5 Ways to Stop Money From Messing up Friendships

So they always pick restaurants out of your budget? Never pay you back? Here’s how to handle all the tricky situations and keep your friendships intact.

Written by Lisa Lombardi / October 5, 2022

Quick Bites

  • It’s hard to talk about money with friends, research shows.
  • Being upfront about your budget can make socializing less stressful.
  • You aren’t obligated to invest in a friend’s iffy business scheme.
  • You can celebrate friends’ weddings and still stick to your budget.
  • Envy over a friend’s financial success can actually be productive.

So your friend always picks the restaurant with five stars, “AKA” five dollar signs? Or they have you cover their share and never Venmo you back?

Dealing with money issues with friends isn’t an easy task. “It's hard to talk about money, period,” says Hanna Morrell, a financial coach in Salem, Oregon. “We haven't been given a good way to talk about money with those closest to us. And our friend group can be extra fraught.”

Why? It ties into what money means to us, says Ellen Wong, a naturopathic doctor and anxiety specialist in Toronto. “Money can stand for power, status and wealth,” she says, so it’s a loaded topic. When we disagree with those closest to us about our values around money, “it can bring up feelings of stress and angst.”

If you deal with that stress by changing the subject, you’re not alone: A survey by Capitol Group found that people would rather talk about marriage problems, sexual orientation or religious beliefs than financial issues with friends.

Now for some good news: There are some easy ways to make money issues less of a minefield in your social life. These strategies will help you preserve your friendships and your bottom line.

Below are five money and friendship stressors—and how to solve them.

1. They always pick restaurants out of your budget

When a “BFF” chooses the priciest place in town for your nights out, it can feel personal. You think: Don’t they realize I can’t afford $125 tasting menus and $18 glasses of Pinot? Truth is, they probably don’t realize it if you haven’t explicitly told them.

So it’s up to you to be upfront and let them know these choices are out of your budget or not how you want to spend your hard-earned cash, Wong advises. You might say, “I need to stick to a budget at the moment. How about we do tacos, burgers or brick-oven pizza tonight?”

It may feel a bit awkward, but you’re showing faith in your friendship. “By being honest with those you love about your finances, you are doing them a kindness,” says Morrell. “You are modeling good communication around money, and reducing the pressure on them as well.”

2. Your friend keeps forgetting to Venmo you their share

This situation is less complicated than you think. “Money is an exchange for something—you are not wrong to ask your friend to hold up their end of the exchange,” says Wong. “There’s nothing wrong with sending a gentle reminder that they haven’t sent money they owe.”

You don’t need to apologize for asking, either. Would J.Crew apologize for asking you to pay for that sweater? A matter-of-fact tone helps underscore the fact that this is just a simple, straightforward transaction.

Tip

To avoid this potential problem in the future, always have everyone transfer you their share before you plunk down your credit card.

And if Float Me Fred keeps up the forgetfulness? You may want to rethink this friendship, Wong says.

3. A friend wants you to invest in their iffy business venture

Your college roomie wants you to get in on their hot crypto tip. Your high school classmate is begging you to fund their years-in-the-making documentary. Hard pass on both counts. But why is it so challenging to just say so?

“Saying no to a friend’s business idea can feel stressful because it might feel as if you’re not supportive of them or don’t believe in them,” says Wong.

Faced with that awkwardness, you might be tempted to skirt their calls or make vague promises to look over their materials soon. However, it’s kinder to be honest. Share with them your reason, Wong says, whether it’s that investing in a business isn’t something you’re comfortable with or that you’ve made a decision to prioritize your money in different ways.

If you two are tight and you want to have their back, offer your support in other ways, like spreading the word about their ventures or connecting them to other potential investors.

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4. Your friends are throwing themselves the wedding of the century, and it’s costing you a bundle

Going broke forking over for bridal party clothes, weekends away and gift after gift? It’s no wonder you’re stressed. Being in a wedding can be painfully expensive: A Lending Tree survey found 56% of people in a bridal party felt pressured to overspend.

“It's not a great idea to spend on wedding after wedding, especially if you have other things in their life they would like to focus their spending on,” says Merrell.

Your best approach? Let your friend know you’ve maxed out your budget this quarter or year and see if you can offer other ways to celebrate their wedding with them. If you feel awkward telling them you’re broke, Merrell says, “try saying, ‘All of my money is busy doing other things right now.’”

Make a decision about how many activities you can swing, and go from there. Maybe you need to skip the golf trip to Bermuda, but you’re there for the pre-wedding massage at a local spa.

Or, let the couple know while you’d love to attend their celebration on a vineyard in Spain, you can’t get the time off. But you can’t wait to celebrate at all the in-town festivities.

Remember that you shouldn’t have to go broke to be there for the happy couple. “Often we want to find excuses because we are worried about what others will think or say about us,” says Wong. But if you spend, spend, spend from that perspective, you’re living life for everyone around you, rather than in line with your core values and plans, she says. And ultimately this can lead to regret, guilt, disappointment and anger.

5. Your college friend just sold their startup for millions and you’re envious

What could be greater news than finding out your friend is suddenly wildly more successful than you? Anything at all, basically.

That’s because you’re only human. Positive psychology experts say that instead of bottling up so-called negative emotions like envy, we should view them as clues that can help us be happier. “Envy is often a signal that there’s something you want in your life that you don’t have yet,” says Wong. “Use this as an opportunity to reflect.”

So, for instance, if you’re envying a friend’s success or wealth, ask yourself, “What do I want?” It might not be oodles of cash. Maybe you long for recognition for the work you do or freedom from the 9-to-5. Then, ask yourself, “What are some of the ways you can seek that out for yourself?” Wong suggests. For instance, maybe a flexible or remote job would let you set your own hours and give you back control of your workday.

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About the Author

Lisa Lombardi

Lisa Lombardi

Lisa is a writer and editor who has worked at Quick & Simple, Health, Redbook, and more.

Full bio

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