Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Friend’s Mad That I Make More Money Than She Does”

Love or money

In my small group of friends three of the gals have great jobs with lucrative careers. My other friend, Julie, and I are usually the ones struggling. Julie’s younger and just starting out and I have a mortgage and am a single mother who gets no financial support from my ex-husband. Our group of friends has always found a way to meet in the middle and enjoy our time together. A few months ago I began doing some consulting work on the side and my financial situation has improved drastically. I now have money to plan a vacation, buy concert tickets, and go out for nicer meals. For the most part though, we do the same things we always have. Recently though, since Julie is the only one in the group with a small income she feels alone and her frustration seems to be directed at me, her once counterpart. I don’t feel like we’re making plans that she can’t be included in and if she voices that she can’t afford something, we change the plan to accommodate her. (And these aren’t extravagant plans we come up with, but between an $8 cover, some drinks and cab fare, it’s just too much for her).

It’s beginning to cause tension and I don’t know what to do, because I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. The only thing I can think of recently that Julie excused herself from was another gal’s birthday dinner (which clearly wan’t my plan, the birthday girl picked), and a few concerts months from now that the rest of us bought tickets to. We are also planning a trip next year that she says she can’t afford and I know she feels left out. The rest of us are pitching in to cover her as a surprise, we just haven’t told her yet. She’s a dear friend and I don’t want her to feel the way she is, but I don’t think it’s fair to project her disappointment onto me. Any ideas? — Her Once Counterpart

You mention that your friends always do things that Julie should be able to afford, but then you go on to list examples of things she can’t afford — places with cover charges where she’ll be expected to buy drinks and cab fare home, concert tickets, pricey birthday dinners, and a group trip; it should be noted that you don’t give a single example of the plans you think she should be able to afford. Since you say you don’t think you’ve done anything to cause the tension you feel from Julie, I’ll take your word for it, and I’ll also have to take your word for it that she’s directing her frustration toward you since you don’t give a single example of how she’s doing that either.

Because you give no concrete examples of inclusive activities you and your group of friends plan that Julie should be able to afford, I wonder if there are actually fewer than you believe there to be (especially if you’re waiting for Julie to speak up when she’s unable to afford the group plans, something that may be difficult for her to do when she’s now the only person with such a limited budget). If Julie has a hard time paying a cover charge and buying a couple of drinks and paying for cab fare home, it’s safe to say that what’s affordable for her is probably more like hanging out at someone’s house, enjoying a dinner in and some wine with girlfriends. Do you have nights like those? If not, I’d suggest you get some on the calendar. I’d also suggest you plan some one-on-one activities with Julie, just the two of you. If you feel like her frustration is directed at you, her “once counterpart,” it’s possible that it isn’t frustration over being the lone lower-income pal in the group so much as she might feel that you two aren’t as close as you were when you weren’t working extra hours as a consultant and going to concerts and birthday dinners she can’t afford.

Finally, it’s wonderful that you are in a position that you can reap the financial rewards of hard work, especially since you’re a single mother with no help from your ex-husband. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty about enjoying activities you once were unable to afford. But there’s a fine line between enjoying something and being insensitive to someone whose financial position hasn’t yet been elevated like yours. If you’re bragging about your new lifestyle or even simply making plans that you know Julie’s financial status excludes her from — including the trip she doesn’t know you and your friends want to gift her with — then, of course, there’s going to be hurt feelings and tension. And it’s going to be directed at you first because she knows that YOU, more than the others, know how she feels. You were just in the same boat. And what she might perceive as your cavalier attitude about making plans that exclude her and that would have excluded you not too long ago feels like a betrayal to her. After all, you were her counterpart! You understood where she was coming from. Has your perspective changed as quickly as your financial status? She wants to know it hasn’t. She wants to know you still understand her position and are looking out for her. She wants to know you get her. Isn’t that what we appreciate the most about friends? That they get us? Sure, fun times and companionship or shared values and common interests are super important, but to be understood is one of friendship’s biggest gifts. Remind Julie that you know where she’s coming from, you understand her, and you’ve got her back. Invest time in her because, on that front, she can be your equal, and the time she can invest in you will serve you well, too.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

45 comments… add one
  • becboo84

    becboo84 December 15, 2015, 9:47 am

    Generally speaking, I agree with all of Wendy’s suggestions! And quite honestly, I’m married and my husband and I both make decent salaries (with two little kids in the mix), but I wouldn’t be wild about regularly having to spend $40-50 just to hangout with my friends. If she is on a tight budget, I’m sure there’s just no way she can swing it, and of course she’s feeling left out. She certainly shouldn’t begrudge your new found success, but you should also work to be more inclusive.
    **** also, side note, are Julie and Jane the same person?

