Should you talk about money with people who have different financial priorities?

April 19 | Guest post by Anonymous
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
By: Chi KingCC BY 2.0
I have a friend who often makes remarks about having no money. "We can't afford to buy fruits and vegetables." "I hope you're not getting sick, because we can't afford a visit to the doctor." "We can't make it to your place for game night because we can't afford the gas." It's true that they don't have much, raising a family of three on just a teacher's salary.

But it seems (to me) like the money they do have is spent frivolously or unnecessarily. A fancy tea set still in a box in a cabinet, collector sets of books buried in the back of a closet, custom cosplay boots, computer gadgets, additional toys for the kiddo, more video games, and a double boiler (though I've never seen them cook anything more complicated than rice).

None of these things are in themselves bad, and I don't have a problem with people indulging when they have the disposable income. I've justified it to myself by saying that we all have different values, and they probably wouldn't approve of some ways that I spend my own money.

But I'm getting more and more uncomfortable…

Commenting about being poor followed by showing a link to a costume jacket that he hopes to purchase frustrates me. Should I speak up and say something, or just chalk it up to different priorities? -Anonymous

Join our community!

  1. If you speak up approach it from a "You're always worried about money, do you guys have a budget or need help setting up a budget?" not from a "Of course you're broke, you buy crap!" way.

    We're in the "we're broke" phase, but in reality we aren't broke (though husbeast just got laid off so talk to me in a few weeks when his severance is gone and unemployment kicks in). We've made the choice to throw as much of our income at our debt as we can while still affording some quality of life choices. For us, spending time with our friends and cooking big meals to feed everyone is our 'luxury' item of choice; experiences rather than things.

    Good luck speaking with your friend. But do be prepared for them to get all huffy and offended at your (possibly perceieved as) criticism of them. Money can make people do crazy things.

    15 agree
    • Exactly my thoughts. "We can't afford to buy fruits and vegetables" isn't an invitation for advice about financial matters, and unsolicited financial advice never goes over well.

      37 agree
    • Yeah. Unless their different financial priorities endanger their child (i.e. not taking him/her to the doctor when necessary, because they can't afford it), it's probably best to keep your mouth shut.

      28 agree
      • If it does come down to needing to do something like take their child to the doctor they WILL do it. But after they comment to me (and others) about how they can't afford it. But, needing the doctor themselves? Nope. Won't go, saying they can't afford it.

        2 agree
        • But that is THEIR choice and their business. if it makes you uncomfortable then try and avoid conversations about money. If they say they cant do something with you because they are short on funds just say ok and leave them with their choice – you dont need to get frustrated about their lives, it is clearly something that works for them or else they would change their priorities.

          27 agree
          • Oh yes, I agree completely! I just wanted to allay any concerns that there could be child abuse going on.

            My concern is more about the frequent complaints, laments, and even requests for money when I disagree with how the money appears to be being spent. Part of me wants to say, "Well, if you didn't spend money on X you'd have money for Y," but there's no way to do that without being judgemental about their choice to prioritize X over Y when I prioritize Y over X.

            Money is such a sensitive subject because it's so wrapped up with things like values. Hard to talk about — or ignore talking about — when someone keeps bringing it up. 🙂

            8 agree
          • I think once they ask you for money for something, you have every right to discuss their finances.

            Wait until the next time they ask for money. Insist to them that in order to receive the money from you, they must be willing to sit down with you and set up a budget*, as well as sign a loan agreement that's notarized and everything. Some stipulations are totally allowed in legal loan documents, and I think something about going through the house to find what extra belongings they aren't using that they can sell is a perfectly legitimate one. Being careful to keep your words and tone concerned and caring rather than critical should help you in communicating that you Just Want To Help In Any Way You Can.

            *When you set up the budget, be sure to include some spending money. On the one hand, it seems like enabling frivolous spending. On the other hand, long-term budgets with no discretionary spending money are simply not sustainable for most people and CERTAINLY not cold turkey; the money will get spent frivolously either way, so you might as well ensure it doesn't come out of the car insurance fund in the process. When I set up my budget, I set it with a spending budget that was 70% of what I had been spending already. Enough to feel a hefty tightening of the belt, but not so tight that I had to make DRASTIC lifestyle changes all at once. Over time, I incrementally reduced my spending budget considerably.

            20 agree
    • It sounds like your friend may have a problem with money management, BUT it is not your place to try to teach them how to do it unless they ask for your help.

      Not giving unwanted advice to people you care about who seem like they are making mistakes is REALLY HARD (I know I'm not very good at it:p), but trying to help people who don't want your help usually just makes them angry and you. And you angry with them.

      10 agree
  2. It would get on my nerves, too. But honestly, there is very little chance that you can comment on it even in the most helpful way without it turning into a big argument or at least hurt feelings. They're grown folks. They will need to learn the hard way about prioritizing money correctly. There is nothing you can say to them that will do anything but make you sound like a bad friend, even though you mean well.

    It is also possible that their crying of Poor Mouth is bullshit, that they do it either because they want others to feel sorry for them, or because it validates them somehow. I personally feel like, if you can afford video games, you can afford healthy food and medical care for your children, but my priorities about money are not everyone else's.

    17 agree
    • It's not always an attention grab. I often use the phrase "I can't afford that right now" or "I'm so broke right now" because I'm trying to convince myself NOT to spend money. Those words confused my husband, and he just asked me if I was really broke, or if it was something else. And I answered him honestly, that I'm just trying really hard to save, to pay off some debt, to change my spending habits – all of which means NOT buying extra things. But his question was a good opener…

      I agree with those above who said your best bet is to stay out of it – but – if you can't a question is a good way to start…

      32 agree
      • I deal with the convincing myself/avoiding the "I can't…" by saying instead "there's a moratorium on…" whatever it is – eating out, shopping, etc. It's not that I can't afford something, or that I want you to feel bad for me, or that I won't eventually return to doing it – it's that I choose not to spend money on that right now because it conflicts with some other goal I have. People respond generally more positively to this than those in our group of friends who often seem hypocritical about being "broke".

        28 agree
        • That is fantastic! It's showing that you are in control and making your own financial decisions to reach your goals.

          If friends try to push the issue, remind them of your goals!

          The way you phrase it is helpful to yourself AND your friends. I'm so doing this in the future!

          7 agree
      • This!

        I was in a similar situation as the friend in question. I would comment on how I couldn't afford to socialise while enjoying my new purchase or expensive food choice. In reality I simply hadn't a grip on my income (my hours of work fluctuated) and where I was spending money and was aware of debt. Now I actually have a smaller income but control of my incomings and outgoings. One of my friends commented that it was great my new job paid more because I was able to afford meeting for coffee, when really it is just that I have control of my finances now.

        13 agree
      • I agree that sometimes when you are trying to save money, alerting the people around you to your attempts can be helpful. Ya know, if your friends know that you are trying to money diet they are less inclined to ask you to go somewhere expensive, or do an expensive activity.

        6 agree
    • Yeah, and honestly I'll admit myself to sometimes saying I "can't afford" to do something if it's something that I don't want to do and don't want to argue about. If I just say I don't want to go to the stupid concert that my friends are excited about and that I don't care about (or the fancy restaurant that I think sounds over hyped) then I'll have to put up with them trying to convince me/guilt me into going. If I say I can't afford it, that usually stops the conversation. And really, I "can't" afford to spend money on things that I'm not interested in, because I'm saving money for things I am interested in.

      32 agree
  3. Frustrating as it is, there's no way to talk about it without lots of embarrassment and/or hurt feelings.

    13 agree
  4. I guess so long as they aren't asking to borrow money from you or expecting you to pay their way then you might be best not discussing money with them unless they ask for your help/advice.

    You could try a few suggestions in everyday conversation not pinpointing their flaws.
    E.g. Did you see this meal planning pin I pinned on Pinterest this week, it's saved me loads of money on food shopping

    26 agree
    • Yeah, that would be the only way you could do this. Maybe gather some information, and the next time friend mentions money, you can say things like, "Oh! You know, I was just reading about this financial planner/Pinterest/article that was talking about *subject*. I think I'm going to look into it." And you leave it at that.

