How Much Money Are We Supposed to Spend on Friends?

Friends. My biggest monetary pet peeve lately. Nowadays it is not easy to be a good friend. Nor it is cheap anymore.

I have a complicated relationship with most of my friends. We all have different hobbies, views and goals. Somehow we all manage to stay friends.

Let’s see. I like staying home. I hate exercise. I love reading and writing. Most of my friends like to go out clubbing. They are fitness obsessed and big camping lovers. Me? Not so much. I love hotels, fluffy pillows and hot showers. We are quite different indeed.

Then we have birthday party disagreements. All the time. Most of my friends like big, lavish birthday celebrations. This not just seems odd to me, it seems unfitting at age of 43 to party like you are a 22 year old. Some of us, apparently, never surpassed that tender age when we wanted to announce to the world that we were of a legal age, we were allowed to drink.

The older my friends get, the louder they get in their birthday festivities. Their monetary expectations of friends rise exponentially. They choose venues for their parties that require an entrance fee. Not a $5 fee, but rather a $30 fee. They also expect you to pay for your own dinner, and maybe even theirs. They want a thoughtful gift as an acknowledgment of their importance as your friend. They want your love, respect, and they want your money.

Last year there was a somewhat reasonable expectation of a gift of designer sunglasses. Luckily for everyone in the group, I knew a place where we could buy affordable sunglasses (click here to find affordable designer sunglasses that you can purchase online.) Dinner was not extravagant, the venue was fun.

This year, however, we moved on to an exclusive place of high prices. A proof of our friendship importance was a $2000 painting.

Things that upset me the most:

  • No one asked if we could afford or even wanted to shed a $30 entrance fee into a venue, $40 dinner per person, and $150 for the gift (the share of our contribution towards the desired painting.) To sum it all up, to prove our endless love and respect, Beaker and I had to put down over $300. I found it outrageous, and I blatantly refused.
  • The attitude of entitlement. Should we get online loans or personal loans to be able to “afford” to be a good friend? Should I dip into our savings to celebrate your birthday? Can I just take you out for lunch or dinner and not be considered too cheap?
  • Emotional and time investment in our friendship is not enough anymore. A monetary investment became the main requirement. Why time spent on listening to endless bitching about your boyfriends, girlfriends, business plans, vacation ideas and grocery shopping lists is not good enough?
  • There is no easy opt out option. My behavior will be discussed. My absence will be addressed, and not in a very nice way.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a birthday hater. I view these occasions as an opportunity to spend time with friends. A birthday celebration is not an ego-centric, attention craving event. It is a chance for all of us to get together and honor our friendship. All I want is to be reasonable about it.

I would never put a price tag on a friendship. Nevertheless, I really want to shout out to my friends:

“Money can buy you company, not friends.”

This post was featured in the following carnivals:

Carnival of MoneyPros at Simple Finance Blog
Nerdy Finance Carnival at Nerdy Finance Carnival
Y & T’s Weekend Ramblings at Young and Thrifty
Wealth Artisan’s FinCarn at Wealth Artisan
Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at My University Money
Carnival of Retirement at My Family Finances
Finance Carn. for Young Adults at 20s Finances
Carnival of Financial Planning at Broke Professionals

43 thoughts on “How Much Money Are We Supposed to Spend on Friends?

  1. Mrs PoP @plantingourpennies

    Add to birthday parties bridal showers, weddings, and baby showers and I couldn’t agree more! Though my biggest pet peeve are invites from people I don’t even consider friends anymore. Sorry, if I haven’t talked to you in years, I don’t want to go to your baby shower or travel 2000 miles for your wedding (former work colleague), much less send you a gift in the mail because I don’t want to be there.

    The worst part is when people know you CAN afford it, but choose not to spend your money that way. Frustrating.

    Thanks for the killer quote at the end. I’ll have to remember thant one.

  2. Daisy

    I see this as kind of silly – if it’s not a milestone birthday, then seriously? My family doesn’t even spend a fraction of that amount on me on my birthday, and nor do I on them. friends are invaluable, but being friends should be enough.

  3. Jai Catalano

    How much money am I supposed to spend on my child’s 3rd birthday part? I mean it’s not even him. It’s that we have gone to every birthday party under the sun and didn’t realize he was so popular. Now it’s time to reciprocate. That doesn’t concern me as much as the fact that I have a daughter who is building up her little friends now and she is only 1.

  4. Joe @ Retire By 40

    $2,000 painting? That’s a little ridiculous. Is this person rich? I don’t know anyone with that kind of expectation. Hopefully you can stay friends, but it might be difficult with that kind of expenditure.

