What To Do When You Don’t Make The Same Money As Your Mates

Income is usually not something that’s openly discussed, but whether or not you’re making less money than your mate is pretty apparent. If they’ve just been promoted at the swanky law firm they work at, while you are struggling to land a steady freelancing gig, chances are they’re the one who’s more cashed up.

This isn’t something to feel bad or guilty about, regardless of which end of the spectrum you sit.

Because everyone’s values, ambitions and goals differ, chances are among your group of mates, income will differ too. This can sometimes build walls between friends, but it shouldn’t have to.

There are ways to jump the hurdles that come with varying income among friends, and it shouldn’t ever have to be a deal breaker in a relationship. Here’s some advice on how to stay friends when your income differs.

If you’re the one making more money: 

It may seem a bit, “woe is me – thankfully I have these fifties to dry my tears” but it can really complicate stuff between you and your less-flush friendlies.

Be mindful when making plans

It might be difficult to make plans with your friends when you aren’t sure how much money they have to spend. Heading out for dinner and a movie might seem like a totally reasonable request, but I can honestly say I’ve been in the position where forking out up to $20 for the movies was simply not possible.

Instead of being the one to suggest places to go, ask your friend what they want to do – if they suggest going out for drinks or something else that costs money, they’re clearly in the position to spend. If they ask if you want to come over for dinner at their place, say yes. It’s still a nice way to spend some QT with ya pal – be a good friend and go.

If you can’t possibly stand the thought of skipping weekend ski-trips or living without fine dining, invite the friends at your own income level. Do that stuff with them and participate in more thrifty alternatives with your other mates.

It’s OK to offer to pay, within reason

Paying for your friend when they’re in a rough spot is a super nice gesture, and while you think you’re doing the right thing, it can sometimes come off as patronising. Having pride is the same as being generous – both great and equally valid qualities, so don’t be upset if your friend refuses.

If your friend says yes, that’s great! You get to do what you wanted to do in the first place, and your friend feels the love too – just don’t make it a habit. Although you’re making more dough, everything adds up and it’s not your financial responsibility to be supporting your friends.

It’s nice to be nice, but don’t be taken advantage of.

If you’re one making less money:

If you’re the one who’s more strapped for cash: firstly, don’t be jealous. Just remember what I said earlier, income is based on a bunch of different factors, yours and your friend’s simply don’t align.

Sometimes it pays to be upfront

Remember that episode of Friends when the gang goes to a fancy AF restaurant to celebrate Monica’s new promotion at work? That ep is the perfect example: Rachel, a waitress; Phoebe, a masseuse; and Joey, an actor try and keep up with their more wealthy friends who give pricey gifts and prefer eating out at pricey restaurants. Yeah, don’t do that.

I get it: money talk isn’t always the easiest, but it sure beats getting a bill at a restaurant, knowing you simply don’t have that much money to your name. Jodi R. R. Smith, founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, says the best way around this is “pre-emptive etiquette”, meaning taking control of the situation by having thoughtful discussions ahead.

Don’t wait for someone else to choose the restaurant then decide to split the bill down the middle when you only had a salad and a water – instead, avoid all this and suggest a place that’s within your budget in the first place.

Loans from friends can be dangerous

It can sometimes be easy to accept gifts or shouts from mates – they offered, so they must want to, right? Sure, they could – but what you consider gifts may just be loans that your friend expects paid back, in full.

So, if you’re letting your friend shout you at fancy places that you would never usually be able to afford, chances are you can’t afford to pay them back. Look, honestly it’s better to just avoid borrowing money from friends unless you are positive that you’re sweet to pay them back. Money complicates things in friendships, and chances are that steak you ate isn’t worth ending a friendship over.

The most important thing in any friendship is compromise. It’s no secret that we’re all at different places financially, so just be mindful when hanging with your mates.

Bradley is a writer from Newcastle who enjoys travel, Tina Fey and is a connoisseur of cheap red wine.

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