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  • MaterialsGirl

    MaterialsGirl December 15, 2015, 9:57 am

    I really like the home dinner suggestion: it’s always nice to do a rotating dinner/drinks at someone’s house to put into the mix. It’s not that you can’t do the other things, but making sure there’s a decently priced activity at least half the time is thoughtful.

    Have you ladies thought about doing a workout class together or checking out some free stuff in the city? Chicago has restaurant week in the winter which is a great way to do a nice dinner on a budget!

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    • avatar

      Snoopy128 December 15, 2015, 12:29 pm

      We have a standing weekly at home dinner date with friends. It is a great way to connect and try the recipes that make no sense to make for just 2 people. It’s also low pressure and we all understand we need to get to bed early. Win win

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph December 15, 2015, 12:57 pm

        Yeah its not even just a money thing– its a spending time together thing. An intimate home gathering facilitates that much more than a club or even a restaurant.

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  • avatar

    Steph December 15, 2015, 10:00 am

    I’d tell her about the trip. While surprises are great, I think she will have more fun being in on the planning and not spending months feeling jealous / left out.

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  • avatar

    Bcamber December 15, 2015, 10:09 am

    Dinner parties and/or cocktails at my house or a friends house is my favourite way to spend an evening! Cheaper, you can take your shoes off, and it’s not so loud that you can actually have a conversation. And often the food is better too.

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  • avatar

    K December 15, 2015, 10:10 am

    If your friends are outdoorsy, go for a hike together – that costs nothing! Or even if they’re not up for a hike, a casual walk through a park is nice. And I agree with the idea of hanging out together at someone’s house – food doesn’t even have to be involved, but you can order takeout which is cheaper than going out to eat. Order pizza and have everyone chip in a few bucks – done! Do things like attend local craft fairs and festivals that have free or cheap admission.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh December 15, 2015, 10:31 am

    I agree with Wendy that is seems like she’s looking for you to still understand where she is coming from and maybe even help advocate for cheaper things. Obviously groups of friends don’t have to do everything together and you don’t always have to do things she can afford. But, the reality is that if you want to remain friends with her, you will have to do things she can afford. Suggest nights in, matinees at the movies, etc. Things you know will be more in her budget. It could be that now that she is the only one who can’t afford things, that she feels weird suggesting cheaper options. Having someone else suggest one might make her feel more comfortable doing so again in the future.

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  • avatar

    PumkinSpice December 15, 2015, 10:54 am

    I agree with Wendy’s advice about changing things up, doing some potlucks and things like that. Instead of surprising Julie, let her know that you guys want her on their vacation with you and this is what the group is doing to make it happen,that way she can be included in making fun plans for the trip. What I don’t agree with, is Julie’s attitude about everything. It sucks when you can’t afford to do something you want to do, but you should not be taking it out on other people.

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  • avatar

    laurahope December 15, 2015, 10:54 am

    Gals? I can’t remember the last time I heard that word.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover December 15, 2015, 4:44 pm

      My previous manager actually uses it as a counterpart to “guys”, mainly because there isn’t one. People generally use “girls” to mean the same as “guys”, but really it doesn’t, it’s a term for non-adults. I wish gals or another similar term would become more in vogue, because right now all we’ve got is “women”, “ladies”, and “girls”, none of which really have the same feel as “guys”.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph December 15, 2015, 10:56 am

    Agree with Wendy’s suggestions. I’m curious, in the past when you and Julie were in a similar financial situation, were you the one who usually spoke up about things being out of your budget? Like when other girls suggested going to a fancy club with a cover, who usually said “whoa, I can’t afford that, let’s do this instead”?
    It’s possible that the LW was the one who did more of the budget-friendly event planning and so not only is she no longer on a budget but maybe the burden for being the cheap one has shifted to Julie when she used to rely on the LW to speak up. If that’s the case, perhaps you could still speak up on her behalf sometimes, or continue being the one to plan the cheaper events. It’s ok when the birthday girl picks something to do it, but maybe now it’s time to say “since we did the club thing last time, how about if next time everyone brings a bottle of wine to my place and I’ll cook dinner.” This way Julie knows you’re still her advocate/buddy in planning cheaper things that fit her budget.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph December 15, 2015, 10:58 am

      Oh also, if you are covering the trip for her, don’t keep it a secret. She’s going to spend months feeling left out while you all secretly know she’s going to get to come thanks to your charity? This makes me feel icky. Just tell her.

