t tell her this explicitly and you miss the friendship, call her up and tell her how you miss her and aren’t sure how you drifted apart. Tell her the value you place on the friendship itself. None of us want to feel like we are a burden on… Read more »

Rose Marie
Rose Marie
8 years ago

Excellent post! This is something more and more people are struggling with, I think. I have dealt with this gap before and dealt with it by being honest with my friends who are more financially independent at the moment. It isn’t always easy, but honesty does seem to help.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago

I have been fortunate in my friendships with new parents. The main complaint I see with non vs new parents is that the new parent becomes fixated on the child, to the exclusion of all else in life. Yes, your life changes. Yes, I welcome the child into a relationship that evolves as the child grows; it is often a delight to see them mature, and to know that as a significant adult in their life, I have been able to provide guidance and love and be a sounding board. But there is a world out there, and if you… Read more »

Julie
Julie
8 years ago

Something similiar is starting to happen to me, but with sisters. I have way more disposable income than my two sisters. We all have good college degrees, but I chose a more lucrative career. I think what is making it worse is that I am the youngest so that it is upsetting the balance of power in the family. I am not sure what can be done. I obviously cannot drift apart and my sisters are going to notice my trip to France. Unfortunately, I think it will become pronounced as we grow older. Even with my trips, I am… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Julie

I wouldn’t imagine that money would create an issue in a family simply because 1 sibling might make or save more. What families end up having all siblings make the same amount of money anyway?

Matt @ Money for Something
Matt @ Money for Something
8 years ago

I’d suggest that in most cases of good relationships existing within a context of financial inequality, the affluent party tend to be people who’d match the profile described in The Millionaire Next Door – i.e. people who’ve earned their wealth, appreciate it, take care of it, and don’t tend to participate in too many activities they would consider wasteful or excessive. In other words, they don’t tend to outwardly seem that different.

I would bet that Warren Buffet successfully maintains some close friendships under these circumstances.

Matt @ Money for Something
Matt @ Money for Something
8 years ago

I’d suggest that in most cases of good relationships existing within a context of financial inequality, the affluent party tend to be people who’d fit the profile described in The Millionaire Next Door – i.e. people who’ve earned their wealth, appreciate it, take care of it, and don’t tend to participate in too many activities they would consider wasteful or excessive. In other words, they don’t tend to outwardly seem that different.

I would bet that Warren Buffet successfully maintains some close friendships under these circumstances.

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago

Excellent topic! More like this please (an article written from a person who has grown to be a lot richer than his/her friends would be a nice follow up).

I think this can also be a big issue when you start dating someone and your incomes are multiples apart.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

I think this can also be a big issue when you start dating someone and your incomes are multiples apart.

This is why I rarely date (not a preference, its the way it is). There’s nothing more awkward than having someone who is better off than you across the table and you having to explain your situation.

That happens more often than not.

BD
BD
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Tell me about it. I don’t date either (not that anyone asks). Not having a car, or any steady income, and having to live on charity, tends to put a damper on the romance.

bg
bg
8 years ago

Very interesting subject. Husband and I lost a whopping 30 kilos(!) each on weight, and it definitely makes our overweight friends feel guilty and a little weird… and maybe, I feel a little strange now with them too, having had that moment of personal “enlightenment” to get the diet started and then the persistence to keep doing it for many months. I moved from the Fat Lady camp into the Sexy Woman camp, and dress differently and well, live and think a bit differently than before. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have a lot of weight in money 🙂 but I… Read more »

Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
8 years ago

I struggle with seeing friends make poor financial decisions and ending up with no cash and then not being able to come to group events because of it. It’s their decision, but don’t try to talk me out of having fun because I planned for it and you didn’t.

BD
BD
8 years ago

Lack of money is a huge reason why I have very few friends. I am extremely poor because of super-low earning power (I am extremely frugal and a saver as well), so I have very few friends. I can’t afford friends. I can’t afford to go to weddings, birthday parties, movies or anything. I don’t even have a car, so I can’t drive to where friends are. I also can’t afford to date anyone, and it’s unlikely anyone would want to date me either. How do I deal with not being able to afford friends? During the free time that… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
8 years ago
Reply to  BD

Whether you think you can have friends without money or you think you can’t have friends without money, you are right either way. There was a time when I relied on friends’ wheels to pick me up and to take me home. Things we did for free included going to the beach, going to the lake, taking a hike, acting like goofy on the park playground, walking the mall, playing football and softball. If you have the time and money to spend your free time surfing the net, couldn’t you spend that time getting a second part-time job? That job… Read more »

BD
BD
8 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

My situation is a fairly unusual one. I live in an extremely small town in the middle of a huge desert, in a state where most everyone is of one religion. If you’re not part of that religion, you’ll have a tough time finding work, especially with no transportation. It’s such a small town that we don’t even have a Target. Or a Kmart. Or a Best Buy. Or anything that you’re used to seeing. There are no malls, no beach, no “park” in a normal sense (just a small patch of grass next to the main road with some… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  BD

