How Do I Maintain Friendships When Incomes And Money Values Differ?

Most of us start our adult lives with lifestyles like those of our friends. The phrase “living like a broke college student” applies to many in young adulthood. At this point, everyone’s trying to keep expenses low — and score free food and entertainment whenever possible.

But, as you grow older, things change. You settle into adult life. Some friends will get married. Some will have children. Others double down on their careers and rise to the top quickly. Still, others blaze their own trail as creative entrepreneurs.

Different life paths lead to different lifestyles, values, and finances. And, sometimes, these differences can cause friends to grow apart.

Financial inequalities, in particular, can make it harder to spend time together. If your friends’ money values and budget don’t line up with yours, it can seem hard to find a way to make the friendship work.

But, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Just because you and your friends’ money values and/or incomes differ, doesn’t mean you can’t remain good friends. And you don’t have to ignore your money values to do it.

How to Maintain Friendships when Money Values and Salaries Differ

Make it about the friendship, not the money

When you became friends, you became friends for a reason. Look back and ask what it was that drew you together in the first place. And revisit all the things you had in common back then.

Even though life has changed, you’re still both the same people. If you found common ground back then, you can probably find common ground now too. It just might take a little work to get there.

If you feel like money differences are coming between you and your friendship, there are things you can do to try to bridge the gap, so to speak.

Accept your differences. It’s rare to have friends that match your financial situation and beliefs. No two people will have the same money values and salaries.

The first step to making friendships work is to accept the differences. And embrace the fact that each person brings something unique to the friendship.

That’s the thing that keeps friendships interesting and enjoyable.

Remember why you became friends in the first place. This will make it easier to maintain your friendships despite your money differences.

Realize you aren’t your money. This is true, no matter how much money you have or make.

Whether it’s your income or net worth, your financial situation does not represent your personal value and identity.

Unfortunately, social media and ads try to tell us a different story. Every day we see money used as a symbol of self-worth. But it’s a false symbol.

Though not always easy, separate your self-worth from your net worth.

If you make less money than your friends, that doesn’t mean you don’t work as hard. It doesn’t mean you make bad decisions. It doesn’t mean you contribute less.

On the flip side, if you make more money than your friends, it doesn’t mean you should feel guilty for having different financial circumstances. Nor does it mean they don’t work as hard or make bad decisions either.

One way or the other, it doesn’t mean you aren’t doing what is right for you in your life. Stop judging yourself or them. Your real friends will not judge you.

Real friendship is not about how much money you have; it’s about who you are as a person.

Maintain your own money values. Don’t give into the peer pressure and spend more when it sabotages your money goals.

If your friends are spending money on name brand, designer clothes, going on tropical vacations, and buying beautiful houses — and you’re not — you might feel the pressure.

Even if you know doing these things don’t line up with your money values, you might still feel a twinge of jealousy.

Resist the need to fit in, especially if it will destroy your values or your budget. If you don’t resist, not only will you resent your money situation, you’ll start to resent your friends too.

Pay attention to your feelings. If you’re jealous, resentful, hurt, or mad, examine the source of those feelings. Take a look at the choices you’ve been making. Do they line up with your values?

Talk to your friends up front about differences. Let them know where you stand — and what your goals and values are. If they’re real friends, they’ll understand.

Talk about it — honestly

If you feel like different money values or financial inequalities are interfering with your friendship, talk to your friend, and find common ground.

You need to be able to communicate about difficult emotions that come along with differences. Seek to understand and accept each other.

Money can be a complicated and emotionally laden topic. It can symbolize our personal beliefs, values, and goals. And it affects the power and trust in our relationships. And, even if we don’t realize it, our early childhood experiences impact our feelings about money too.

So it goes without saying that talking about money can feel personal and vulnerable. Keep this in mind when talking about it with your friends. Remember, it’s about more than the money.

You need to feel comfortable sharing your life no matter your differences.

If you make more money, you need to be able to talk about your life — without feeling guilty and fearful of making the other person feel bad.

When you make less, you need to be able to talk about your life without feeling judged or less than.

If your friendship is meant to be, you’ll be able to have money conversations. It’s the only way to really understand and support each other. And it’s the path to deeper, more meaningful friendships.

When you talk about money with your friends:

Don’t assume. Just because your friend has a higher paying career doesn’t mean they’re flush with cash.

They could be buried under a pile of debt. And, just because your friend makes a more modest salary doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of money socked away in savings.

Don’t compare. When you broach the topic of money with friends, avoid comparisons.

Sharing your money values (or salary) with your friend doesn’t mean you’re passing judgment on theirs. You can share your situation to find common ground. Not to make them feel guilty, frustrated, or shameful about their finances.

Be honest. We aren’t always 100% upfront when it comes to money.

Sometimes, we aren’t completely honest with one another to avoid discomfort or judgment. For example, many of us say we “can’t afford” something when we really could, but we’re prioritizing spending on something else (like debt repayment or the water bill).

It’s better to be honest about what’s going on. Real friends respect and accept one another for who they are. Different values and different salaries don’t have to interfere.

What if Your Friends Aren’t Willing to Talk?

If your friends aren’t open to talking about differences, it’s because there’s something they’re uncomfortable about (it’s not you).

Perhaps they’re uncomfortable with their financial situation and would rather not deal with it. A conversation about money is the last thing they want in this case.

Whatever it is, let them know it’s a safe space and you’re there to support each other. If you have to, find a counselor who will help with the conversation.

Find Activities that Work for Everyone

You became friends in the first place because you had something in common. Look back at what you used to do together that you both enjoyed and try to incorporate that in a way that works for everyone.

Maybe you enjoy potlucks or backyard barbeques. Or drink a beer after work instead of a fancy drink at a high-end bar. Perhaps you both enjoy biking, hiking, running, or cooking. Whatever it is, find something you both enjoy doing.

You can find things to do together without putting either one of you in an uncomfortable financial situation.

Closing Thoughts on Friendships and Financial Differences

Money differences can interfere with some friendships, especially as we get older. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Good friendships can stand the test of time. In fact, those that do are some of the most profound relationships in our lives.

As long as you can find a way to communicate openly and find mutual respect, your friendship can be a treasured relationship that lasts a lifetime.

By Amanda, of the Women Who Money Team

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