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      • avatar

        MissDre December 15, 2015, 11:27 am

        Yes!!! Tell her now! Don’t make her wait feeling left out and hurt.

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      • avatar

        Another Jen December 15, 2015, 12:51 pm

        I agree re telling her about the vaca plans…you don’t want to make her feel 1) left out, or 2) like a charity case.

        You might consider letting her know how essential it is that’s she’s there, that it wouldn’t be the same without her, and offering her the opportunity to contribute what she can reasonably afford. The heads up would also give her a chance to plan for the additional expenses of travel (even if you’re paying the tab for the trip, she may want to pick up a new outfit, plan time off, arrange a pet-sitter, renew her passport).

        That’s how I manage vacations with my sister, who makes a lot less money than I do.

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      • avatar

        eelliinnss December 15, 2015, 1:11 pm

        I feel weird about it too, if I were Julie I think that would make me really uncomfortable. But regardless, they should tell her asap. She needs the option to turn it down if she doesn’t want to take their charity (I personally wouldn’t). If she does want to go, she needs to be able to give notice at work and have a say in the dates. Plus, the more notice they give her, the more she can try to save SOME money for food and drink, etc, so she doesn’t have to be paid for the entire trip.

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  • avatar

    keyblade December 15, 2015, 11:00 am

    “Isn’t that what we appreciate the most about friends? That they get us? Sure, fun times and companionship are shared values and common interests are super important, but to be understood is one of friendship’s biggest gifts.”

    This is succinctly-stated but potent; it’s both well-thought and expressed. This one should go in the best of DW book.

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  • veritek33

    veritek33 December 15, 2015, 11:08 am

    I’ve been the “poor” friend many many times. I chose a career that was never going to make me “rich.” Which is fine, I made that choice. That said, it is hard when you hang out with friends that make significantly more than you. Over time my friends have been pretty good about making cheaper choices when we hang out and sometimes I splurge a little to do the things they want. My BFF is a pharmacist married to a doctor and they have almost no school loan debt, so they have lots of disposable income. It took her a while to figure out that going shopping isn’t the best way to hang out with me. (She always used to suggest shopping, which is fun when you have money to spend but not so fun when you’re broke) I never said much but I think she figured it out when I always suggested things that were cheaper or free. And now she’s very good about suggesting lunch at a reasonable restaurant or hanging out at each other’s houses rather than a trip to target or the mall to walk around and mindlessly spend money.

    That said: it’s awesome that you are making more and you are sooooo allowed to enjoy that. I also have been making more and doing consulting work recently – i get it. But please remember what it is like. And it’s very sweet to offer to pay for her vacation with other friends, but if I were her I might feel embarrassed that my friends had to pay for my vacation and I couldn’t pay for it myself, but maybe that’s just me?

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    • Cassie

      Cassie December 15, 2015, 2:15 pm

      I wish we had thumbs again, ’cause I’d definitely ‘like’ your comment. It’s such a good perspective.

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  • avatar

    Ryan December 15, 2015, 11:22 am

    I wouldn’t chip in to cover her vacation – that is awful. If I had my other adult friends doing that I would be so humiliated. It’s obviously bad enough for her to see you guys doing things that scream”hey look I can do this for myself and YOU cant!” – it’s even worse if you all conduct yourselves in a way that says “hey look we can afford to this for ourselves AND cover you, and you cant!” It takes it to the next level of embarassing her. Leave it alone. That’s one insulting “surprise”

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    • avatar

      MissDre December 15, 2015, 12:20 pm

      I definitely see where you’re coming from, but I think it depends on their relationship and it depends on how the “free trip” is presented/offered to her.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph December 15, 2015, 12:44 pm

        Yeah I agree. One of my best friends went to grad school after college and spent another 5 years being pretty much broke, while I and some of our other friends went and got jobs and so over the next few years gradually built up to not being broke. I know that my one friend much preferred us helping her foot the bill for vacations to being left out. So it definitely does depend on the relationship and the circumstances.
        We don’t really have enough info to know if Julie will take it as a gift or if she will be upset by it; hopefully the LW and her friends know this girl and know that she’ll appreciate it.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros December 15, 2015, 12:57 pm

        At least they shouldn’t hide it, as they have been. Sure, she can go with you, but she doesn’t get a choice and she spends all this time thinking that you’re leaving her out.

