• Resolving Problems

Maintaining a friendship when a friend has more income than you

Published: August 28, 2015 | By | 9 Replies Continue Reading
Income disparities can challenge even long-term friendships.


Hi Irene,

I need help to sort out my feelings! I have a best friend whom I’ve have known since school. Our kids grew up together and we did everything together. Our kids are now young adults and her husband has grown a successful business so they are better off financially.

We do not go on holiday together any more and she does a lot of things socially with other people who are able to live the same lifestyle. I feel abandoned and hurt that they don’t do things we can all afford to do and I don’t know whether to say anything or just let the relationship go.

Signed, Merrill


Hi Merrill,

Income disparities between friends can create tensions because they often affect where people live, the things they do, the people they associate with, and the way they lead their lives.

Although I can understand you feeling left behind, I don’t think you can begrudge your friend for her husband’s success, which has given her the wherewithal to do things or take vacations that you and your husband can’t afford. On the other hand, it would be nice if your friend was sensitive to the discrepancy in your incomes and offered to do things you can both afford, too—either just the two of you or with your spouses.

Your note doesn’t make clear whether you’ve extended invitations to your friend or have been waiting for her to invite you. Perhaps, you don’t need to go on a holiday together but could visit a free museum or park, get together at home, or invite her to lunch or dinner at a local restaurant.

The fact that you feel hurt suggests that this relationship is one you still want to preserve. Would you be comfortable explaining this to your friend? In essence, you would be telling her that you are happy for her financial success but miss spending time together. If you feel that she’s pulled away from you and isn’t willing to get together because her life and interests have changed so dramatically, there’s not much more you can do. Unfortunately, situations like this are all too common.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (9)

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  1. Mary says:

    I would have said everything Mary did. Friends of ours bought a beauty of a pontoon and jet ski. I think I was more excited for them than they were! Of course I did have the pleasure of enjoying them too. I was genuinely happy for them. My question is who is backing away? You, her? After all those years of being friends, if you love her….try to keep that! I lost my BF for reasons unknown after 34yrs.
    Since there are 2 Mary’s I’ll use my kitty to separate us. BTW, Hello Mary.

  2. Amy F says:

    Have you suggested activities with your friend that are within your budget?

    I have 2 friends (they don’t know each other) who both inherited large sums of money. I expected that they would be able to afford things I couldn’t. Most of the time I’m fine with that, but once in a while I feel envious. The one I’m closest to is a lot busier traveling, so I don’t see her as much, but that’s just life. In my experience, friendships can wax and wane in intensity and quantity of time.

    Your friend is probably being sensitive to your financial situation and doesn’t want to insult you by asking you to take a trip she knows you can’t afford. If this is really bothering you, talk to her.

  3. hanna says:

    It’s possible that this parting of ways has nothing to do with money.

  4. Mary says:

    She may be your best friend, but have you considered its her husband thats the bread earner. I am sure he has best friends too who he wants to invite and respond to their invitations. She of course has a duty and most likely mixes with his friend as she should be supporting her husband. They probably dont invite you to these things knowing you and your hubby can not afford it and not wanting to embarrass you.

    I have as friend – and have always paid her way even buying motor homes to help her out – and make her happy- but do you know what.

    After a while you wake up and see its not really appreciated its expected. Whos faults that- mine.
    After a while it leads to resentment both ways.
    I feel your friends being very wise. Are you sure your not jealous– just as tiny bit?

    Shes entitled to be happy without feeling guilty and if your really her friend you’d want that too. Also Id say her husbands job and yours would be very different – possibly not much in common ah.

    Se her for coffee alone – leave the men out of it as her hubby already has his friends and the friendship was always between you and her.

    I feel your overreaching in fear of being left behind, but unless you change your thinking you will be imop.

    Shes your”old school buddy– Your hers– leave it at that between the 2 of you and stop pushing for happy couples outings its not going to work+ you cant afford it. good luck

  5. Maddie says:

    You should not begrudge your friend the lifestyle she has earned. Maybe she senses this and has pulled back from you.

  6. Laura says:

    I would talk directly with your friend and let her know you miss spending time with her, but you can’t afford her level of spending.

    I want to point out that it’s not always an income disparity. Sometimes it’s a values difference with regards to spending. Some people are more conservative with their money and may even live below their means. On the flip side, some people live beyond their means and carry debt for non-essential expenses. I have some friends that spend a lot more than me on vacations, entertainment and dining out and probably can afford it less, and they’ll probably be paying for it for years to come monthly on credit cards.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve been struggling the same problem– but from the opposite perspective. It is a touchy problem, and I wish there were an easy way out of it. Two years ago I got back in touch with an old BFF from high school — we’d lost touch for over 25 years. My friend is married to an older guy whose only income is Social Security. My friend has a low-paying job and is understandably careful about her spending. Problem is, these two have what they call “champagne taste and a beer budget.”

    My husband and I have picked up the dinner tab several times when we’ve gone out for dinner. (My friend’s husband often leaves the table for a smoke when he waiter approaches with the check.) We also invited them (once) to our cottage, and now they keep asking when they’ll be invited again, reminding us that they can’t afford to take as many vacations as my husband and I do. This makes us feel guilty and awkward — not exactly the way you want to feel when you’re hanging out with friends.

    I do want to stay in touch with my old BFF, for old times’ sake. So, the best way to handle this, I’m finding, is to meet for lunch or dinner at restaurants that she and her husband can afford — and to ask for separate checks before anyone orders anything. My husband and I also make a point of keeping quiet about anything luxuries or experiences we have that my friend and her husband cannot afford.

    There’s no way around the fact that this friendship isn’t as comfortable for me as it was when my friend and I were in high school, and “income” wasn’t an issue. In closing, I have to be totally honest and tell you that I am much more comfortable, now, when I’m hanging out with friends whose lifestyles and income are similar to mine.

    • Laura says:

      This sounds so familiar! Have you posted about this before?

      Someone can only take advantage of you if you let them. I would continue going out with them but ask for separate checks. If it’s on one check and her husband goes off for a smoke and it’s one check, you can simply grab the check and tell her “Your share is this much…”

      Regarding the cottage, that is rude behavior asking to be invited.

      I just wonder if this is really a friend you want and if she’s more interested in what you can do for her financially than your friendship?

      • Elizabeth says:

        Laura, thanks for your post. I may have posted something about this previously, as it’s an ongoing problem. I agree with all your points and have started to place some distance between myself and this old friend, as tactfully as I can.

        Mainly, I wanted “Merrill” — the person who posted the question — to consider the viewpoint of someone who is experiencing the other side of the ‘income imbalance.” People often assume that the friend with the larger income is being a snob or unfair, in some way. In any event, it is good to consider both sides.

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