  5. Anita

    How much money you can spend on someone, or what material thing they can buy you, shouldn’t ever be considered in a friendship. I had friendships like this in the past, and they are no longer friends. I think it’s all in how you think a friend should be. Personally I would like someone there in good times and bad, not just when they want me to buy them an expensive gift.

  6. Mo' Money Mo' Houses

    Yikes! It definitely sounds like they just put a price tag on their friendship. I’d probably get some new friends who don’t need you to pay $300 just to prove to them that you are a good friend lol. And also, who asks for a $2000 painting as a birthday present? That’s crazy!

  7. SavvyFinancialLatina

    Uh $2000 painting?? I would not be friends with that person.

    To celebrate our birthdays we usually go to an affordable restaurant, if that. Sometimes we skip that, someone volunteers to bring the cake, and its BYOB. Not that we are cheap, but just broke. Time is better than money.

  8. Lance @ Money Life and More

    I’d simply say that while I wish them a happy birthday I don’t have that in my budget. If they’d like to contribute to your birthday fund to the same tune of $300 early I’d be happy to go to your party and give you your money back.

  9. Michelle

    You definitely shouldn’t have to take out a loan to keep your friends! I feel like, if your friends aren’t understanding of different financial situations, they’re not worthy of my friendship. My friendship is worth a lot more than $300, so I would hope your friends feel the same way about you. If not, they don’t deserve you!

  10. Shane @ Beating Broke

    I think we’ve all had/have friends like that. I know I’ve been in the situation a couple of times and on more than one of those occasions, I’ve told my friend, bluntly, that I didn’t have the money to pay the entrance fee, or eat at the spendy restaurant and would meet them somewhere later. They are always a bit offended, but they quickly get over it, or they drift off and the friendship disappears. And if that happens, it wasn’t that great of one to begin with.

  11. Lucille

    Now you understand why I’m mostly a hermit. I have 5 friends whom I’m close to and we are like-minded. We don’t spend if we don’t have it….in fact we don’t celebrate birthdays every year…often once in 3 years! Our budgets vary and so do our life styles so there’s no perfect fit.
    I’m known as a non-party-goer. I usually turn down invitations unless it’s family. In particular, I hate wedding invitations where it’s stated: “no boxed gifts” and “no children”. Can’t bear the commercialism that’s entered the social sphere. The easiest things is to just say “no”.

  12. Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

    For really close friends I don’t mind shelling out a bit more on something for them but for acquaintances or people I hardly ever see I don’t think this is reasonable. True friends should never expect anything from you.If you do give them something it should be a surprise and really appreciated.

    Our friends all have different budgets so we never impose anything on anyone. We are just happy to have the company.

  13. shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet

    I have a birthday dinner every year at the same restaurant. My friends are expected to pay for their own dinners, but not for mine, nor are they expected to bring me any kind of gift.
    The things is, my birthday is less than a week before Christmas. My brithday dinner isn’t so much about my birthday as it is being the time we all get together during the holiday season before heading out in various directions.
    Our group also does one big birthday dinner in April because we have 6+ birthdays that month. For that, we have a set amount each person should bring, dine family style, and again, just hang out. No one is expected to bring anything for the birthday people.
    And in no case is anyone shunned for not being able to come- whether it’s for money or time reasons. Those who can come, do. Those who can’t, don’t. And we’ll see them some other time.

    I can NOT imagine the birthday person dictating to me what they should receive as a gift, especially if they are expecting something as expensive as your friends. That just boggles my mind. I give only if I want to, and only what I can afford to. In my mind, it’s not a “gift” if you’re telling me what I have to buy you. (And yes, I have been known to go off registry for weddings and baby showers of people I’m particularly close to.)

  14. Gen Y Finance Journey

    I’m with you! I have a particular friend who is constantly inviting me out to do things with a hefty price tag. I want to hang out with her, but I’d be content to just have brunch and go for a hike. The most frustrating part is that she says she wants to save money too and doesn’t understand why her savings aren’t growing!

  15. mike

    I feel for you Aloysa, it’s getting ridiculous that people now expect this. Not sure how society drifted into this state of affairs…

    It’s a similar situation with weddings. I’ve just go back from a friend’s wedding in Venice! I don’t know why people assume you can afford to go abroad and take time off work!

  16. bogofdebt

    Ugh, that’s horrible. I’ve had friends like that–they expect this huge lavish event every single year. We’ve drifted apart because I started to decline more and more “fun” things that just involved a lot of money. Especailly as I didn’t really find them fun to begin with.

