Experience Life Magazine

Not Keeping Up With the Joneses

If you’re hanging out with pals who have a lot more money to spend than you do, it can be awkward. Money expert Ruth Hayden offers rich advice.


Pricey game tickets and concert seats, impromptu shopping trips, eye-popping tabs at expensive restaurants. They can all come with the territory when you’re hanging out with friends who have a lot of disposable income. But what if you don’t? Do you admit that something is too expensive for you and risk being left out? If they offer, do you agree to let them pay, and risk feeling guilty or ashamed about it? Maybe you make excuses to avoid hanging out with them, dreading the moment when they stop asking. Or do you just pay and pay until you’re on the verge of a financial meltdown?

According to financial coach Ruth Hayden, author of For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples (HCI, 1999), you can have fun with wealthier friends without feeling bad about yourself or breaking the bank. “The key,” she says, “is to develop a firm sense of who you are, and then to use a few simple rules to socialize sometimes with them, in ways that don’t hurt you financially.”

Here, Hayden suggests some strategies for doing just that.

Barriers To Overcome

Feelings of inadequacy. Not being able to participate in social activities because of financial limitations can shake your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Feelings of deprivation. You may really want to see the football playoffs from a corporate box or eat at the hottest new haute-cuisine restaurant.  Bowing out can leave you feeling sorry for yourself, or jealous and resentful of your wealthier friends.

Fear of abandonment. You may fear that if you keep saying no to outings with your better-off friends, you’ll be marginalized and pushed out of the tribe — invited less often or not at all.

Excuse anxiety. It can be stressful to explain why you are continually ducking out of certain social engagements, especially if you find yourself making up false excuses: Keeping track of your fibs can be confusing, shame inducing — and exhausting.

Money-taboo discomfort. It’s tough for some people to admit — even to themselves — that they simply don’t have the resources to keep up with their more affluent friends. In this culture, we almost never talk about our fiscal realities or cash flow because of a basic insecurity about how we’ll be perceived by others. Our financial status is closely tied to our sense of self-worth.

Strategies For Success

Build self-acceptance. Establishing authentic relationships with any circle of friends starts with knowing who you are, where you are in life, and being OK with that. Realize that the main thing you bring to any social experience is the gift of your presence.

Choose thoughtfully. As with any expense, you can decide to budget for the pricey outings that really matter to you. Add money to your “entertainment fund” by saving in some other area, and then go to only those high-end events you can afford. And what if, on occasion, a wealthier friend genuinely wants to pick up the tab? If it doesn’t wound your pride or leave you feeling indebted, fine. Only you can know for sure.

Reach out. Proactively suggest options that are more in your price range. That way you build connections without breaking the bank.

Diversify. To fight feelings of isolation, connect with some friends at your own income level or who don’t have such expensive tastes.

Don’t fib: Instead of offering excuses or overexplaining, keep your answers short, straightforward and honest. Simply opt out: “I appreciate the invitation, but I won’t be able to go with you this time.” You don’t have to go any further than that.

Jon Spayde is a regular contributor to Experience Life.

2 Comment to Not Keeping Up With the Joneses

  • CAPERNIUS says:

    Too many people now a days,
    Are spending money they do not have,
    On things they do not want,
    To impress people they do not even like.

    Will Rogers
    actor, humorist,

  • nathan sturley says:

    I pity people who try to impress others with money and status symbols. I know a woman who is obsessed with status of her and her family and she is never ever happy or content and bullshits all the time.
    I am the type who watches people and observes rather then talk and I see a heck of a lot of people are phony. People are frantic and never able to relax and without wishing to sound like a boring lefty capitalism causes this. It requires constant consumption of products which leads naturally to people with conflicting attitudes. All my life I have absorbed what I see and I see people mainly obsessed by money first and status. Maybe I am lacking something or just too much of a hippy but if I saw these people were ecstatic with themselves then fine but they never are in my experience. It is just people all running each other down and bitching and bullshitting about how great their kids are doing or how big their house is or car etc.
    I also know a few women who are multi millionaires and have seen first hand how low people will stoop to try to get some. I mean really really low people with absolutely no self respect or pride and will do and say anything to try and get money for cars and houses etc. They can not go on social media and stuff about themselves because there are so many ponces about looking to get in with them. I swear the most important thing to make a human happy is really good close friends and family who care and genuinely care. That is what makes people happy. You only need about 2 million to always be able to live and fly and hotels and houses etc. Someone with 2 million can do nearly everything that someone with 100 million can do like eat in nice places, fly first class, cars etc. But security really also comes from knowing how to use money and not be selfish and friends and family and pets are the most important thing to make a human happy. I know this is true. I am happy with just 4 close friends and the rest are associates but I know my closest friends really care and that is what makes someone happy and content.
    There, i’ve shot my load!

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