      10 agree
    • "so long as they aren't asking to borrow money from you"

      Unfortunately, this is the concern. A few of us loaned them money in the past to help cover a specific, one-time expense (and they did pay us back) but now there's requests for we-can't-make-ends-meet donations. I suggested talking with a financial counselor to help evaluate how to manage current finances as well as plan for emergency expenses, and they said they did. (Yet they still asked for money, which confuses me…)

      At this point, I've pretty much decided to (a) ignore all complaints and change the subject in case it's attention-seeking and (b) not loan or donate any more money but if it comes up point again to counseling.

      28 agree
      • Personally, I would probably find it very difficult to hang out with these people. I would see each "we can't afford that" as a request for funding. Not to mention that, unless you live an hour away, we can't afford gas sounds like a pretty poor excuse to skip an inexpensive outing.

        14 agree
      • In general terms, I would once (and only once) mention how budgeting has helped you, a tool you use or something like that and offer to show them at some point if they are interested. Only once. I admit that my dude and I are still getting budgeting under control (he's a student with a flexible income/expenses, not the easiest to budget for). I had a friend at one point offer to any of us but, to be honest, I did not want her to see the financial situation I was in or my choices of priorities. I worried about being judged.

        That said, obviously your friends are not as concerned about that as they are asking for money. Honestly, when they next ask for money I would probably just decline. I have a feeling that these are people who are not ready to get control of their finances in a way that makes sense to you. Changing other people is pretty much impossible unless they are wanting to change so offers of help or stipulations on a loan, while they sound like a great way to help your friends, may just result in resentment. Especially if they do not follow through on loan stipulations. What would you do then?

        I think you're probably making the best choice, to avoid the conversation and not loan or give money to them.

        8 agree
      • See, if they're trying to borrow money or hit you up for "donations", that's a whole other ballgame. Obviously, if they're the kinds of people who waste money on stupid stuff while going without food, etc, don't give them money. If they're trying to hit you up, I'm guessing that a lot of their complaining about lack of funds is trying to get pity. And that's not cool. Honestly, personally, these people would have to have some otherwise absolutely stellar friend qualities for me to continue hanging out with them. So yeah, if they're asking you for money, maybe it's OK to call them out on their bad money management skills. Just be ready for them to react badly and be sure you can live without the friendship if it comes to that.

        8 agree
      • I have this exact problem with a family member of mine too 🙁 It's hard because I love this person and don't want to see them suffer, but I also want them to learn and be independant. While I've started to limit my $$ support to this person, other family members are offering more and more.

        4 agree
        • Honestly, I feel like the best financial help you can provide is to pay for a fincancial advisor/planner. Try to get your other family members on board too, so that they're all willing to pay the cost of a financial planner but not just give them money. That way, hopefully they can start learning how to keep the money they do get, and use it wisely. And, honestly, a family member might go with them to the financial advisor, and that way the family can still provide money to them, but only as the financial advisor advises!

          2 agree
          • Also, you don't even need to pay for a financial planner, no-profit agencies certified by the NFCC (National Foundation for Credit Counseling) offer free budgetary counseling, often over the phone, as well as classes and workshop on things like money management, debt, etc. Also, sometimes institutions you/they might be a part of such as credit unions offer referrals to such services, also free. I used to work as a housing counselor (counseling people who were behind on their mortgages) at one of these non-profits. They do great work.

            1 agrees
  5. Well there could be two things at work here:

    #1 They're not really "poor" or "broke" but like to say they are. I say I'm broke often, but that's because I don't make the amount of money I wish to be making (realistically). However, that being said I can afford to buy luxury items when I save and put aside the money for it…but I can still afford to pay my mortgage, bills, credit card, etc.

    It could be that your friends just like whine about never having "enough" money. We all wish we could be kabillionaires, but we're not.

    #2 The other thing is, they could actually be on the poor side due to contributing factors of spending on luxury items (video games, cosplay outfits) and not life necessities (healthy food, medical care, bills) because they're priorities are messed up. They might see buying video games, fancy cookware and toys for their kid as a means of showing society, "LOOK! We can afford these things to be apart of middle-class society! WE'RE NORMAL!" A status symbol thing.

    All I can say is, depending on your relationship with your friends…you may or may not be able to say something to them. If you guys are very close (like…family-close), and talk about personal subjects without fear of judgement freely…then you can probably say something along the lines of, "Hey I'm worried about you guys. You keep mentioning your money situation and [life necessity] you can't afford. Are you doing okay?" And then go from there about setting up a budget, seeing a financial planner, etc.

    If you're not, then you can't say anything (no matter how nicely worded or well-intentioned) without making them angry and possibly damaging your friendship. All I can say I would do in that situation is ignore them. Every time they bring it up just go, "Uh huh" and then change the subject. If they press on about it often, maybe immediately after they say something, pipe in, "Are you guys doing okay? You talk about this a lot." And go from there.

    But be prepared they could get offended no matter what your relationship is with them.

    16 agree
    • This is good advice. We have close family friends that seem to climb out of debt only to climb back in time after time. We all found it very frustrating to hear them talk about their debt in one breath and the next would be about a trip they were taking or a new gadget that they bought.
      After a while when ever they brought up being in debt around my Mom, she would not ask questions of them but instead would talk about how my Mom and Dad manage their money and what works for them. It took a long time but it seems as though some of that information finally sunk in. Save for the things that you want. You don't need everything as soon as you see it, etc.
      Our friends are still not great with their money but they don't seem to sink themselves as deeply in debt as they did before over frivolous items.

      6 agree
  6. I agree with all of the "Nope, don't do it" comments. Not your business, not your problem. It's admirable you want to help, but that's not the kind of thing you can help with without some serious blow up.

    Keep all of those conversations in mind though if they ask to borrow money or want to do anything with you that involves fronting money. Don't agree to go into business with them. Don't rent them your house (or anything else.) Don't even buy tickets for something as a group that they can pay you for later. People like this get mad if you insist on them holding up their end of a money bargain. If they owe you money and won't pay and you insist, they'll take it as a personal insult against their honor that you don't believe they'll pay you back "someday."

    21 agree
    • As my hubby said to me when I was complaining about a new friend of ours not paying for pizza twice in a row – "If you lend someone twenty bucks and never see them again, it's the best twenty bucks you ever spent."

      People may not want or mean to be leeches, but if they are then you have to protect yourself – would you give alcohol to a drunk because they said it was for cooking? No bloody way. No lending, and if they ask why say you're not in a position to do so. Even if its $5.

      Also general advice which has already come up in this thread a few times – if you ever decide to lend cash to friends or family, get a contract. Money makes assholes of us all – better to be "that guy" up front and have a leg to stand on when pay day comes (and possibly goes…) than lose a friend over non-payment. Best advice is still don't do it – you can give money to friends but lending it is much trickier and potentially devastating.

      4 agree
  7. That strikes me as tricky and for a lot of reasons. In the U.S. I rarely encounter anyone willing to talk about finances, good situations or bad. If it's the same for you then that's probably going to make any discussions harder.

    Taking a jump here: Frivolous things being bought are probably a comfort or a means of stress relief. For some people it's easier to see the value in instant gratification then saving the money to address something like health. I've been there and known others to do it as well. Add the fact that eating well, seeing doctors, and developing hobbies outside of the home can easily snowball into a chain of financial commitments. Commitments which might be dangerous to break (health issues, ongoing repairs) or painful to let go once started. So it's easier to complain and never chance them.

    I personally always liked it when people began to suggest "money-lite" activities. Skyping D&D games instead of long drives. Potlucks instead of eating out. Thrift store shopping and bargain hunting. No one approached me about my complaining, yet they understood the stress and anxiety I had. Eventually the complaints didn't happen as often.

    My own habits changed because I was tired of not having money. So no advice on how it would feel to be given advice. However, I've noticed a lot of my friends and family love to hear about the "crazy" things I do to save (no heat! no AC! no eating out!). I'm not giving advice or passing judgment when I tell these stories. Instead I'm being upfront about what I have, what I spend, and how it's been exciting. The more candid I was with dollar figures the more someone would stop and go, "Wow, if YOU could do that then maybe I could pay off my loans in a year too…"

    13 agree
  8. It sucks that they think they can't afford fruit and vegetables, but it's their (constipated) cross to bear. I can't think of a way to bring it up without sounding like a jerk though, like "Yeah, that's a really nice pair of costume pantaloons, but think of all the carrots and spinach you could buy for your kid with that money instead…"
    I do have some friends who constantly complain about being broke as they spend money on things I'd never prioritize, but I try to just keep my mouth shut. I grew up below the poverty line, so I look at things differently. It's not just different values, it's different perspectives.

