What To Do When Your Friends Earn More Money Than You

Are group dinners becoming a harbinger of financial doom? This is for you.
Image: Clueless

Your phone buzzes with enthusiasm as your favourite group chat plans a meet-up. Excitement builds until you see the venue: a chic, upscale restaurant — read: expensive.

Instantly, your joy dims with the potential financial strain to your already tight budget and your new financial goals for 2024. This is not a great start to the year … but what is the best course? Feign enthusiasm and risk your financial stability, withdraw silently, or create an excuse to avoid embarrassment?

The disparity in disposable income among friends has surged, with Google searches for “friends with more money” recently soaring an astounding 1085%, echoing the tension not just in Australia but globally.

The challenges posed by the mounting cost of living aren’t just hitting our bottom lines but our social lives and relationships as well. Negotiating these varying circumstances and lifestyles can stress even the best of friends, but it doesn’t have to lead to disconnection just because your friends have different spending habits, incomes or values. There are ways to harmoniously maintain these “expensive friendships” while honouring your financial wellbeing and goals — a scenario I’ve encountered professionally and personally, so I have some valuable ideas and solutions to share.

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1. Avoid the Comparison Trap

Comparing your finances to others’ only saps your energy and breeds a sense of scarcity, which can end up being a parasite to your own mental health.

Redirect your focus inward. Reflect on your own growth, achievements and aspirations. The only comparison you ever want to make is to the old you. Remember, everyone’s journey is unique, so preserve your energy for your goals and the big vision for your future.

2. Embrace Learning from Others’ Success

If a friend achieves a goal you aspire to, seize the opportunity to learn. Ask about their saving strategies, recommended resources, lessons and insights, or what they might do differently if they were to tackle this same goal today.

Use their success as a valuable source of information and inspiration for your path. Armed with this new knowledge you can achieve your financial goal sooner and with greater efficiency.

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3. Own Your Financial Journey

Share your aspirations without divulging personal details. Express your aims honestly — such as saving for a down payment on a house — share your deadlines, the rough framework of your game plan and how you are trying to stay focused.

True friends will support and respect your goals, potentially giving you ideas and opportunities and they will help make you accountable along the way. In fact, you may end up inspiring them to work on a new financial goal of their own!

4. Propose Financially Friendly Alternatives

Financial prudence need not equate to social seclusion. Suggest budget-friendly activities like coffee meet-ups, walks, gym workouts, home-cooked meals or less pricey dining options. Use these occasions to update friends on your progress and include them in your journey so they never feel neglected or rejected but a valued source of support and encouragement.

As with any great goal, either financial or lifestyle, setting healthy, respectful boundaries that align with your budget or values might entail social sacrifices. However, genuine friends will stand by you, show faith and confidence in you, and celebrate your accomplishments, big or small, no matter how long they take. True, authentic wealth lies in these enduring friendships, not in disposable income.

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