Here is one of the quotes from the article with which I really resonate:
It’s uncomfortable, often painful, to feel as if you don’t measure up. Or as if you can’t keep up with people you like, admire or feel close to — financially and otherwise. Friendships are usually founded on a core feeling of equality or at least parity: “I get you, and you get me. We have similar resources and values.”
This is sooooooooo true. And this can definitely affect relationships.
I really appreciate the author’s stated goals for the next time she’s in a sticky spending situation with a friend – I think these strategies will work:
Stick to my numbers. A friendship isn’t going to expire over 20 bucks here or there.
Avoid situations (or people) that I know are going to be overpriced.
Communicate my preferences. It’s not embarrassing to state your limits. Would you mind if a friend stated hers?
What are your strategies for dealing with this situation??
I’ve written about the issue of the earnings gap within friendships before in The Earnings Gap and Chickens Roosting, and while I’m still experiencing some of that tension with certain friends, I’m also resolute in my desire not to allow that tension to pressure our family into making poor financial decisions just to “keep up.”
But it is still tricky. Recently, we joined some good friends for dinner and a live theatre show that we were all excited to see. Okay, so the tickets were only $20 – in Los Angeles, that is a STEAL. Still, because we had shared our debt-reduction journey with this couple, they were sensitive to the fact that this might be more than we would be willing to pay and they were gracious in giving us an out. Luckily, we knew about it in advance, and we were able to work it into the budget for the month.
Then, they suggested dinner. Now, I will fully admit that when this comes up, my husband and I have had a horrible time negotiating this landmine. In the past, the answer was to put it on our credit card. Now, since we don’t use those, we have to do a cost/benefit analysis. It might seem like overkill to some, but we’d rather be prepared going in so that we don’t make pressure based decisions. So we suggested a place that we knew we like to eat and that would probably cost each person around $15 with dinner, drink, tax and tip. Not pricey, but when you are on a budget, this can be a big chunk in your dining out budget. But that was our key – we *have* a dining out budget. This allows us to say “yes” to our friends without resentment or worry. We just have to do the work on the front end to plan.
The happy ending to this story is that two days before the event, I got my consulting check, and I kept part of it back and we were able to treat our friends to dinner. Yeah, it only cost us an extra $30-40 dollars, but it was such a treat to be able to thank the people who have been conscientious and thoughtful when it comes to social events. They asked us “why?” when we said it was on us, and we were able to say “because we love you.”
Yahoo has this article up today that suggests that consumers are “shopping more prudently and learning to live with less” in response to the state of the economy and the reality that their savings and investments are worth less than they were before.
I know that when we started this journey that we certainly took both of these steps and that we have continued to live that way for 18 months. Whenever we talk about being debt-free, we don’t really talk about getting all “spendy” in our lifestyle. We talk about saving up to go on vacation, or to be able to give to our community more. But I say it from this side of the fence – it will take a lot of self-control not to go all crazy once we have that $1,600 back each month…
That being said, I’m hopeful that there will continue to be a trend toward more simple living that values community and relationship over status and spectacle.
Look at that! We were $1,300+ over our goal! I had a great consulting check come in that was a little more than expected and we were able to pay off another credit card – it felt great! (Yes, Shannon, I guess there are money elves, after all).
We fell down in the food area, and we didn’t do a great job of some of the budgeting for the week of furlough that my husband was on in April, so I wasn’t thrilled with how we overspent our food budget this month. We’re already doing a better job of planning for May, so I’m hoping that we can get that back to a manageable level again.