Friends with Money: What to Do When Your Friends Make More (or Less) than You

A sudden reversal of fortune can change how you interact with friends. Keep partying, socializing, shopping, whether rich or poor  

Credit: Flickr/Riza Nugraha

Flickr/Riza Nugraha

One drink for three people? There are easier ways to cut down the cost of a night out

Just because your friends make more, or less, money than you do, doesn’t mean you can’t hang out

In the 2006 movie Friends with Money, our heroine loses her job and, with it, parity with her successful pals. If that scenario can be the plot for a Hollywood film, imagine how it can play out in your own life.

Whether you’re the friend still swanking away, or the one who’s suddenly unable to pick up the cheque for pricey cocktails or while away an afternoon boutique shopping, take heart. There are ways to keep an unequally paid relationship without going bankrupt or compromising anyone’s dignity.

For the Poor(er) Friend

  • Avoid charity. If you’re the proud type, you’ll start to feel bad every time your friend says “Oh, I’ll get this one.”
  • Strive for parity of experience, not price. Your friend takes you out to dinner; you serve her a home-cooked meal. She brings takeout, you make a salad. You get to spend the afternoon sunning at her pool, she gets to come to the beach. It’s not so important to spend the same amount if you have fun.
  • Stop saying no. Instead of “I can’t afford it” — a guilt-inducing downer — try, “I’m saving for something else.” (Even if that something else is rent or food.)
  • Get creative. Missing new clothes? Organize a closet swap. Wish you could still swill cocktails at fancy bars? Institute drinks night at your place. 
  • Never ask your friend for a loan. Unless the money is more important to you than continued friendship.

And for Miss Moneybags

  • Don’t automatically pay for everything. Unless you’re a saint, you’ll start to resent it. Choose cheaper places, specials or coupons if you’re going out so she can contribute (see more tips on eating out at a discount). Or ask her to pay a nominal amount, like the tip, or to pick up the tab for your coffees later.
  • Apply sliding-scale economics. That coffee costs her proportionately more than your lunch, so treat them as equal. If she brings homemade, count it as a restaurant meal.
  • Be sensitive. “I have an extra ticket” is a great face-saver when you want her company at a pricey concert or play. That new band playing around the corner with a $5 cover? Go Dutch, and stand her drinks.
  • Never loan your friend money. Unless you care more about her than ever seeing it again.

Here are 50 more money-saving tips.