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Updated on Friday, February 26, 2016
Money can be a tricky topic when it comes to friendships. If you make highly different amounts than your friends, it can be uncomfortable to have to turn down invitations to fancy dinners and fun road trips because they don’t fit in your budget. Or if your friends are simply more free-flowing with their cash, it can be tiresome to have to explain again and again why you don’t want to blow another $60 on eating dinner out for the third time this week when you’re trying to save up to visit your cousin in California in a couple of months.
We always try to give our friends the benefit the doubt, but for as much as we sometimes don’t want to admit it, sometimes friendships can just be plain toxic when it comes to finances. Knowing what to be on the lookout for and how to react to them will help you deal with situations that arise in the future. Here are a couple common toxic money friendship patterns, and how to handle them.
Toxic Friendship No. 1: The Big Spender
What it looks like: Whether or not your friend actually has the money to spend doesn’t seem to matter — she just loves to buy, buy, buy, and that’s really all there is to it. If you feel forced more often than not to participate in shopping splurges and expensive meals out with you friend (or friends), this could a Big Spender Toxic Friendship.
How to avoid it: Depending on how close you are with this friend, you could always just try being honest. Say something along the lines of, “I’m really trying to stay within a budget these days, so unfortunately I can’t afford to always go shopping or eat out with you. I’ll try adding at least one meal and one shopping trip a month into my budget, though, so we can still do fun things together.”
Toxic Friendship No. 2: The Friend Who Never Picks Up the Tab
What it looks like: Whether or not you and your friend make drastically different salaries, friendship is a two-way street and you shouldn’t have to pay for everything you do with your friends. If you’ve started to notice that more often than not you’re the one paying for movies, meals and outings with a particular friend — without this friend even so much as offering to help pay — this could be a Friend Who Never Picks Up the Tab Toxic Friendship.
What to do: First, have a heart-to-heart with yourself. If you know that you make more money than your friend and picking up the tab when you do things together really doesn’t bother you and helps avoid an awkward money conversation, then it may be worth letting go. (Although even if this case, it still would be nice for your friend to at least acknowledge your generosity.) If, however, the two of you make relatively the same amount of money, or you don’t even know what your friend makes but you just don’t feel like you should have to pick up the tab every time you go out, it’s time to have the conversation. Say something like, “I’ve noticed the past couple times that we’ve gone out that I’ve paid. I’m happy to pick up the tab every now and then, but unfortunately I really can’t afford to do it all the time. If things are a bit tight right now, I’d be more than happy to do stuff together that’s free or that costs less.”
Toxic Friendship No. 3: The Friend Who Makes You Feel Uncomfortable About Her Money Views
What it looks like: This one can be tricky, because we’re all about being open and honest about money, but there is a fine line between open and honest and sharing too much. If your friend just likes to talk to you about her recent raise, how she hates how much she pays in rent or the fact that she probably shouldn’t have bought that expensive dress but did anyway, this probably isn’t a toxic money friendship. If, however, every last thing out of her mouth seems to be bragging about how much money she makes, how much she spends on stuff or is in some way derogatory about other people’s financial situations, this is probably a Friend Who Makes You Feel Uncomfortable About Her Money Views Toxic Friendship.
What to do: Assuming this is a friend you still want to have around in your life, unfortunately it’s time to speak up again. If this is a relatively new pattern in your friend, you might say something like, “I’ve noticed lately that you seem to be talking about money a lot, which feels different to me. Is everything okay?” Angling your complaint in a way that makes your friend feel like you really care about her is one way to keep her from automatically going on the defensive. If, however, this is a pattern with a friend that you simply can’t take any more, try something like, “I know in the past I’ve always been fine with how you talk about money, but now that we’re older it actually makes me uncomfortable. Would you mind toning down the money talk, at least when we’re together?”
Having a conversation with friends about money can be uncomfortable even in the best of situations, but if you’re in a toxic money relationship with a friend, unfortunately opening your mouth and voicing your opinion is really the only way to (hopefully) fix the situation.