The Best Way To Deal With Money When You're With Friends
This time of year comes with a lot of adventures out with friends, get-togethers, and perhaps a trip or two. Of course, all of these things likely involve spending money—even if you go as resourceful as possible.
Conversations about money can be hard with anyone. And while nothing else may be off limits between friends, for some reason the topic of money is still taboo. Maybe you feel anxiety about splitting the dinner bill. Maybe you don't want to feel like you're holding the group back because you can't afford an activity. Maybe you just have different values about what is worth spending money on. All of these feelings are valid but can lead to a lot of tension between otherwise happy friends.
"It's awkward because we can have many things in common with friends—common sense of humor, enjoy doing the same activities, have the same political views—but then money might be a divider. Even if people have the same income, they might have very different situations," says certified financial therapist Amanda Clayman, a financial wellness advocate for Prudential Financial.
Here, how to deal with these feelings head-on.
Give your friends the benefit of the doubt.
Many times when money issues crop up between friends, we rush to judgment: They don't think about others when they are frivolous with money; they are cheap and won't pitch in their fair share; they are irresponsible. And once you make this judgment, you've set yourself up on a path for future fights. "When we make negative assumptions about friends, it usually stems from our belief that they have an intent to harm," notes Clayman. And when we assume our friends don't have our best interests at heart—even with something like money—we lose trust in them.
"You can't think like that because that will corrode away the friendship," she says. "Maybe they just spend more freely than you, but it's not coming from a place in which they are trying to make you feel anxious or less than."
Start the conversation early—with yourself and others.
"When you start to feel this way, it's a signal that you need to develop healthy boundaries with your money and friends," she says, noting this likely means you need to take a look inward. "We need to know what we prefer to spend your money on. If you are only focusing on your friends' spending habits, you're not thinking about your own financial needs and goals."
From there you can chat with your friends about the situation. It's important to do this beforehand (whether before a group trip or a big shared experience you have coming up). Clayman says you can approach it like so: "Say something like, 'I love spending time with you and our group of friends, but here's what's going on with me financially, here's what's important to me, when it comes to my budget this is what I have available.'" She says, noting that you don't have to get into specifics or dollar amounts if you are not comfortable, but you can at least paint a picture for your friends that sets up room for a healthy conversation.
Or maybe it's on the opposite end, and you're stuck in a situation where a friend isn't putting in their fair share. "With a situation like this it always depends whether it's the first or hundredth time," she says. "But if it's not super consistent, just approach it from a point of concern, 'Hey, I know you haven't paid the full amount for the trip yet, but please let me know if there's something going on right now that is making it hard for you to pay me back.' Then you can share how the situation is affecting you as well." By opening up the conversation from a place of acceptance rather than annoyance, you're making it easier to address the problem.
"It reaffirms you, your power, and your positive relationship with money," she says. "It also invites your friend in to be a supportive collaborator with you, making you closer."
Find someone to lean on.
Feeling financially anxious is a lonely experience—don't let it be. "Find an ally that you can talk to about it, not in a gossipy way but in a way that presents it as 'Here's the situation, I'm feeling anxious, what's your take?' maybe that means calling your mom or partner," she says. By relieving yourself of some of those inner thoughts, you can process your emotions and frustrations better. "Get out of your own head instead of holding on, holding on, holding on, and then exploding when something comes up."
And perhaps you want it to be a friend or family member outside of your group of friends, but if it's someone within the group, they can help guide things in a more affordable way. "It can be really trying and exhausting to always be the friend that's like, Can we do something else instead? No one likes to always be that person," she says. This shares some of the burden.
Remember: We all have our own issues with money.
What to you might look like financial carelessness might instead be someone else dealing with their own financial struggles. And it's important to be empathetic with your friends about this. "Money problems don't look the same for everyone," says Clayman. "But we're all fighting our own battles."
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