The money lesson I learned from hanging out with my rich friends
Just say no, and suffer a little FOMO.
There’s nothing like a little holiday after-burn to make you regret some of your choices, and maybe even some of your friends’ choices.
The consequences of festive excess tend to be more painful when you’ve spent the holidays living above your pay grade.
I don’t know what it says about me that so many of my friends are significantly better off than me.
Hanging out with the rich and carefree has its elevating and affirming moments. But often it’s just annoying and disempowering, and it can destroy the budget.
The good stuff includes basking in the reflected glow of people who have done well for themselves.
It’s a relief when they say, “It’s okay, it’s only money”, after a fender-bender or a crypto crash that you were sure would ruin their vibe.
The glow can turn green, though, when you realise how much more fragile your vibe is, and you wish you had enough money to not give a damn when you lost a lot of it.
Dinners out and weekends away with wealthier friends can really spotlight the differences.
None of us likes to be left out, but I’ve learnt that being too shy or ashamed to decline invites to events I can’t afford just magnifies the shame and awkwardness.
I’ve often found myself sitting in restaurants, anxious about what my portion of the bill will be. The problem, on the other side, is also shame-related: too little of it.
There are always one or two people who will shamelessly over-order, requesting oysters “for the table” and telling the waiter to keep the wine coming.
One could, of course, keep tabs on one’s own bill, add a fair tip, and let everyone else split the rest. But that would feel worse, leaving fewer people sharing the burden.
The bill could also be split along the lines of what people ordered, but ending the evening with calculations and negotiations seems unpleasant too.
That is the reason most people agree to split the bill, even when they know their share will sting.
You might think it gets easier as we get older, but FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a powerful force, even at an age when we should know better.
Better to decline an invite and suffer a little FOMO, than to bring my Poor Me vibes and penny-pinching ways to the table.
It seems outrageous to suggest that we don’t belong with people whose company we enjoy, just because they have more money than we do.
It’s actually a lot less dramatic than that. We don’t belong at events we cannot afford.
Saying “No thanks, I can’t afford it” can set off another chain of events that magnifies the shame. Offers to pay less than others can make you feel worse.
Better to just say: “No thanks, I would prefer not to join. But please let’s have dinner at your place or at mine soon.”