Admittedly I know nothing of your circumstance, but there are probably like-minded/interested people you could join for activities (I realize no car might make that difficult). Where I live there are hiking groups (I think some operate via meet-up, but I haven’t looked lately) and other free activities. Very hard to make suggestions w/o knowing your interests and/or limitations. But certainly cost shouldn’t hold you back from every activity. I’d also suggest volunteer work (though a second job is a good idea too). Even if you don’t develop friendships outside of that, you’d have interaction with others at a Food… Read more »

BD
BD
8 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

Thanks for your suggestions. I just wrote a long comment about my limitations in the comment above yours. Not having transportation of my own is a big problem, since this town is very small, in the middle of a desert, and I’m in a remote area of the town. The even bigger problem is the demographics here, as I explained in the above comment.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
8 years ago

I think the #1 problem with financial inequity among friends is the Jones-ing issue. You may have a house or a car or a wardrobe you’re happy with, but when you have friends who are more well off than you and notice items they have, suddenly, your own desire is sparked or you have a chance to experience how much better the next model is. Or perhaps your wealthy friends are talking about their last amazing vacation and you realize you haven’t had a vacation away from home in a while, so you book a more affordable vacation–not because you… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

A big chunk of Juliet Schor’s research and writing is on this topic – our spending is very much influenced by our friends and other social circles, sometimes even when we don’t realize it.

Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
8 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

That’s a really interesting point. I always thought of “keeping up with the Joneses” as being a conscious effort to buy bigger and better, but I can definitely think of times where an idea has been planted and money is spent, not because you are trying to keep up but like you said, just because an idea was planted.

Very interesting.

amber
amber
8 years ago

so true … my bro just bought a Vitamix and now every visit to their house involves drinking ultra-healthy ultra-yummy smoothies! So now I am Jonesing for a Vitamix ($400!)
Before he bought it I didn’t even know what a vitamix was and was perfectly content with the smoothies I could make in my $30 food-processor!!

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Not to go too far off topic but used is the way to go when it comes to Vitamix blenders. The one I purchased used is almost 40 years old and works like its brand new. I’ve had my eye on Vitamix blenders for years and I finally gave in. Of course I wanted a brand new one too and fortunately I was gifted one unexpectedly recently. Having the used one really gave me a chance to determine if investing in a new one was worth it (or accepting the gift). Its something I use on a daily basis for… Read more »

Angie
Angie
8 years ago

A very timely post. My issue is I have friends who whinge about being broke all the time, but then if advice is given get offended… their response is but you make so much more money than me…I then subsquently point out all the things I saved up for/did on minimum wage (most of these friends, while not raking it in are over minimum wage.) That then gets awkward. And the funny thing is I live far more frugally and spend a lot less money than most of my friends… I may earn a lot more but I also pay… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Angie

I had a chronically broke friend who said to me one time, it’s easy for you, you have your husband to pay for everything.

And it’s true. He does, now that I’m a stay at home mom. But I supported myself (and saved for retirement) for ten years before I ever met him. She just wrote that off as not counting, and it really hurt my feelings.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

I want to slap my hand every time I think the words “it’s easy for you to say…” No, it usually isn’t! There’s always a flip side to that story.

SwampWoman
SwampWoman
8 years ago

Meh. A lot of my friends are entrepreneur types. Sometimes they’re flush. Sometimes they’re broke. Much like us. We pay for each other’s meals at expensive restaurants when we’re flush, and enjoy the hospitality of others when we’re broke.

One of my friends has an income hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than mine. We do NOT go on vacations together (grin), but we will meet at Chili’s or Pepper’s for a Margarita after work and compare days.

Liz278
Liz278
8 years ago

Well this is timely. I sat here today thinking about how to tell a good friend of mine that I probably won’t be hanging out with him much any longer. It’s not his fault, either. He and his wife are sweet, unassuming, and well off. But it’s our other friend and her husband who have brought me to the point where I have decided that, for my own sanity, I need to bow out. This other couple (say, Bob and Cindy) cannot stop talking about their cruises, their new cars, their huge 401K contributions, their lavish gifts to one another,… Read more »

Carmi
Carmi
8 years ago

Thanks for a post very dear to my heart, Kristin. The older I get, the more fiscal inequality becomes an issue. I am by nature a very generous person, and I am regularly taken advantage of. Some I don’t mind because they reciprocate in other ways. Others make me fume because I want them in my life and I don’t want to become a calculative person, or if it gets too upsetting, I cut them out of my life. Even among my siblings, it is tricky. I have two siblings living in the same city and we go out for… Read more »

Help!
Help!
8 years ago

I’m so glad I saw this post! This has been an on-going issue between my roommate and I since last year. Long story short, I have always made more than her due to differing industries and more work experience. She had a very hard time getting a job and when she finally did, it still paid less than mine. When we moved in together I was guilted into paying more of the rent because I made more (I do have the master room, but they are essentially the same size and I never wanted it, she told me I needed… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Help!

I think you already realize there is no magic solution here. She is going to resent the heck out of the conversation and changes to the status quo.

You just have to do it.

Christa
Christa
8 years ago

Sometimes it’s hard to get someone who loves to treat to hand over the bill, and I must admit that I have in the past allowed myself to take advantage of the situation. Now, I’m wrestling the bill from a family member’s hand at least half the time!

shares