Being a good friend, and what it means for your finances
Being financially stable brings a lot of good to life. From having you feel better to ensuring you have a backup fund, it really adds to the quality of life that many people are trying to build. The problem comes when people who are financially stable and loyal (like me) start picking up tabs instead of continuing to build on their stability.
Are you the friend your friends always come to for a quick loan? Do you frequently pick up the tab at the bar, or agree to leave the $10 tip? While there’s nothing wrong with being a good friend every now and then, it’s important to consider these costs before throwing money at them. $5 may not sound like a lot today, but if it’s every week it will add up quickly, especially if the favor is never returned.
I will lend to friends, but only good friends, and I have surrounded myself with people who seek to reciprocate my offer to tip just as much as I offer to make the tip myself. This is a great way to keep things balanced, and to stop being a good friend from killing your savings.
It adds up!
Start adding up the costs of these tabs, forcing yourself to track how much money you’ve put out. I bet it was more than you thought that it would be. This is exactly how these expenses add up, sneakily, one at a time until there are so many you’ve spent a mint when thinking you’ve only added a $10 bill “here and there”. I’m guilty of avoiding thinking about these things too, but we need to force ourselves if we expect to stay financially stable.
When to ask for the money back
I’ve been thinking about how to handle these situations, and I think the best solution is this: only lend to people you’d feel comfortable asking to return the favor some day. Even if you don’t necessarily need it, it’s a great way to keep the expenses balanced between the two of you – and it is absolutely still fair and right. People should be able to ask their friends for things, and your friends have proved themselves capable by asking you, so try lending to people (or picking up the tab for people) only when you can envision asking them to return the favor some time.
Slowing down your friend spending
You don’t have to turn into a miser. You can still pick up the tab. Just make sure that you aren’t the only one doing it, and that you aren’t doing it every night of the week. (For that matter, going out every night of the week will really add up over time).
A good way to do this is to think about offering slightly less than you do now, or having a prepared reason why you cannot pick up the tab this time. Again, it’s fine to still chip in, and certainly I’m not advocating you only spend on yourself, but I am advocating being a bit more careful than you probably are being right now.
At the end of the day, your friends are there for you – probably as much as you are for them – and they’ll understand. You being a bit more financially responsible with your money shouldn’t lose you any friends, friends most often just lose track of who has been paying the most. Gentle reminders or less offerings to pick up the tab can be a subtle but effective way to even things out.