If you're on a budget, hanging out with wealthy friends can be stressful. When your pals are shelling out for fancy meals or pricey cocktails, it's easy to feel like a penny-pinching drag -- or like you need to up your credit limit to stick around.
If you're feeling financially squeezed, you're not alone. The average U.S. family's income was just over $50,000 in 2014. While that's well above the poverty line, it's still not enough to splurge on luxuries your well-to-do friends might enjoy.
But there are ways to enjoy hanging out with rich friends that won't break the bank or make you feel stingy.
I recently reconnected with a friend from college who works at an investment bank. My friend, let's call her S, is't an executive, so she's not bathing in champagne or taking weekend jaunts to Paris. But she still makes a whole lot more than I do.
There are a few things S does that I've had to learn to deal with.
Rich Friends Like Expensive Meals
S recently invited me to get dinner with her at an upscale restaurant near my office. I accepted and found myself confronted with menu items that were, by and large, outside my price range. Instead of coming clean about the situation, I ordered the one thing on the menu (an appetizer, tempura-fried chicken kebabs) that wouldn't ruin me financially.
It wasn't an ideal situation. I should have told S up front that I was trying to save money and suggested a cheaper place to eat. If you're planning to get dinner with an affluent friend, just be honest about your budget -- it's nothing to be ashamed of -- and be prepared to suggest an alternative that you think your friend will enjoy and your bank account can handle.
Rich Friends Divide The Bill Evenly
When out to eat with friends, S tends to split the bill evenly, no matter what each person actually ordered. During another recent meal with S and some of her friends, I ordered a cheap dish, hoping to save some money. Other people in our group ordered salads, appetizers and multiple drinks, in addition to their meal, and I assumed we'd be splitting the bill according to what each of us bought. But when the check came, S suggested dividing the bill evenly.
I didn't say anything, and ended up spending nearly $60 for a $15 meal. In those situations, it's best to make it clear to your friends what your budget is (say, $10) and ask your friends to respect that. Chances are, no one will care, and you'll avoid spending beyond your means for the sake of being polite.
Rich Friends Turn Cooking Into An Expensive Ordeal
When S cooks, she turns what should be a money-saving activity into a big, expensive production. I've noticed this among other moneyed friends too. Because they don't need to cook, when they do whip something up, it's never tortellini with a simple salad. It's always herb-roasted chicken, stuffed with goat cheese, topped with cremini mushrooms, drizzled with truffle oil and paired with a nice Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.
While those dishes are certainly tasty, they often require you to buy ingredients that you'll use once and never look at again. If you're cooking with rich friends, your best bet is to steer them away from recipes with expensive or highly specific ingredients. Suggest a dish that you know tastes good and won't require blowing money on lots of specialty items. Roasted eggplant with couscous, anyone?
Rich Friends Buy Rounds Of Pricey Cocktails
S prefers cocktails. A well-balanced cocktail can delight the tastebuds, but mixed drinks are almost always more expensive than wine, beer and basically every non-alcoholic beverage. S's friends also like to buy each other rounds of cocktails. While there's nothing wrong with generosity, when one person buys a round, the expectation is that someone else will buy the next one.
If you don't think your bank account can handle splurging on four or five mint juleps, say so. Tell your friends you're trying to save and stick with your budget beverage of choice. In all likelihood, your friends will understand, and you won't have to wake up the following morning wondering where your money went.
I hung out with S several times over the last few weeks. My main takeaway from spending time with my lovely, but generously compensated friend? Be honest about your budget. Most people, even those who don't have to worry too much about finances, understand the importance of saving money and will respect you for doing it.
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