My girlfriend sent me an email at 4:00AM from Montreal listing what she had spent on the day to celebrate her friend’s bachelorette:
“Hotel + pointless favours = $275
Lunch = $15
Dinner = $60
Club cover = $15
Poutine = $5
Drinks = $5″
And that was day 1. She had resided to spending over $500 for the weekend so she could be a good friend.
Now her friends are nice people. I’ve met them, even went to school and worked closely with one of them, but their desire to give their soon-to-be-married gal pal an experience of a lifetime cost a lot. Maybe not to everyone, but to at least a few people in the group.
So let’s talk about that today with a term I like to call “financial consideracy”, which I define as being considerate to other people’s finances in the spirit of inclusivity (and yes, I know it’s a made up term).
Financial Consideracy Origins:
We All Started in the Same Circumstances (Roughly)
Technically, we were all born at varying income levels. Some of us were born rich, some of us not, but even for the rich kids, it was never truly “their” money – it was their parents’. And as you grew up, most of the social experiences you shared with your peers had a consistent cost base: the playground at recess was all you had, the park down the street was a short jaunt, and even in university, your experiences were nothing to gasp about, whether it be cheap, faux-classy student dance clubs, bars, or coffee shops.
Heck, when I was doing my MBA, I remember all the undergrads at my school (who were quite affluent) celebrating their shared frugality as they would yell at each other in the commons: “Yo! We should go to Phil’s – it’s so cheap and awesome.” And for reference, yes, Phil’s is a dingy club in Waterloo that sells $1.50 drinks and has a floor that’s never been cleaned but is widely considered the quintessential undergraduate experience. Never once did I hear a student yell at another student: “Hey, we should party it up at The Keg. Steak is so dope!” because everyone knows that’s a waste of money when you’re a student. An XL pizza for $8 would produce the same outcome.
In any case, your experiences from child to young adult weren’t defined by money unless you were a super rich kid in one of those rich kid cliques. Chances are if you’re reading this article on my blog, you were not one of those kids.
The Beginnings of Financial Inconsideracy
So what happened? When did celebrating frugality go away?
The answer is simple: we all got jobs. Some of us got high paying jobs. Some of us didn’t. And suddenly, the class divide started to crystalize, but no one talked about it unless you were on the sitcom Friends:
As funny as the clip is, these conversations rarely happen in real life.
Money is a sensitive topic and as much as we hate it, our friendships might have a cost associated with them. This puts you in an awkward position. Does not going to one friend’s wedding mean you care about them less? Does not chipping in for that birthday gift mean you genuinely don’t mean to wish them a happy birthday? Definitely not. But the embarrassment of not being involved is usually too much to bear, so we sigh and reticently hand over the cheque.
It’s Not an Uncommon Anxiety
Kevin Hart worded it perfectly in one of his famous routines when talking about his friendship with athletes:
“Naturally, you want to spend money the way these people spend money but then you realize you don’t make the same type of money these <expletive> people make.”
Rest assured, if every person on this planet had the money, there would never be another “I can’t” when it came to a social gathering with friends and family. Destination wedding? No problem! An eventful night out on the town with my close friends? Sure!
This is sadly not an ongoing reality.
So what can we do about this? Attack the problem from both sides!
For the More Affluent…
- Be specific. If you know an event or a gift is going to cost X, tell them up front. Don’t figure it out later. Don’t assume they can afford it. Cost it out and give them the heads up. I do this frequently with shared gifts or restaurant choices.
- Emulate the types of events or activities your friends enjoy. Picnics. Board games. Coffee shops. There’s a reason why your friends like doing these things. At the end of the day, it’s all about the time spent together.
- Give people an out and don’t assume people are comfortable saying “No.” You enjoy the experiences you enjoy because it’s what makes you happy, but at the end of the day your values may not be aligned with other people’s. Acknowledge this openly and let people know it’s not a huge deal if they can’t make it.
For the Less Affluent…
- Suggest things you enjoy doing or giving. If you let yourself be subject to other people’s suggestions, you invariably will do what other people want 90% of the time. For one, I frequently suggest hanging out with friends at my apartment over nights out on the town.
- Plan accordingly. Sometimes we don’t know when an unexpected night out is going to happen, but birthdays, weddings and the like we can project in advance. If you know you want to be part of these events, do your best to plan your savings so you can take part in these experiences.
- Be comfortable saying “No.” I know – this one is hard, but sometimes we have to set boundaries. Otherwise it sets false expectations for the future.
In all honesty, rich, poor, middle class, we can all practice the tactics listed above. If we all do, just maybe will financial consideracy become the norm.
Until then, save more than you spend and do your best to help those close to you do the same.