    18 agree
    • I LOLed at "their (constipated) cross". 😛 Next time I'm in the store buying veggies I'll mutter, "It's not my constipated cross to bear!" and get strange looks from people.

      13 agree
    • It frustrates me when I see people eating snack foods while complaining about fruits and veggies being expensive. You can get 3-4 bags of frozen veggies for the price of a bag of doritos!

      11 agree
  9. I really wouldn't say anything. There is no way to do it nicely. I also want to point out that sometimes choices that seem crazy from the outside do make financial good sense. We don't have health insurance for my fiancé. We can't afford it. We do spend 9 dollars a week I half a gallon of raw grassfed milk. To my parents, this seems crazy, but we try to keep in good health by eating well, but healthcare is wildly out of reach. Not being able to afford veggies often is because someone doesn't know where to shop for them, or how to cook them, or doesn't realize you can cook for very little money. But it really isn't your place.

    They sounds like a lot of the poor folk (while we probably aren't truely poor, my fiancé's family is) in that when money comes in, they splurge. There is an amazing cracked article about this mindset that helped me understand much better, and my fiancé was shocked at how accurate it was. http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-stupidest-habits-you-develop-growing-up-poor/

    20 agree
      • Yeah, the article is great. Having grown up not quite that broke, but still on assistance at points I really identified with both the windfall check thing, the knowing exact numbers thing, and most crucially "Being poor is a mindset. And it's one that, if given the chance, will make your ass poor again."

        7 agree
    • Such a good article. I am thankfully now a bean counter, but have been there done that for everything as described. As a kid, I remember our potato phase, where we had nothing but, for about 3 months. The disappearing money with nothing to show gives me heart failure to this day. Me to a T.
      And as for the original, no don't say anything!!!! They don't want your advice.
      When they ask, answer. Until then, change the subject as sucky as that is.

      2 agree
  10. From experience, it won't matter what you say, things likely won't change for your friends and you could ultimately hurt your friendship by speaking up. Finances are something that really needs to be learned in the first person, and sometimes the best wake up call is one that comes from a creditor or a phone being shut off.

    My parent's were notorious over-spenders on wants over needs (granted we had gardens and things to offset the needs category), and that is still something that pervades to this day with my mom. I have spent time trying to talk to her about finances (I got myself into a bit of financial trouble in university by doing what my parent's did and learned my lesson the hard way, now my husband and I budget like crazy). I've dropped hints about books, or websites that Marc and I were finding really helping (mint.com), how our budget works, etc. And ultimately while my mom claims she wants to change her habits, she hasn't personally put the effort forward to do so and instead continues to spend on things that she doesn't need.

    Here's the reality: That is totally 100% her choice, and it isn't up to me to change things for her.

    Once I kind of accepted this mantra, I stopped getting frustrated or angry about her mismanagement of money (or how I perceived it to be mismanaged). I can only focus and change my own life, and ultimately lead by example. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

    5 agree
    • I've also found that that saying can be extended… if the darn horse doesn't want to move out of the field TO the water, it ain't movin' …

      2 agree
  11. If ANYTHING is to be said (again, the perils of which were beautifully outlined before I jumped in and I totally agree), it's going to have to be done from a place of I love you/I'm worried about you. They bring up a No We're Broke point? Ask them if they're ok, let them vent, maybe they're struggling and it's a chance to connect and share a something-worked-for-us moment. And proposing an alternative by just saying Well We Miss Spending Time Together How Can We Make This Work? might open up a door for them to consider their priorities – which seems like a big issue.

    4 agree
  12. If you are really close to this friend and they are bringing up a lack of money all the time, I think I would approach this differently. Next time they say something like, "We can't afford fruits and veggies. We are so broke." I would say something like, "Ya know. I'm not sure what to say to that. Are you looking for ideas of how to save money for this or just blowing off steam?" It will kind of let them know that this topic comes up a lot, and the uncertainty of how you should respond is making you uncomfortable. Now, if they say that they are just blowing off steam, I would let any ideas or tips you have fall to the wayside. It sucks they don't even have money to drive to hang out, but it is what it is. If they are looking for advice, couch it in love and helpfulness. Once you give them some thoughts though, you've got to go ahead and drop it anyway. You don't want to end up being their money police.

    36 agree
    • I totally agree with this: "Next time they say something like, "We can't afford fruits and veggies. We are so broke." I would say something like, "Ya know. I'm not sure what to say to that. Are you looking for ideas of how to save money for this or just blowing off steam?"

      14 agree
    • I love this suggestion, Whitney S! I think it really gets at the heart of the matter. I may try that next time this comes up.

      By the way, guys, I want to thank you for your comments and thoughts. Beyond this specific circumstance, I was interested in crowd-sourced ideas about when uncomfortable and sticky and sensitive topics like this come up amongst those we all care about.

      5 agree
  13. I think a lot of people say they can't afford to do something because they feel it's impolite to say they just don't want to.

    20 agree
    • This.

      It seems that we humans can usually find the time and money for the things that we value. (Within reason.)

      2 agree
  14. I've encountered a similar situation with one of my best friends. First, I looked at it from the 'we all have different priorities' angle. After a while, I noticed I was (got) hurt by comments like 'we can't visit you because gas is so expensive' while I knew they were buying other stuff. In the end, I had a heart-to-heart with my friend. It was not easy, but I explained that the "we can't visit' comments really hurt me, because to me it said 'we prioritize [stuff they bought] over the friendship with you'. It was definitely a hard conversation, but it did clear the air. And we found a way do deal with it. If you're hurt and it's a close friend, I think you could start from there to bring up the topic. Ultimately, I agree with all the other commenters, it is not your place to criticise their spending behaviour.

    7 agree
    • I've had to have this conversation with a couple of friends. If you come from a place of "I want to do what I can to help, maybe sit down with you and share with you what I know about budgeting/investments…" then it can be well received. There is one friend who I don't really talk to anymore because of this, but frankly I felt she was using me all too often. Asking to meet me for lunch or a movie, only to show up and say she wasn't going to order anything because she didn't have any money, knowing full well I was going to end up paying her bill.

      • Oh man! That is the absolute worse! I've had that happen to me way too often and it drives me nuts! In my family all social gatherings revolve around food. So if you know you don't have money for lunch AND a movie you might say something like, "Oh, why don't you come over for lunch, I have a new recipe, and then we can catch a movie." You don't even have to mention that you don't have the money for lunch, and yet you still get to spend time together. It's so much more polite!
        I had one friend who would always show up for coffee or dinner without money, and I got to the point, that I would literally just eat in front of her and would not offer her to get her something or to share my plate with her. I decided that if she was going to be rude and not even politely ask me to help her out, but instead force me to help her, that I was just going to be rude right back! It was very satisfying. Haha!

        • Eh, this is why i usually suggest mexican or someplace with bread. I can nibble on the free stuff while the other person eats. We broke people aren't always looking for a handout. Sometimes, we just cant afford to eat out and cant afford to feed you at our place instead, but still recognize that socializing is most comfortably done over food or drinks and DO want to hang out.

          5 agree
  15. I wouldn't say anything.

    a. Except for things you actually see them by, you don't know what they paid for those items, or if they were gifts, or if they were purchased at a a time when they had more disposable income.

    b. Right, priorities. If they want a cosplay costume more than they want that other stuff, that's their business. Hopefully if any of the family became seriously ill they'd be selling that stuff off so they COULD go to the doctor, but still, their business.

    c. "We can't afford that" is often a way of weaseling out of something someone doesn't actually *want* to do. Not always, of course. But… c'mon, fruits and veggies are way cheaper than prepackaged junk food. Unless you live really far away, the gas would probably cost like $5 tops. I'm betting some of it is justifying (to themselves and others) something they don't really want to do for other reasons. Or maybe just looking for pity and attention.

