I always find myself surrounded by people who come from really wealthy families, and I’m not from the same background. I want to be able to hang out and keep up with them but it can obviously be hard. Is there a gentle way to explain to people that I want to hang out but I can’t afford it sometimes?
I can understand your situation quite well here. I recently had lunch with a girl friend I went to grammar school with who just inherited quite a great deal of money. I have not seen her in many years and though it was wonderful reminiscing about growing up together as children whose parents had similar income status, I must admit to feeling my own sense of anxiety when she suggested we start getting together regularly to have lunch, go out and perhaps even travel together. I am not poor, but I know I am nowhere in her league and since I still have a career to attend to, don’t have the luxury to always hang out with the “ladies who lunch.”
My way of handling it without coming across as a pauper or putting myself into credit card debt is to put a limit on how often I go out. I figure I can maybe meet for lunch or a cocktail here and there as budget and time allow. I don’t want either of us to feel awkward and I certainly don’t want her to feel she has to pick up the check. I also go out sometimes with friends to a club and don’t have anything to drink except a diet soda or water with lemon. It’s less expensive, doesn’t give me calorie guilt and I can avoid a DUI that way.
If these people are your real friends, they are already aware of your financial situation and real friends understand without judging you that you have to put boundaries around your spending. If they are unaware of your situation and you are a bit shy or embarrassed about telling them, then just be available to spend time with them as your budget allows. When you do go out, you don’t have to match them dollar for dollar in spending. For example, you may want to eat a snack before meeting them for dinner and then order an inexpensive appetizer or salad and nurse that glass of white wine instead of having 2 or 3 with them.
It is easier to hang out with them than it is to keep up with them based upon your finances. Bringing up the issue of finances may be tricky and one way to do it is just to wait until you are asked to do something and casually say,”I’d love to! Sounds like it would be so much fun! I just have to watch my pennies right now with the economy and everything, I just feel so guilty splurging so much.”
It is well known in times of recession or depression that conspicuous consumption is rather…tacky.
If they offer to pay your way, accept graciously and then reciprocate by inviting them over one night for a home cooked meal, a nice bottle of wine and some “girl talk.” Rent a DVD of a movie everyone has been wanting to see. At least you will be doing your part to contribute and not appear like someone who feels entitled to be taken care of.
Remember, there is nothing shameful in coming from modest means. Don’t get caught up in feeling you are “less than” due to your finances. If you are going to be judged harshly because you can’t keep up with the richer Joneses, then maybe it would be better to balance your time with your wealthy friends by spending some time with friends whose means more closely match your own.