Spending And Your Friends: What Happens When You Have Differences In Income?

Money is one of the more taboo subjects in our society. Many of us are uncomfortable talking about it, and it is even more uncomfortable when there is a disparity between what we make and what our friends make.

It can be difficult to enjoy times with your friends when there is an income disparity — even if you are the one with more money.

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Do You Have Less Money Than Your Friends?

differences-incomeIt’s difficult when you’re the one with less money. When you are in this position, it’s hard because you want to be able to go out and have fun with your friends, but you feel like you can’t really afford to.

In some cases, it can be tempting to use debt to “keep up” with your friends. You want to go to the same restaurants, wear the same clothes, and go on vacation to the same places. I remember when I was in college. I often used debt in order to go on road trips with various groups of friends. It wasn’t the smartest way to do things, but I did it anyway, because I wanted to hang with my friends.

When you have less money than your friends, it’s up to you to be smart about your money. Sometimes it means saying no to certain activities — even if you miss out. And it also might mean suggesting alternative activities that you can afford, rather than always just going along with what your more affluent friends come up with all the time.

In extreme cases, it might also mean that you find new friends — friends that are in the same income situation and who understand that you have limitations on your income and can plan activities accordingly.

What About When You Have More Money Than Your Friends?

As uncomfortable as it is to have less than your friends, sometimes it can be just as bad to have more money than your friends. I’m blessed enough to be in a position now where I am usually the one with more money. This means that I don’t have to worry about what I’m spending. However, I feel bad when I just spend the money while those I’m with are carefully counting their pennies.

Sometimes, my husband and I treat our friends by inviting them to an activity and then paying for it all. This way, we can enjoy their company, and they don’t have to worry about over-spending. However, you still have to be careful, since you don’t want to offend your friends by always paying. As a result, we sometimes dial back our plans so that we don’t make our friends uncomfortable.

So far, we haven’t yet found a good balance of friends at our same income level. It’s harder than I thought it would be to find people we are compatible with, but who are at the same income level. Part of that has to do with our location, but it also has to do with our values. We don’t have a lot in common with the people in our income group in our city, so it makes it hard to form friendships.

For now, we’re doing our best to find balance.

What about you? How do you handle disparities in income when you go out with friends?

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Last Edited: 10th February 2014

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  1. says

    Hi Miranda! We had that problem with family. All our siblings live out of our state and we visit them several times a year. They always want to go to restaurants and activities that are more expensive than what we are comfortable with. We just spend the money and keep being frugal when we’re not with them as we want to keep up ties with family. We have suggested some family adventures exploring local state parks and free outdoor activities.
    They always were open to that and we have a lot of fun that way.

    Finding friends with similar values and outlook can be difficult enough without adding the income level factor yet. We just keep suggesting fun, low-cost activities with them. That works pretty well!

  2. says

    When we entered our debt management plan we were the ones with less money – because we had this huge payment each month that sucked our budget dry. We were a part of a group of friends that always did things together every weekend, and suddenly we couldn’t be involved in many of them because we couldn’t afford it. For awhile we felt left out…but it made us cherish the times we could be with them, plus we started inviting them to our home more often for less expensive activities. Finding that balance is definitely hard!

  3. says

    It definitely is a hard balance to maintain. We have friends on both ends and we try to be understanding as to what’s best for the other so it doesn’t cause much of a problem. Our problem is we see it in our family and some family members will use debt to fund things they want to do with others. We’ll explain to them that we’d rather them not get in to further debt to do whatever it is but they resist entirely.

  4. JMK says

    I think rather than friends with the same income you really mean friends who spend the same amount, which is two totally different things.
    We make a combined income which is more than all the family members on both sides of our families (except possibly one) and all our friends. But, we spend the least by far on life’s nonessentials. We know we’re the odd ones but that just reflects our very different goals and timelines. We have consciously cut out all the nonessential spending and virtually every spare dollar goes to extra mortgage payments and retirement savings, and that works for us. We’ll also be retiring earlier than anyone else we know as a result. No one way is right or better, just different priorities.
    I think our friends who make less are relieved that we prefer home-based entertaining because it takes the pressure off of them to spend more than is comfortable. Our family generally gathers at someone’s home so there is rarely an occasion that “costs” more than a contribution to a potluck. Over the years we’ve trimmed down the holiday gift exchanges to just those we’re closest to, and where possible exchange names among the group to reduce the gift count even further. None of us need anything so a single gift is plenty to feel like we’ve retained that tradition.

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