    There's just no way to bring all that up without it ending badly. Tell 'em "Oh, sorry you can't make it", don't get in the habit of loaning them money, and just stay far away from the whole topic.

    7 agree
  16. Different financial priorities reflect different life priorities, that's why this is so fraught. You aren't just helping them with technical skills, you're criticizing their lives. People would say that my husband and I spend too much on video games and movies, but these things are important to us. While I look wistfully at a mustang, I may say "I wish I could afford a new car." Probably I could afford one if I didn't buy so many video games or go out to so many movies. But my car is perfectly fine, so I see no reason to "grow up" and stop playing new games. On the extreme end, I have a friend who sees a car and its upkeep as a frivolous expense even though he lives in a city known for a lack of public transportation.

    I would say, since these are you friends, you are allowed *one* sidelong remark. When they say "I can't afford XYZ," you can reply with "Oh, that reminds me, I just finished this great Dave Ramsay book/ found a fantastic advisor/ caught this great episode of Suze Ormon/ etc." If they don't bite at the bait, then leave it alone and try not to judge.

    2 agree
    • Or a sidelong idea: a yard sale. If you happen to have junk you want to get rid of, propose to do a yard sale together. Or even just say something like "I'm itching to do something this summer–do you have any stuff you want to get rid of? I'll help you price stuff and sort through everything, if you want." It might be a nice opportunity for you both to make a little spare cash and to take inventory. It might help Friend realize just how senseless some of their spending really is.

      6 agree
  17. Yeah, it's hard to approach this issue without offending people. I have a friend who doesn't have much money, but insists on name brand clothing and makeup and I just can't understand why she would prioritize those things. But that's just it; I don't understand it, and trying to give advice on something without understanding where the other person is coming from rarely ends well. If the other party approaches you for advice, or if it turns from just a light "Ahh, no money!" complaint to what seems like a cry for help, then you can approach the subject.

    My mother-in-law is the same way, where she complains about not having enough money and yet will buy herself a new $3000 mattress on a whim. And I'm learning to accept that her idea of having money and mine are different, and that there's not something inherently wrong with it. It bothers me, but it's not because she's doing something wrong, but because she's doing it differently from how I would.

    4 agree
  18. From the tone of this question, it seems like their constant stream of "we're poor" comments is actually impacting your friendship with them. Which, to me, actually supports you saying something to your friend about it, because if they continue to make you uncomfortable, sooner or later you're going to stop hanging out. However, the tone is very important. I think others further up thread gave a couple of very good examples of how to do this without offending (sincerely ask if they're doing okay, talk about your money management strategies, etc). I'd add that if they're consistently blowing off invites to really inexpensive outings for money problems, stop inviting them. There's no need to open the door to those types of excuses.

    9 agree
  19. I will admit, I have used the "we don't have the money" excuse; however, it was done because 1) husband didn't have a job, and we were living on one income; 2) we were planning our wedding, and paying for it ourselves. I used it mostly to avoid places where money was spent (restaurants, theaters, amusement parks, etc). We still drove places to see friends…we'd just play nerdy board games instead of going places!

    I say proceed with caution; I think the "oh hey, so, I read this article about money management by (whoever) and thought it was interesting. Did you see that?" approach is the most tactful. I can see how that would get old listening to; just…don't loan any money. I have watched enough Judge Judy to know that seldom ends well.

    2 agree
  20. Do you know for sure that they're paying full retail price on these things? Cosplay items can be found pretty cheap if you look long and hard enough, and some custom makers are willing to trade services. New gadgets could come from sales, and like-new gadgets could come from yard sales or auctions. I have several video games and have hardly ever paid more than $5 for them. New.

    5 agree
  21. I would chalk it up as "an annoying thing my friend does" and leave it at that – because they're right. No good can come of this.

    Hey, I'm often short of money too, though I spend what I do have on things like food from the farmer's market that someone else would consider a luxury because it's more expensive. But even if I choose to complain about it, I still consider it *my* business. Not my friend's.

    1 agrees
  22. i would add one other thing to the original comment, which is that it is unlikely that this is simply a thing a friend does that annoys you. if it is, hey, let it slide. but from my experience with similar situations it is probably bigger than that.

    i have found different spending priorities often come with the expectation that you should change them (which is, of course, what you are thinking about your friend, but i have found that while it is considered rude to tell a friend they should spend less money, it is completely acceptable to want them to spend more – like only wanting to hang out if we're going out to eat, or to a bar, or shopping).

    it has also led to an expectation that, because we never complained about being broke, we obviously had plenty of money. which, yes: we have plenty of money for the things we need. but if we share a hotel room, we actually were planning on you paying your half.

    planning. which leads us to maybe the biggest friendship strain: it's really insulting. it always came across with a big unspoken dose of "you guys are so *lucky*". (which, yes, i strongly believe that there is a dose of luck or such in all success, but…) no. we have worked and continue to work very hard to be in a stable financial situation.

    sorry- this is getting long, but i wanted to address the fact that this is an important relationship question, not some kind of "not your business" butting into someone else's finances thing – it's very possible for this issue to break your friendship apart.

    as to what to actually do, i think it depends (of course). i've done a number of things, sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.

    you can try starting to repeat your own positive money remarks – a sort of subtle educational commentary: "man, it was so hard to get used to making coffee at home, but i just realized i've save up enough money for ____" "that's so cool, i want to get one too! but i've already spent my fun money this month; maybe i'll get it next month"

    you can try to start responding to his complaints with direct solutions. this can be done politely: "yeah, it's hard to fit in the budget, but i always look for the managers special veggies, which are great as long as you use them the day of." maybe he'll take some of it to heart, but also if he's just looking for an ear to bitch to, getting a response other than the wanted sympathy might at least get him to talk about it less.

    you might be able to snark at him, depending on your friendship: "oh, yeah, it must be hard to afford gas after what you spent at the bar saturday/getting to dragon*con" it took years and some other outside circumstances, but this eventually got through to one of our friends. it also allows you to get it off your chest. and gives him the opportunity to say "shut up, man!" thus ending the conversation and moving on.

    last, but not least, polite and helpful sympathy could be in order: "hey, i know you're really upset that you can't afford to move to a bigger house for your kids/some legitimately important thing. do you want some help figuring it out?" of course, this only works if you're enough of a money nerd (and polite and sympathetic enough) to actually sit down with him and work on a reasonable (to his priorities, not yours) and achievable budget. most folks i know who are "always broke" because of messy spending habits don't do it because they don't care, they do it because they actually have no idea how not to.

    7 agree
    • These are all fantastic suggestions. I'm definitely going to have to use them. So much better than when I'm tempted to retort, "Well, when I need more money, I get a second job. Or a third job. Ya do what you gotta do." I don't actually say this out loud, but it's what I've actually done in the past, and frankly, it's frustrating when a friend who only works part time or relies solely on a spouse's income complains as if there aren't other options. Plus there's always ebay, yard sales, freelance works, I could go on… If lack of finances is an issue, it can be fixed. If it's really an excuse (which it often is) there are polite ways to call someone out on it without them realizing that's what you're doing.

      1 agrees
    • This is a great comment with lots of practical advice. The expectations thing really resonates with me, because a family member of mine seems to think that because I don't complain about money that I always have plenty to pay for them and buy them things. Which is why this person brings up the topic all the time! Also luck, they think luck is all it takes to have money, not careful decisions and hard work. Great tips that I will be using when interacting with my family member who has the same issue as the original poster's.

  23. I would stick my fingers in my ears when they bring up money. Maybe not literally. But unless they ask for help, they probably won't be receptive to it anyway. You could maybe make some attempts in the vein of "I've been doing this budget thing whatever to help save money, it's great!" and see if they take an interest. But beyond that, probably won't end well.

  24. You should not say anything. For all you know, the fun extras they're "wasting" money on might have been paid for by a generous relative or friend. Or a contest win. Or they got a really good gift card / coupon / garage sale find / Craig's list barter. Either way, you don't know. Have we not seen the Frasier episode where Roz gets accused of "You said you were broke, but why are you're spending money"

    4 agree
  25. There's a few other possible scenarios that not many people are likely to consider.

