People widely acknowledge and discuss how money can negatively impact romantic relationships, but sometimes money causes tension in friendships, too. This is especially true when there is a large discrepancy in income between friends. Here are some simple do's and don'ts to keep money from ruining your friendship.
Your friends are not mind-readers and may or may not even realize that money is causing tension in your relationship. If they are real friends, they are not going to care that you would rather invite them over for a cup of coffee than go out for expensive dinner. Just be honest and find things that you like to do together that are free or don't cost much.
I know that money is still a taboo topic in many social circles, but honesty is so important for relationships to thrive. You may not be struggling financially, but you may still be prioritizing specific goals that limit your discretionary spending. For example, maybe you've started a college savings account for your child and are funding it with some of the money you previously would have spent going out with your friends. Let your friends know so they can support you in reaching your goals.
I remember recognizing this in my mom's friendships very early on in my life. My mom has always valued experiences over things. She never bought a lot of "stuff." As a child, I was disappointed that I didn't have as many clothes or toys as many of my friends. However, my mom prioritized taking us on a family vacation every single year. We also spent lots of time at my grandparents' cottages, located on a quiet lake doing things like hiking, canoeing and berry picking. Just because you're friends, it does not mean that you are going to choose to spend your money in the same way. Recognizing and accepting those differences is essential.
All kinds of weird tension is created when splitting up bills at a restaurant. Some people divide them equally, and the person who ordered something that costs a lot less than what everybody else got gets frustrated. Some people try to divide the bill down to the last penny, which irritates others in the party. If at all possible, avoid the issue by requesting separate checks when you order. That way, you just pay for what you got, and there's no issue.
Many people struggle with some pretty severe financial problems. If you are concerned that your friend's spending habits are making it so they can't feed their children or they might lose their house or any other number of severe consequences, be a good friend. Tell them how much you care about them and why you are worried. Share resources with them that you have found helpful. Remember to be there as a friend, though. You aren't their parent and you aren't a professional.
Related post: Finding An Accountability Partner
Remember that you may value different things, and you may manage your money very differently. It really is none of your business how a friend spends money unless you are truly worried about their well-being. Keep any passive-aggressive comments to yourself. For example, you may not agree with your friend's need to send their children to private school but that might be something that is really important to their family regardless of the cost.
While you may enjoy spoiling your friend and not think twice about the money, it creates an imbalance in the relationship when one friend is always paying for the other. It also creates an expectation which you may decide you don't want in the future. Choose to do things that you can both afford.
Remember that relationships are built on trust. When you hide your financial circumstances (whether you are financially comfortable or struggling), you are dishonest. You don't have to disclose every detail, but don't try to hide things either.
Whether or not to lend money to a friend is not about whether or not you have the money to lend. Just like in my previous example about regularly paying for a friend, lending money to friends creates an imbalance in the relationship. Besides that, how will it impact your relationship if your friend doesn't pay you back? Just avoid the issue altogether by not asking friends for a loan and not offering to lend money.
My kids are always selling something, so I am no stranger to making fundraising requests. I am very grateful to my friends who support my kids' fundraisers but have zero expectation that any of them will. I think that's appropriate. If you do not have the funds or have no interest in participating, be honest, and gently tell the person making the request that you're not interested. It's as simple as that and doesn't need to cause an issue in your friendship.
The bottom line is, if your friendship is important to you, you won't let money get in the way. Be open, honest, and gentle with the people you care about. If you need help with a specific problem, join us in the Moms Managing Money Facebook Group. We are here to support you.
Other posts from our series on facing financial fears:
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