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    • FireStar

      Firestar December 15, 2015, 1:04 pm

      Maybe as a birthday gift?

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  • avatar

    girltuesday December 15, 2015, 11:55 am

    WWS. I have a lot of friends with a lot of student debt (dentists, lawyers, etc). We always organize some fun potlucks at a friend’s house. It’s BYOB, and usually everybody chips in with a homemade snack. I’ve had way more fun doing those than I have going out to a restaurant/bar.

    Also, I know your heart is in the right place, but don’t pay for her to go on the trip. That would make me feel wildly uncomfortable and like I owe somebody.

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  • avatar

    Ele4phant December 15, 2015, 12:44 pm

    Gosh I feel conflicted. While I agree with Wendy’s assessment about why she might feel upset, I ultimately think the mature thing to do is advocate for yourself and not just get pissy at your friends. I don’t know if I agree that’s it’s the letter writers responsibility to recognize Julie’s financial limits and make all the effort to include her – I think it’s Julie’s responsibility to bring up (to all of her friends) when things are too expensive and offer alternatives. Or at least partially – friendship is a two way street, I don’t think it’s solely on the lw or anyone else to intuit everything and adjust plans accordingly.

    Maybe I’m a bad friend, but I’d be a little annoyed if one of my friends was passive aggressive and didn’t really just come out with what their problem was.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh December 15, 2015, 12:49 pm

      I agree but I think money can be a tricky subject. Especially if it’s everyone but you who can afford certain things. It can feel like if you’re always the one bringing up the cheaper option, it’s easier just to always pass than to continue to do so. Sometimes having even one other person also bringing up other options its easier to continue to do so. I don’t think it’s solely on the LW to offer up other plans. But, if she does once or twice, it might give Julie the feeling that others are still ok with those options and to then herself continue to bring them up.

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      • avatar

        Ele4phant December 15, 2015, 12:55 pm

        Yeah that’s true – maybe it’s not that the LW *should* be advocating for Julie, but that by doing so would be the good friend thing to do and will probably go a long ways.

        Still though, it’s a pet peeve of mine when people won’t stand up for themselves but instead take things out on people around them in a really passive aggressive way. It would bother me a lot, if I was in the LW’s shoes.

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh December 15, 2015, 12:59 pm

        And if it was Julie writing in, I think that would be good advice. To not be passive aggressive and to learn to speak up. And I can understand that the LW would be annoyed. But, I think in terms of being a friend it’s nice to help speak up for our friends when we can see they are struggling to do that for themselves.

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      • avatar

        Ele4phant December 15, 2015, 1:22 pm

        True – and all very good points.

        All I can say is that if I were the LW, I would become resentful of Julie’s unspoken resentment. So hopefully the LW can handle this with more grace and foresight then I could.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros December 15, 2015, 12:59 pm

      Yeah, but in our society, it’s pretty objectively more embarrassing to have less money, so speaking up is hard. Having to tell people over and over that you can’t afford something is embarrassing. If I knew my friends already knew my situation, then it would seem kind of fruitless to keep telling them.

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      • avatar

        Ele4phant December 15, 2015, 1:18 pm

        I mean if you repeatedly keep having to tell your friends, and they keep “forgetting”, doesn’t that signal to you that they’re not actually good friends, right? A good friend won’t have to be told repeatedly.

        Which sucks, but we all have instances in our lives where we discover we aren’t as close to people as we thought we were.

        And I wonder how old they are, I can’t make every get together with my friends. Not because of money, but because of life. So, if Julie has to miss some get togethers because of money, but there are plenty of other get togethers (which admittedly was not established as being the case) , I’m less sympathetic to her. Nobody gets to make every get together – even when finances aren’t part of the equation, it’s unreasonable to expect to and not fair to blame your friends if you still see them a lot.

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    • avatar

      keyblade December 15, 2015, 8:27 pm

      I don’t think it has to be the friend’s “responsibility” for it to still be a good idea if the letter writer cares about Julie and feels close to her.