    I'm pretty tight right now as far as money goes. My fiance and I have had a couple of hard years, including some unemployment stretches that we really couldn't do anything about (and believe me, we tried). However, we did pretty darn well for a while beforehand. We've got some decent things. And until we run out of the money to buy food, we're not going to sell them; we save up and buy quality items that last. So someone could easily look at us and say, "Why are you complaining about money? You've got a motorbike, a 50" plasma, 2 computers less than 5 years old, and lots of savings!" Yes. Yes, we do. But that motorbike is my only transportation, saves a ton of money on gas, and was purchased during better times. That 50" plasma came when we decided that living without a TV for several years just started to suck. And those computers, also purchased in better times, replaced machines that were over a decade old and past the point of being worth upgrading (not to mention my fiance needs them for business). The savings are for retirement and serious emergencies. We're penny-pinching right now because we've had a hard couple of years, and feel it's worth saving everything we can to get back into a house rather than an apartment. So yeah, we can watch stuff on a nice big screen, but no, we can't afford to go out to the theater right now. I look like my bike is just for fun, but I am not just a "weekend warrior" with it. We have a pretty valid back story to being our definition of "poor" at the moment.

    Some things can also be explained by passions, or simply be keepsakes. I've got some pretty darn nice jewelry… that was my grandmother's. I went through some rough times as a teen and young adult, but there are some nice things I managed to hold onto. So yes, I may turn down going to an expensive dinner out, even if I'm wearing a diamond necklace. I'm not broke because of the necklace. But I'm also not broke enough that I'd dare consider selling it. I've also been given some very pricey gifts on occasion that I honestly didn't care for, but couldn't return for whatever reason, and just took a while to get rid of.

    Another crappier explanation for seemingly not having a great set of priorities is simply that. Everybody is wired differently, and for some people who grew up poor or went through some thin times in their lives simply aren't mentally prepared when they *do* have money. Take this extreme example: If you're starving and someone hands you a $5, what are you going to do? Are you going to go seek out a grocery store and carefully shop to plan out a few meals and stretch that $5 as far as possible? Most people wouldn't. Most people would head to the nearest corner store or fast food place and buy the first thing they could get their hands on, especially since being hungry can easily cloud your judgement (which is why they say never to go grocery shopping when you're hungry!). Having also been through the hard-times-and-then-got-a-fat-wallet-suddenly, I know how it goes. No, it doesn't make sense. But if you've been drooling over that one collectible, or dress, or whatever, and convinced yourself for so long that you'd be happy if you could only just have that one rediculous item… Well, there you go. You get in more of a mindset of, "I'd better buy X, Y, and Z while I have the money, because I have no idea when or if I will again," instead of the obviously more practical, "I should try and save this and make it last." Being desparate, for any reason, tends to make a lot of people make stupid decisions. It takes a lot of hard work and tricking your brain back into being practical after those kinds of situations. Been there, done that, still occasionally struggle with it.

    Not trying to defend the OP's friends… just offering possible background explanations that *might* apply.

    19 agree
    • yes!

      i just wanted to say (especially as someone who already posted a fairly critical comment) that your analysis is great. i love seeing this sort of critical thought as an alternative to judgement. i would assume that if one were close enough to consider commenting on someone's finances (one of our major taboos), one knows enough detail to reach an informed conclusion (but who knows).

      (and in brief defense of my previous criticisms, my personal experience has been that folks who make a big deal of being broke are those who dug thier own hole; i've known people in really tough situations, but they never seem to be the ones. obviously that's not scientific and totally biased, but it colors my opinions.)

      5 agree
    • This is an excellent point to bring up, because you're right that I don't know the history behind some items and I need to remember that. There are some I do know about that concern me, admittedly because of MY priorities which are not necessarily better or worse, just different. (They may not approve of the amount I spend on eating out or running shoes or vacation.)

      Ultimately I get frustrated because if people I care about are struggling I want to help! — but I don't feel it's fair to do so by intentionally or unintentionally imposing my own priorities or values on them. I don't want to come across as "my way is right and your way is wrong and that's why you're having trouble" because I still have my own troubles with my way. When it keeps getting brought up, it's hard to say anything without revealing your own values and possibly appearing judgmental of the values of others.

      I like what other commenters have said about when they bring it up asking if they are bringing it up because they WANT help, opening that door — if they want — of, "Yes! I'd love to help! What I do works for me, but know that my approach is different than yours."

      5 agree
  26. I want to get judgey and defensive, but I won't, because that's not actually helpful or what you're asking for. I will just say "no, you cannot 'speak up' to them about it". You have no idea why they spend their money the way they do- and what they actually may have paid for some of those things. You also do not know if spending is an addiction for them- it may be a compulsion they know they have but are currently unable to deal with for whatever reason.

    If it bothers you enough to end your friendship, fine. But it is not your place at all, unless approached for advice. If you offer advice and it is ignored, that's all you can do. Leave it alone.

    3 agree
  27. At Thanksgiving my brother told me that we shouldn't have spent $3,000 on the vet bill to save our dog's life (he had eaten a sock and it would have killed him because it was all tangled in his intestines) because "dogs don't have souls and can't go to heaven. You could have used that money to save souls for Jesus."

    Um. Yeah.

    Meanwhile, he and his wife had just gotten back from a Mexican resort vacation (instead of paying my parents back from money they had loaned him)…and I wanted to ask "how many souls did you save for Jesus on your vacation?" but I kept my mouth shut…because nothing good can come from a conversation about money from someone with vastly different values.

    8 agree
    • I am so impressed that you kept your mouth shut. That conversation could go no where good.

      That being said, it seems that my priorities align with yours. If this type of thing becomes a pattern, I probably would break my silence. Even though it's not what you are thinking, I think it would be ok to say "I am not commenting on how you spend your money, so please don't comment on how I spend mine, especially without examining your priorities first."

    • Wow, bless you for being able to keep your mouth shut. I probably would have retorted with a wide range of snarky comments. I'm the youngest, so my older siblings *love* to judge my life choices. Ah, siblings

  28. Wait until there's an invitation for advice, or next time it comes up, simply ask, "well, would you like some advice?". If they don't want to hear it, and just need to get it off their chest, they'll say no.

  29. Most posts seem to have focussed on the social norms and requirements of the poster, rather than the friends making these calls. Sure, I totally understand that you can only control your own behaviour, but to be honest I find constantly whinging about money to be really rude. It's putting the listener in a really uncomfortable place. Like anything else, if it's framed in a constructive sense for example "hey this is hard to bring up, but we're really struggling financially at the moment, can we talk about that?" then all well and good – but this sounds to me like, well, whinging.

    9 agree
  30. These remarks like "oh, we can't afford vegetables" are probably said casually and meant to be offhand, right? So over-react!

    When they say they can't afford vegetables again, just look shocked, and say, "My goodness, that's very drastic! Not even onions? Oh my!" Don't offer help or advice. It will totally derail your conversation and probably, they will stop making comments like that.

    10 agree
  31. I think the conversation only comes up it if directly effects you. You say they've asked to borrow money. Even though they paid you back, its still a little worrisome to you that they aren't the best at planning their finances. So if they ever ask you for money again, it's appropriate to say "I'm just not comfortable lending you money." Or, at this point, to offer them tips on how to budget, etc.

    But if it's nothing more than annoying, I'd say the posters above had some great suggestions; it sounds like it's really more about stopping the constant complaining (and yes, I totally think it's annoying when people are always making "I'm too poor" comments in casual conversation. People who are truly poor are often too embarrassed to make those statements casually, in my experience.)

    I love the "I'm not sure how you'd like me to respond" answer, as it really focuses on the problem you can say something about – the "whining". Assuming these comments are being made as either a passive-aggressive way to ask for money or for attention-seeking, then it is fine to say something to your friends. But I would keep any mention of actual spending out of the conversation, and focus on how you guys could talk about money more productively, or not talk about it at all.

    3 agree
  32. I ummed and erred about posting, because I think other people have already said everything better than I could, but just to throw in my two cents… I grew up as one of three kids brought up on the equivalent of a teacher's salary. And there were days when we just ate pasta and cheap bacon, and a lot of big expenses got covered by wealthier relatives. But I still have a huge collection of hardback books and CDs bought during that period, my sister has a ton of movie collectables, and we all had computers, because apart from anything else, those actually work out as really cost-effective ways to fill your time when leaving the house is too expensive.

