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.”
It was totally worth it.