      I don’t think the letter writer should accept rudeness or poor treatment, but that’s different than “tension”, at least the way I read it. People are human and while it’s each person’s responsibility to manage their own feelings, I think its good advice to be compassionate, especially when it involves something as far-reaching and impersonal as money-struggles. The letter writer is not obliged to go this route but it’s probably a fruitful step to take, anyway, if she’s invested in keeping this friend. If the letter writer runs out of patience and compassion waiting for Julie to resolve the “tension” then the letter writer can always disengage with her at that time. I suppose it depends on what the letter writer feels willing to do.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros December 15, 2015, 12:56 pm

    You gave no examples of things you do that are affordable. Cab + drinks + cover is not affordable. I have a decent salary for a single person with no kids, and I very rarely am willing to pay a cover and try to avoid cabs (even when I lived in a city, where it was the norm). That sort of outing generally runs a person at least $30, which is a lot to spend on one night. When my friends and I do things affordably (which is most of the time), it’s stuff like going for coffee, ice cream, a meal at a place with variable prices, and going to each other’s houses for wine night.
    .
    I’m also wondering whether you have a different perspective on money. I’m having trouble understanding how a struggling single mom adds part-time consulting and suddenly can afford spending that much on nights out regularly and fancy vacations. Did you really get that much more money? Or was “struggling” maybe hyperbolic? I ask because maybe that’s why there are issues — if you interpreted your financial situation differently from how others are perceiving it.
    .

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    • avatar

      J December 15, 2015, 4:36 pm

      Agreed.

      Also, am I the only person who is wondering, if she’s a single mom, how she’s able to get out to a club and go on vacations anyway? Not to be judgmental, but I am married with a very supportive husband and I still am not able to get out to clubs with my friends. I simply can’t get away from my kids that frequently- nor do I want to.

      As for vacations, my days of vacationing with friends were over when I had kids. I might go on a long weekend trip with them once every other year or so, but I certainly would not want to spend a bunch of money going on a vacation with friends. Nothing against my friends. I like them well enough. I just like my family better and would rather spend time and money on my kids than on socializing. Maybe that will change when my kids are teens or out of the house.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover December 15, 2015, 4:50 pm

        She says she gets no financial support from her ex, but doesn’t say anything about custody. If he gets the kid(s) every other weekend, and a few weeks of vacation, then that gives her plenty of time to go out on her own.
        .
        Alternatively her parents could be very involved. If my mom lived in the same city as me, I know she’d love to take my son for a night every couple of weeks.

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      • avatar

        saneinca December 15, 2015, 5:06 pm

        It is just an additional 100 dollars a month available for outings. And may a 1000 bucks for a vacation ? That is not too much of an increase In income.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros December 15, 2015, 5:27 pm

        That’s why I suggested that maybe her perception of her financial status is different from how others are perceiving it. When I hear “struggling,” I assume that it means that a person is having trouble having enough money for everything they need. In that case, an extra $100 a month probably wouldn’t immediately become disposable income. It would probably become savings or having more of a buffer for your bills, if not actually covering needed expenses.
        .
        So, if she didn’t mean that she was struggling to that extent, then I can see why the friend groups her in with the wealthy people, if the friend is actually “struggling” in that sense.

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      • avatar

        saneinca December 16, 2015, 12:37 am

        You are right and perhaps her perception of struggling is different.
        It is also possible she thinks that any income earned outside her job as disposable money to be spent on fun activities.

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      • avatar

        Ange December 15, 2015, 5:43 pm

        Touch of the sanctimommy there… How she arranges her childcare isn’t the issue.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 15, 2015, 6:40 pm

        Yeah, I consider myself a very committed and loving mother, but, man, I would LOVE a long weekend with my friends while leaving the kids at home (and, in fact, I do this once or twice a year; it’s awesome!).

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph December 16, 2015, 9:59 am

        I have never before heard the phrase “sanctimommy” but I love it so much. All the imaginary thumbs to you!

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  • avatar

    saneinca December 15, 2015, 5:01 pm

    The advice is pretty good. But maintaining friendship is a two way process and Julie seems to be using the LW as a target for her frustrations.
    Note that LW said that their outings have not changed since her financial situation became better. So no need for Julie to fuss now if she did not do it before.
    To me it looks like sour grapes from Julie.

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  • freckles

    freckles December 15, 2015, 7:16 pm

    I wonder how Julie would feel about all her friends paying for the vacation for her. Some people don’t like charity, and it might make her feel like shit. LW, you know her better than I do obviously, but just something to keep in mind.

    Another suggestion for larger activities (like vacations) – I have a friend who makes a butt-ton of money. She recently went on vacation with two other friends – one has an average income, and one is a struggling student. They split the cost of the vacation by their relative ability. My friend paid more, the middle girl paid the middle, and the student paid the least. Just a thought for things like that, especially since Julie is the only one struggling. You could all pay a smidge extra and Julie could pay less. That way you can all partake. Money is a tough subject, so that way of splitting costs, especially between friends, but just a thought!

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