    Until I started earning a decent amount myself (aged about 24-ish), I almost never went to any kind of social thing, because there were the train tickets and food and drinks (even if that's just chipping in for nibbles); and most of the time events weren't planned a month in advance so they hit me as a sudden unexpected expense that threw out all my other plans.
    And honestly, socialising with people who aren't in the same situation is a massive source of anxiety in all kinds of ways, so I often preferred to dodge them. 'I can't afford the travel' is, at least in my experience, the understandable, non-hurtful way of saying 'this will cost my entire entertainment budget for the next month, and I don't really feel like I can take that hit right now, for one evening'.
    It's not the easiest thing to do over and over again, but it's a hard habit to get out of once you've started classifying social events as expendable luxuries. Which sounds *awful*, I know, and it's not something I'd ever outright say to someone. But the feeling is always there. And I'm suddenly very grateful for the fact that friends never came round, because the idea of people making judgements on which of my possessions I should have exchanged for the ability to afford their parties is… difficult.
    (To this day, I am truly terrible at throwing parties, because I live in perpetual terror of people feeling obliged to turn up, or bring something, or put up with another guest talking about their trip to Thailand for two hours, or god knows what other horror may await…)

    Now, obviously, this is just me, and the people in question might have completely different motivations.

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is that when money is difficult, the 'frivolous' purchases with a clear price tag are the easy ones, and anything beyond that – especially if the total cost is vague, or it's not an integral part of your life (which could easily include fruit and veg, if you don't cook) – can be a major source of anxiety that may or may not seem worth it at the time.
    I'm not sure it's even a question of priorities, in the purely objective sense. Lack of money just leaves you with some seriously messed-up comfort zones.

    8 agree
  33. To me, this sounds like not only how Kids Couple spends their money, but how they spend their *resources*. Without knowing any more of the details (and thus I may be way off-base here), you miss your friends, who are spending more and more of their time, energy and other resources away from the friends they traditional hung out with.

    Sometimes, discussions about money have "subtitles." The subtitles for this one may be "My free time is smaller now that I have kids. Please understand how important that is and tell me it's okay."

    If this is the case, I think it's perfectly okay to talk with your friends about missing them, or to reassure them that you understand their time needs to be divided up differently now. Or that you're frustrated and would like to figure out a way to see them more.

    I think a discussion about money is sure to lead to hurt feelings. If hearing them talk about money makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you could tell them *that* instead, so that money doesn't keep coming up in the conversation.

    Best of luck with this!

    2 agree
  34. A friend frequently had big issues about money, her (now ex) spouse was great at losing jobs and leaning on her. When things were very tight I would just show up with a couple of litres of milk, a loaf or two and maybe something for school lunches. I NEVER lent money. I knew it wouldnt come back and would just make the relationship uncomfortable for both of us. I am still her friend and will always be. Money is a killer of friendships, dont go there.

    3 agree
  35. It's really frustrating, but there's no way to have this conversation that won't cause hurt feelings. I know several people like this who used to be friends but ultimately their assumptions about my finances and their moaning about being broke ultimately drove us apart. It's incredibly frustrating, whether your budget is bigger or smaller than theirs. I don't think there's any good way to bring it up, unfortunately, and I'd just avoid conversations involving money and politely decline to lend/ donate any more. I'm all for personal choice in how you spend your income- that's fine and your priorities don't have to match mine, but if it's got to the point that our priorities are so far apart that we can't find something in common (free, inexpensive or otherwise) to enjoy together then that's a serious problem for our relationship.

    1 agrees
  36. Sometimes I use that statement when I'm joking around and sometimes I say it about things I'm prioritizing. For example, I might say I can't afford to go out to dinner or to get more work clothes, but when the ski resorts around me were open I gladly paid the price of a lift ticket to ski all day because skiing was a priority to me.

    I would personally avoid trying to have a conversation with your friend about her finances unless she's asking you to pay for certain items and then going off to buy these luxuries. If that's the case, proceed with great caution because people get touchy about finances because it's generally no one's business but their own. Even then, I would personally find a way to gently say no unless there were an extremely clear cut situation. If her constant comments are getting to you, you could mention how they bother you without getting into a conversation about her finances. Good luck!

    Also, items like that expensive tea set may have been a nice gift from a relative for a wedding or something else. I'm currently registering for all kinds of things for my wedding that I could never afford myself, but my fiance and I are registering for them because they're "keep forever" items that we would love to have but cannot in any way afford now.

    1 agrees
  37. If your friends were on their own I would say let them buy all the crap they want and starve, it's their business. HOWEVER, if there are children involved, I would be concerned. If the kids aren't eating healthy because of their parents inability to act like adults, that's a real problem.

    If I were you I would tell your friends that you just found this great software for money budgeting (you can use Mint or something similar), and tell them that they should try it out because it's saved you TONS of money. If they say they're not interested, pull out the "Think of the children!" card and say that you KNOW they don't need help budgeting, but it just makes you feel so BAD when you hear them say that they can't afford fruit and vegetables for the kids and you want to do something to help. You just love those little kids so much. Tear.

    2 agree
  38. Yeah, it's a tricky subject and I've had a few friends in the past that were like that and the usual situations are:

    If you don't say anything, then you will likely end up hearing them complain for the rest of the friendship, which probably won't last too long as you will eventually start to avoid them.

    They could be trying to get handouts. This one was recent when a person assumed that my new marriage meant that I was swimming in cash. Not the case. They disappeared as soon as they realized this.

    They truly need assistance with money management and don't know how to ask and by having asked you will now both live happily ever after and be financially confident.

    You will insult them and they will deny everything and end the friendship.

  39. I feel like I'm this friend. I've not asked any friends for money, but I often say that I'm broke or I can't afford XYZ while sipping expensive tea, or texting them on my smartphone. Partially this is because they're priorities to me (the tea is a comfort and reminds me of home, and the phone is my only means of communication, and a significant part of my entertainment, with a relatively low cost). And partially it's trying to feel "normal".

    I grew up in a home where there wasn't much money, but we always had good tea. It was budgeted for, and had priority status. Now, normally I get some at the bulk food store for a couple bucks and go happily on my way.

    But – and heres where I admit my stupidity- this month, I spent $14 on tea because it was fair trade, organic, delicious, and totally an impulse buy. Did I really need another variety of earl grey? And I don't even drink chai!

    The thing is, while I am quite poor, $14 wouldn't go far towards bills at all. And that is the honest, and idiotic way I look at it. If I make the minimum payment on my hydro bill, the lights will stay on. Anything more than that is "extra", with nothing to show for it. I'm trying to change this way of thinking, but it's incredibly difficult. Plus, I can't budget worth shit, and I don't know where to learn.

    3 agree
    • Would you appreciate advice from your friends in this situation, or would you prefer them to not talk about it?

      (If you do want advice about budgeting, I think some other posters further up suggested some good websites and things.)

  40. I wouldn't say anything because it is such a touchy subject that it might very well damage your friendship and create a lot of resentment and awkwardness between you – like many other commenters have already pointed out, much more thoroughly and eloquently than me 🙂

    But I completely understand your frustration as well. I have a friend who's in a similar situation. One day she'll tell me she's completely broke, the next she'll tell me she's going on a 3-week trip to Europe. She quit her job months ago because she didn't like it and decided to reinvent herself as a professional photographer (she's never taken a single photography class, though I know that's not always a prerequisite to success in the field) and dropped 4 figures on equipment. Her photography business promptly went nowhere. The other day she mentioned that her boyfriend is quitting HIS job because he doesn't like it anymore. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her and say, "That would be REALLY DUMB since he's the only one who makes any money between you two and you keep saying you have no savings!" It takes a bit of effort to bite my tongue.

