How to cope when your friends earn more than you
Being an adult in a fairly low-paid job, and trying to budget, save and generally survive is hard enough. But what about when you’re faced with the fact that a friend – or a number of them – earn much more money than you?
Navigating certain social situations suddenly gets tricky. Take everyone suggesting splitting a restaurant bill after you’ve scrimped on a starter with chips. When you confess you can’t afford that trip, or to eat at a Michelin-starred gaff, or go to the cinema three weeks in a row – it’s awkward, to say the least.
But don’t let differences in pay drag your confidence down. Here are some tips on how to cope…
Just be honest
You might not want to tell friends how much you earn, and you don’t want to start begrudging them their career choices either. But Hannah Maundrell, editor in chief of comparison site money.co.uk, says it’s important to be honest.
“It can be really tricky if your friends or family earn more than you. Ultimately, honesty is the best policy to avoid putting yourself in any awkward situations. If you can’t afford to take part in expensive activities you’ve been invited to, talk to them about your situation, otherwise they’ll never know,” she says.
Don’t overextend yourself
Borrowing money is all well and good now – but what about later?
“You could end up in debt, which might make you feel resentful towards your mates,” Hannah says. “If your friends or family offer to lend you money so you can join them and you want to go, think about whether you can really afford it.
“If you can treat it like a loan, agree to a strict deadline for the money to be paid back, set it out on paper and offer to pay a small amount of interest if you can afford to.”
Recognise the meaning you’re attaching to being poorer than your friends
Psychotherapist Glyn Morris, who runs Mind Health Development, gives an example of how he helps his clients figure out what it is about their earnings that bothers them.
“So if I earn €30,000 a year and my friend earns €50,000 a year, ask yourself, ‘What meaning do I attach to that?'” he says.
“In therapy, the big step is getting people to see what these thoughts and feelings really are. So it’s a case of getting people to go, ‘You’re absolutely right, I am thinking that I’m of less value, but I thought the problem was that I wasn’t earning as much money’.
“When people start to recognise this and challenge what we call ‘thinking errors’, they start to see their positive qualities and where they’re doing well.”
Try not to worry about what your friends think of your salary
Glyn also has advice for when we think about our better-off friends.
“The thing that makes it worse, is the meaning we think the other person is going to attach to it. So, ‘Do they think they’re better than me? Do they think I’m not very good?’ It’s a double-edged sword, the old attached meanings.
“This has a huge impact on a number of things, like self-esteem. And if our self-esteem is rocky, then we’re much more prone to depression, anxiety and stress.
“We then disqualify the other areas where we might be doing well – our intellect, our wisdom, our generosity. That builds into a bigger thinking error, where we magnify achievements of others whilst minimising our own. And of course, when we’re making these thinking errors, we’re just fuelling the emotions that don’t serve us very well.”
Think of alternative plans when you can’t afford what’s been suggested
“Spending times outdoors, offering to cook at yours, volunteering, going for a coffee or a picnic in the park are all cheap ways to have fun with your loved ones,” Hannah says.
And when it comes to the plans your friends make, which you may have to turn down because of a lack of funds, try not to curse your mates.
“It’s important you don’t blame your friends’ choices,” she adds. “Don’t make them feel bad by saying something like, ‘I could come to your wedding if you weren’t getting married in the Philippines’ – this won’t help you or them.”
Lastly, remember to appreciate what you have
We’ve all been a bit jealous of someone else’s seemingly incredible life splashed on social media. But this won’t get you anywhere.
“Ultimately, communication and openness is the key, and making sure you’re happy with what you have,” Hannah says.
“You probably have more than you’ll ever need to feel content, and true friends will love you regardless of cash flow.”