Financial Frenemies  

Financial Frenemies? There are some things that money simply can’t buy.  You can’t purchase happiness or personal fulfillment.  There’s no way to put a price tag on compassion or caring.  The funds in your bank account can’t guarantee loving relationships or solid, caring friendships.

But money can make relationships more complicated – especially if you’re surrounded by people who have less-than-healthy relationships with money.  And whether you have a friend who encourages you to splurge too often, a family member looking for someone to co-sign their next loan, or a coworker with a nose in everyone’s business, chances are good that you have at least one of these people in your life.

But how do you deal with folks like this?  How do you make sure that your personal relationships and your personal finances stay separate?

You don’t have to cut ties to friends to keep a close eye on your budget.  You just need to identify the behavior and know how to deal with it – before it becomes a problem.  To help you get started, I’ve created a list of a few types of friends who can wreak havoc on your finances, along with a few tips on how to deal with them – and preserve the friendship.

  1. The Shopping Buddy. This friend is a lot of fun . . . maybe too much fun. She’s always up for a trip to the mall, a dinner date, or a spa day.  She seems to have unlimited funds, and she seems to think you do, too.  Because when it comes to spending, the Shopping Buddy will always cheer you on – she loves phrases like, “That looks great on you!” or “Go for it!  You only live once!”  The word “budget” isn’t in her vocabulary.

Friendship-Preserving Tip:  You don’t have to stop hanging out with the Shopping Buddy – but if you want to keep your finances in check, you might want to set some ground rules for how you spend time with her.  The next time she invites you to the mall, politely decline and suggest a cheaper alternative like a coffee date or a trip to the museum.

  1. The Judgmental Frenemy. This so-called “friend” seems to have an opinion about every financial move you make.  The Judgmental Frenemy comes in many forms, from a coworker to an old college buddy, and their judgy comments can range from catty (“I see someone got a $200 purse this weekend.”) to the jealous (“It must be nice to be able to spend money on lunch every day.  I wouldn’t know.”) to the downright rude (“I didn’t think you could afford to buy XX.”).

Friendship-Preserving Tip:  Assuming you want to preserve a relationship like this, the best way to keep the peace is to politely put your foot down when the Judgmental Frenemy does what he or she does best.  Snide comment about your handbag?  Tell her “Thanks, I saved for three months.”  Jealous aside about your lunch budget?  “Since I ride my bike to work, I don’t buy gas.  So, I buy lunch.”  Random rude comments?  “Sorry, but I don’t talk about finances with friends/coworkers/family members.”

  1. The Joneses. These are the ones who always seem to have the latest and best stuff.  The Joneses have the newest cars, the biggest house, and the nicest wardrobes on the block.  They are always planning an exotic vacation to a place you’ll probably only see on the Travel Channel.  They just redid their kitchen.  And their master bathroom.  And they’re happy to tell you – and everyone within earshot, for that matter – all about all it.

Friendship-Preserving Tip:  You probably can’t keep The Joneses from showing off – but you can discourage it by politely changing the subject when they start talking about their trip to Fiji for the fifth time in a week. And if you feel the urge to keep up with them, remember that their personal lives may not be as bright and shiny as their brand-new SUV:  It’s safe to say that the Joneses are competitive and insecure – why else would they insist on sending group emails every time they renovate?  They may be eyeball-deep in debt.

  1. The Guilt-Tripper. As the name implies, this friend uses manipulation to get you to spend money you can’t or don’t want to spend.  The Guilt Tripper is the co-worker that harasses you to chip in for a pricy group gift.  He’s the friend that insists on celebrating his birthday over an entire weekend full of activities – without a thought for his buddies’ budgets.  The Guilt Tripper is also the relative that coerces you into that family vacation you really can’t afford.

Friendship-Preserving Tip:  It’s hard to say “no” to the Guilt Tripper – but unless you really do want to blow your entire life savings on your college buddy’s birthday weekend or Aunt Glenda’s family reunion cruise to Alaska, you’ll have to learn to politely decline events and activities that are out of your price range.  Be honest, but firm.  Offer an alternative.  Not sure what to say?  Here’s an easy template:

“Sorry, (co-worker/college buddy/Aunt Glenda).  That (insert trip/gift/event) is out of my budget.  But I’d still love to participate.  How about we (insert more affordable alternative) instead?”

  1. The Mooch. This is the friend or relative that always seems to need something from you. He needs to borrow a few hundred bucks, just until payday.  He needs someone to co-sign a loan for his new car or business idea.  He’s been known to “forget” his wallet when it’s his turn to pay for something.  He still owes you money.

Friendship-Preserving Tip:  The best way to deal with The Mooch is to accept that his behavior isn’t likely to change.  Don’t go to dinner if you don’t feel like picking up the entire check.  Don’t lend him money if you can’t afford to lose it.  And whatever you do, don’t co-sign his loans.  Just don’t.

Money has a way of complicating relationships.  Differences in attitudes about spending and saving can create disagreements.  Jealousy and insecurity can cloud our thinking and turn every small purchase into a competition.  And guilt and anxiety over having more or less than others can bring tension to even the most established relationships.

While it’s probably impossible to remove money conflicts from your friendships completely, you can take steps to ease the tension and cut through some of the negative feelings, whether you’re dealing with a guilt-tripping co-worker, a shopaholic friend, or a constantly broke family member.

Good luck!

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

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