    1 agrees
  41. To start, I have to be honest and say that I've never had friends like that, and I've never been that friend. My husband has friends like that, and to be honest, I consider them to be leeches. Not in the way that they're actually asking for or taking money/other items from him, but in a way that they're sucking the enjoyment out of the friendship. Yet, the mister still clings to the friendship. I think in this case, he's too nice to say "ye know man, it'd be nice to talk about my interests instead of how you're broke and don't have a house/good job/girlfriend." He'd NEVER say that. But, he seems ok with being leeched off of in that emotional sense. To me, it's not worth his time or energy. Friendships shouldn't require that much work! I'm at a point in my life where I've come to realize that anything less than pleasant/enjoyable/fun/meaningful in a friendship, isn't worth my time. I don't have a ton of friends, but the ones I do have, have been with me forever, and I with them. I've never had money discussions with friends, but I once had a friend that did a lot of awfully draining things, like saying things like "I look so fat in these jeans" and "I haven't eaten anything all day" ALL the time, obviously fishing for comments like "Oh you're gorgeous, your jeans look great, you don't need to lose weight, etc.". When I read this post, that was the friend I immediately thought of. It did make me feel very uncomfortable, which, though I didn't realize till much too much time went by, was quite rude of that friend. Could the "I'm broke" comments be stemming from some other source or a sense of feeling somehow insufficient amongst your group? I do agree with the posters here that have said, a person that is truly poor doesn't go advertising to everyone they know.

    1 agrees
  42. I work with a couple of women who are always complaining about being broke or unable to save money. That said, they seem unwilling to forego online shopping, maintaining their fake nails, eating out, etc. I've had to bite my tongue several times as my husband are on a tight budget with only one of us working full time. I'm with the the others who recommended having the conversation if/when a request for money opens that door. I'm a fan of sharing my budget tips in general conversation especially when I get compliments on my thrift-store clothing or my homemade whatever that I brought for lunch.

  43. Where I live (Wisconsin) bars and taverns are huge money holes. I used to bartend and I would be serving $5.00 drinks to people that can't pay their bills at my family's other business (Car repair)…. it would just kill me. Drinks at the bar is NOT for sustance…. it is not food… you don't need it… and if you owe people money, going to the bar is irresponsible! BUT.. that said, unless they are asking you for money, or you are a super close best friend for life, I wouldn't mention it.

    Maybe it's cold hearted of me, but in my past that have done that same thing over and over, are no longer my freinds. My friends and the ones that have things in common with me, and that includes my values. These were extreme situations and I wasn't as close to these people to begin with so this may be COMPLETLY different than your situation.

    1 agrees
  44. Definitely don't say anything, but I do agree with you. I am the kind of person that doesn't spend money on much, but I do care about really good healthy food. People will talk about how broke they are and than say when they get X amount of money they are going to buy Y unnecessary good. It doesn't compute in my mind, but the one time I did try to talk to someone about money they got very upset. Let it be!

  45. It is funny when friends who make more money than I do complain about being "hard up". I'm like…hmmm…I'm making all of my bills and can afford nutritious groceries for my family on my salary which is significantly lower than yours, so what's your deal? Then, they talk about getting their eyebrows waxed at the salon, buying new shoes, going to the mall, buying fancy icecream downtown (which requires a 45 minute drive to pick up)….I'm playing my tiny violin for them. I never say anything, but it is a little annoying.

    • So I'm right there with you on my violin… maybe we can start an orchestra.

      In their world, those things could be perceived as necessities. Right after I graduated college, I lived with two girls whose families were wealthy enough, but they weren't wealthy independently. They always felt "sad" for me since I didn't allow myself life's little luxuries, and I always felt sad for them because they would have to call their parents or grandparents at the end of each month to send money. I would tell them that I didn't have to get a facial to relax, didn't need to buy a latte every day to be caffeinated, etc. They couldn't understand why I was "living like a miser and constantly depriving myself." I couldn't understand how they could continue to be spoiled little girls and not make any steps to be independent and financially sound.

      So my point is…there are fundamental differences in how people see and use money. Their parents never gave them an allowance for "extras," while my parents gave me a larger than normal allowance in high school, but I had to use it for all my clothing, school lunch, and all social activities I wanted. They said that their parents thought they were protecting them from having to worry about money. We also disagreed on how we would treat money with our kids, still believing that the way we were raised was best. These friendships did not last, for many reasons, but discussions about money and lifestyles were a large part of it because you lose respect for each other.

      Some people live better with less! They adjust their priorities and view money in a different way. I would much rather budget for my priorities and carry zero balance on my credit cards from month to month than have to ask for money, assuming I had a source of it. But not everyone sees it this way, and don't care about being financially sound and independent, much less know how to do it.

  46. No. Do not give your friends any fiduciary advice, please! They may find it insulting.

    It's not a moral failing to be broke, or to buy yourself treats even when you can barely afford it. Have you ever gone through a period of time when you and your partner had been under- or unemployed, barely able to cover rent or more than cans of refried beans and packets of rice to cook your dinner with? Being super broke, you want to save up your pennies for a treat as often as possible. Selling things on eBay to make ends meet enough to pay rent is nerve wracking. You treasure the infrequent new t-shirt, jacket, thrift store shoes or home-cooked dinner of fresh meat and veggies that comes on payday.

    It isn't a moral failing to be a less-than-expert money manager either. You pay for it in different ways, but still live a happy and fulfilled life anyway.

    1 agrees
  47. this is actually the reason i stopped living with my old roommates. every time they got paid, they would pay their rent and bills and buy some food then go out and blow every penny they had left on video games, pool cues, movies, etc. the whole reason i moved in with them in the first place was because one of their cars got totaled and they needed help with rent so they could afford the payments for its replacement. it made me very uncomfortable because they had no safety net and if one of them had lost their job or another major event had happened that required a lot of money it would have left my financially vulnerable because i would have had to pick up the slack.

    i brought this up to the husband once and he basically told me that logically, he knew they were being stupid but that it was they way they chose to live their life and it wasn't going to change. fortunately i knew him well enough to know how to handle it without him getting angry or defensive but unfortunately it was 3 years ago and i don't remember exactly what i said.

    however, all that being said, if it doesn't directly effect you and their child(ren) aren't being neglected because of it, i would stay out of it. money is a VERY touchy subject for a lot of people and it would be horrible to lose good friends over something like this. if you do say anything, all i would suggest is that you offer to help them create a budget. generally speaking, i've found that to be the least offensive way to broach the subject.

    1 agrees
  48. I watched a really good friend of mine let her husband put her and their child into destitution more than once. After burning through her over half a million dollar inheritance, they are again living on social programs and a string, while neither of them have jobs, and the husband is "chasing his dream".
    I, and other friends, have told them, begged them, and just stopped talking all together. They have stopped short of neglect of their child, but are willing to forever live this way.
    I would not say anything to your friends, unless they ask for advice. Even then, anything you say can be mistaken for being bossy and nosy.

  49. I know I often remark that "I'm broke" or "can't afford it" because I've run out of my discretionary budget for the month, even though overall, we are comfortable. I used to be a big impulse buyer of small thing that added up, so my husband and I agreed that I'd get so much a month for whatever I wanted (I really hate the term allowance, as it assumes that my husband is controlling). It definitely helped and avoids arguments about money.

  50. Yeah, this is one of those "Keep your mouth shut" moments. It might be frustrating, but it's not your life and not your money, so you have literally no say in how they choose to manage things. I know I would be livid if a friend randomly took it upon him/herself to tell me that my spending habits were irresponsible and should be changed. It's my money, I can spend it how I want. If I choose to go into massive debt and spend myself into oblivion, well, that's my choice.

    The most you could do is a casual, non-specific mention. Like "Wow, I've been reading this book about finance and budgeting that's really helped me a lot! Seriously, I think everyone should read it. Let me know if you ever want to borrow it."

    It looks like earlier in the comments you alluded to the fact that these friends actually request money sometimes, though. If that's the case, then I think the situation is different. I think you can absolutely refuse to loan money when you don't feel they are spending responsibly. Even so, I don't think it should be coupled with a financial lesson. Just a simple, "I'm sorry, but we just aren't able to give you anymore money," will suffice And then they have to figure out how to deal with that themselves.

    Obviously, if they ASK you for financial advice or want help getting a handle on their budget, then that's different and you should totally offer advice in that situation. But if they don't ask, don't offer. It will only create bad blood between you, and probably won't have any effect on their financial situation whatsoever.

