herald

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Can you afford to be friends?

why do we all find it so hard to talk to our friends about money -- or a lack of it

Fast-forward 15 years, and it's all a little more complicated. People take diverging roads, time passes, children are born, debts mount up, jobs may be lost, and then someone suggests a €500 spa weekend and you wonder what bloody planet they're living on.

It's another reason why, as we get older, we gravitate towards those who are in a similar situation to ourselves. If you are the only one amid an original gang of school friends who doesn't have children, chances are you might have more disposable income.

Jenny (34): "I have a really close group of friends from uni but we are all in such different situations now. I am the only one without kids and, as a result, see them less and less. But when we do meet up, I always get comments on my clothes, or asked how much my handbag cost with raised eyebrows, and the presumption is that I will pick up the bill for our lunch.

"One of the girls even said I could probably charge it to my expenses which, even if I could, it's not the point. I have an averagely paid job, but between myself and my fiance, we live pretty well as we only have ourselves to look after.

"The last time I came home from meeting them I was fed up. I'm happy with my life, I work hard and don't want to lose my old friends, but I equally don't want to be made to feel like some wealthy socialite because I spend money on a haircut."

Many people on the other side of the coin feel awkward if they can't keep up financially with friends.

Maria (36): "My husband and I are constantly broke. I never play the poor man's card or expect anyone to pay for me but, realistically, my priorities are not nice clothes or meals out at the moment. My two best friends are in different situations and just don't seem to get that I can't keep up with them.

"One of them was given a house by her parents, which I don't begrudge, but she just doesn't understand what real debt is.

"So I end up telling them I'm busy whenever they ask. I want to tell them that I just don't have the money, but I don't want them feeling sorry for me."



income

A generation ago, communities were pretty much divided or connected by have and have-nots. But now, it is those who may have a nice home and all the outward manifestations of a comfortable life, who are more likely to have little to no disposable income at all, and others who may appear to live more modestly may not be trapped by a six-figure mortgage and be under less pressure financially.

If you value a friendship more than an equally split bill, then learn to speak up, and you will find people might even thank you for it. The Irish fear of appearing tight is the reason we used to get into buying rounds of 12 drinks when we only came out for one.

There is no shame in simply not having the money for something -- be it a dinner out or a Bollywood-themed hen night in Las Vegas; actually, if anyone I knew ever did ask me to the latter, I'd be happy to put the friendship down to experience, no matter how long I'd known them.

And it wouldn't have anything whatsoever to do with money.

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