    I also think the rules are different if their behavior is actually destructive to their family. Like, they're going to get evicted, or can't buy food/clothes/school supplies, or have their utilities turned off. But if it's just occasional whining about being "broke," then leave it alone.

  51. I totally understand your frustration. I have a friend that talks about how broke she is so often it almost comes across as a matter of pride, or a constant cry for pity. I can't make any mention of spending money (and she ALWAYS steers the conversation to shopping and all the dresses she wants but *can't afford*) without her saying she can't do the same. It makes things very awkward, and I've become snippy with her a few times, telling her "Maybe you just need to let the idea of this dress go, you keep saying you can't afford it and some things were just not meant to be. Get over it," but she still acts like a brat. She'll hunt down sale sites for MONTHS, seamstresses, fabrics, absolutely anything. I avoided telling her in advance about my last trip because I knew she would try to make me find her a deal and pick it up for her while I was there. She'll also spend 100$ on 5 dresses from a very cheap store, brag about the deals she got, then complain 2 days later that she hates everything because it's so cheap and ask once again to borrow my stuff. She has no concept of quality over quantity. Lastly, she works a job that is extremely low paying by choice. I've suggested that if money is such a terrible issue for her (her mother has to cover some of her bills every single month) then maybe a career change is in order. But she claims she could NEVER do that, as she loves her job so much. I hope I'm not out of line then in thinking that if she LOVES the career that she chose and refuses to consider a change then maybe she should just stop complaining about her finances, at least so it's not an inevitable part of every single conversation. It really is tiring.

    Wow. Phew. Thanks for letting me vent.

  52. I would have a hard time with this because my mom would say crap like that to me. "We can't afford this, that" but spend her money on garbage. When I was accepted into college she said, before anything else, "You better start applying for scholarships because I can't afford this." Ruined my excitement. Nothing good would come out of saying anything, mostly because I would tell them that it's not healthy to be saying that in front of their kids. Children should not have to take on the stress of their parents, because I did, and I resent both of my parents because of it.

  53. These people actually make perfect sense to me. I don't know where these people are from, but let me break down the math from where I live.

    Weekly cost to buy enough fresh produce to make healthy meals on the regular (I'm talking for two people only): $100-200/week. So that means $400-800/month.

    One-time cost of a cosplay costume: Depends on the costume, but probably not more than $1,000.

    So let's say you had $1,000 dollars, right? Maybe you got a tax return or a bonus. Once it goes away, it's gone. Would you… Buy 1-3 months of vegetables, experience what it's like to be healthy, and then have to go back to eating like crap? Or would you spend it on something that will provide you with sustained happiness over time.

    Another thought: maybe you would you squirrel it away because you know the car will break, and treat that money like the untouchable emergency fund it is (read: not for groceries). Maybe the comments about not being able to see a doctor are because yeah, they could probably afford the doc visit, but not the follow-ups or the prescriptions.

    Also, you don't know if they'll actually buy that jacket. Or maybe someone will buy it for them. Or maybe they'll turn around and sell it eventually, which is really common in Cosplayland.

    I'm pretty judgmental about money, having been absolutely and completely broke (and homeless. and hungry.) but as much as I hate to say it, I get these people. Sustaining a healthy diet with whole foods and produce costs a lot of money, and the cost is consistent all year round. You can only afford it if you can make enough money in every single paycheck.

    I know this because I've been on both sides. People will wax poetic about "ooh the farmers market will get you so much produce for so cheap" and then forget that most of the year, there are no farmer's markets and what you save in the summer gets eaten up by off-season markups.

    Your diet is usually the last thing to improve as you start making enough money, and the first thing to go when your income gets cut. Eating well isn't something you just "do" unless you were raised with enough money to know how to do so and also value it as a priority. If you think that eating whole foods is a priority, it's most likely that you grew up in an environment where that was important, because making that a priority was affordable. Any other option probably seems sub-human.

    If you didn't learn how to eat "like you're supposed to", it's a skill set that has to be learned. If you don't have the resources (time and money), you won't learn to do it, and if it's something you've lived without for a long time, it's not going to ever feel like a priority.

    2 agree
    • $400-800? Really?! lol, I would struggle to spend that much on _food_ per month, forget produce alone. It's only me and my husband, but I can't even imagine a _family_ spending that much! (we spend ~$250/month on all food, eat _very_ well, and could probably cut down on our food budget if we tried)

  54. Just to underscore a point: There are days I actually have to convince myself I need regular food because I grew up with days between meals. The idea that I actually *need* food every day is still weird to me, because I know for certain that no, I won't die if I go a few days without eating. When people say they haven't eaten since the morning, I have no idea what to say, because I usually haven't eaten since the day before and the idea of eating three meals a day seems ridiculously indulgent to me.

    I still feel guilt purchasing "good food" because it seems so impeccably indulgent to get berries or greens. Justifying $5-7 dollars for some raspberries that I'll eat in half a sitting? Just because I want them?

    Eating at other people's houses is still difficult. Some people count calories, but I tabulate how much that meal must have cost them, how cost-efficient is this meal, is it OK for me to take seconds based on the cost, or is this an expensive meal that I shouldn't be greedy about because they probably spent way more than they usually do?

    You don't just stop being poor and start eating vegetables. It's a process. The idea of eating three meals a day seems indulgent to me because I know it's not necessary. Because I lived for years like that. If that idea seems appalling to you, you probably didn't grow up in poverty, and I'm truly happy for you, but don't bring your healthy eating high horse into my life. Eating once a day without guilt over cost is hard enough. I don't need people telling me that I need to triple that cost just because THEY couldn't live without it. Because really, they could. They just never had to.

    1 agrees
  55. This request breaks down to "They aren't doing what I would do and that upsets me." I'm sorry if I come off a little touchy but this is my life currently. My husband has been unemployed/underemployed for the last 2 years. We have had to cut back substantially on pretty much any kinds of perks that we enjoyed before (i.e. going out to eat, buying a frivolous present, etc.). This is compounded by paying for our mortgage, car, and other long term bills that were obtained when my husband was gainfully employed. This is really freaking depressing. Years of living like this really takes it's toll and occasionally buying something that isn't an absolute necessity is a little bit of sanity in a horribly negative life.

    What makes this depressing situation worse is when friends and family judge your every move with money by comparing it to their own lives. Maybe those frivolous purchases were done with gift cards or were presents. What hurts even more is if you have to decline invitations due to the cost and knowing you should restrain your spending only to have friends become upset or judgmental that you aren't spending the little money you have budgeted on them.

    Maybe it's their own fault for being in that situation but maybe not. Maybe they were hit with a relatively large medical bill, even after insurance was applied. If they say they can't come because they need to conserve money, take their word for it. The best thing you can do as a friend is be understanding of their situation.

    2 agree
  56. One thing to be aware of, is that re-selling things like cosplay outfits, kitchen gadgets, and video games will NOT likely yield a lot of money. When a person gets into financial difficulties, it's common to point at things like cars, clothing, hot tubs and other things bought before the financial situation and think, "Well, why don't they just sell that?" But that used BMW that runs well is probably smarter to hold onto than try to sell it and buy a cheaper car that isn't reliable. GameStop won't give the kids much for the video game, and it is a source of pleasure. Reselling household items isn't the gold mine some people think it is.

  57. I feel like the money problems is just a red herring in the situation. The real issue is that by constantly discussing their financial situation your friends are making others uncomfortable. I see this as more similar to a friend who is CONSTANTLY talking about how she's fat/is dieting/etc. while constantly making poor food choices. It's boorish behavior and I think that's what you have a right to call them on because it's bugging you – and so that's the problem you actually have ownership over. It would probably be an uncomfortable conversation because no one wants to hear they're being boorish, but as long as you keep it to I statements ("I feel uncomfortable when you constantly talk about how broke you are, it makes me feel more involved in your financial life than I feel comfortable with….etc.") you totally have standing grounds to discuss it with them.

    On the other hand – their financial decisions – zero standing in that convo – it would just make you a busy body. I disagree that them asking for a loan gives you standing for it either. Their finances = your business. Make your decision of whether or not to give them money assuming that once you give it to them they will spend it as they please.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.