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  18. Gillian @ Money After Graduation

    It sounds like your friends value money more than their relationships. My friends like that have eventually just fell by the wayside.. maybe you should re-evaluate those friendships? If my friends ever ask me to do things that cost too much I usually say I don’t want to spend that much and suggest other things. Although the people you refer to sound pretty set in going to these places.

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  20. saverr

    I think we should very careful while spending money on friends. If they have no change of money, suffering from any critical issues or medical treatment etc.

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  31. Kyle

    I have a really close friend who I am always buying for, and it’s not like I have the money either, I just love her so much that I like seeing her happy every now and then. I have always been a big giver, always getting something for her, but I usually try to stick to birthday’s or christmas when it comes to getting her anything, and if it’s not one of those occasions, I try not to spend on her, but when I do, I want her to know how much she means to me, so I will shell out a good amount of money and get her something nice, and the great thing is, I never expect anything in return on my birthday or christmas. I don’t like getting gifts, I just like giving them, it makes me feel good. Is there any harm in that?

  32. ZenBot

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this article. I stumbled upon it while googling the topic out of frustration.

    Let me preface my post with this:
    1. I have a lot of financial stress, and do not feel good about spending money on anything other than the necessities.
    2. My own birthday celebrations are always on the cheap so as not to exclude or cause hardship to anyone wishing to participate.

    Last year, my friend wanted to travel an hour away to go out for her birthday. To be completely honest, I had very little interest in going just based on the cost of travel alone ($30+), and was becoming increasingly frustrated as her plans developed. I have a lot of financial stress, and do not feel good about spending money on anything other than the necessities. That being said, I have no problem spending a little bit of money on a friend’s birthday to show that I care.

    The first stop on this friend’s birthday adventure was a VERY lavish restaurant, that neither of us could actually afford based on our earnings. I drank only water and had the cheapest thing on the menu. I spent most of the meal feeling like I didn’t belong because
    1. Her other friends were upper class.
    2. Her friends were all already friends with each other, and had no interest in talking to me.

    Overall, I spent a lot of time having a mental conversation with myself and observing the decor of the restaurant.

    When the bill came, she went to use the bathroom – probably to avoid the awkward settling of our bill. One her friends suggested that everybody split the bill equally, but I pretended not to hear and instructed the server to swipe my credit card for the amount that I owed, and tipped according to that amount. This irritated her clueless friends.

    Why should I chip in for your apps, entrees, booze, and dessert??
    1. I couldn’t even afford to get full at this restaurant – I had and appetizer for dinner.

    To put this story into perspective, the automatic GRATUITY ALONE was a little over $800. Yes, you read that correctly – eight hundred dollars! And no, we are not celebrities… the exact opposite, actually.

    The night didn’t end there, though, as dinner was followed by coffee, which was then followed by clubbing (and admission fees).

    It is now nearing my friends birthday, again… and all I feel is anxiety, as my financial situation is actually worse now than it was last year. She expressed wanting to have a similar birthday celebration as last year, but I told her that I simply could not afford it. She seemed really disappointed, and this depressed me, putting me into the “screw it- I give up” mind frame.

    Following our discussion, it seems she is adjusting her plans to be remarkably more reasonable than last year’s, but STILL – This night will cost me probably $100.

    Generally speaking, I don’t understand where people get off expecting so much. An occasion doesn’t have to be ridiculously extravagant to be remembered. In the case of my friend, she is very dear to me. I am frustrated because I love her very much, but I feel like she doesn’t understand where I am coming from… and the position she is putting me in.

    Further, I suspect that the root of her desire to “go all out” on her birthday has something to do with the life she leads the rest of the 364 days in the year. I can completely understand needing a brake from being the poor girl, but it is really unfair to burden your friends with this princess-like notion that reality stops and there are no limits to the experiences that should be yours on your birthday.

    1. Aloysa

      Thank you so much for sharing your story.Wow! I am appalled that your friend hasn’t even considered talking to you about how you feel and what you think about her birthday celebration. I can relate! Thank you for stopping by and reading my post.

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  34. LotusGirl

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have been so anxious lately about the same topic. My friends are lavish spenders too. They like to spend on shopping, traveling, dining, celebrating occassions and giving gifts and being a minimalist and non-consumerist that I am, it makes me think that maybe I need to change my set of friends. They gave me a nice white gold necklace with diamonds on my birthday and my other friend an all-expense paid trip to visit us since we are living overseas. I love them to the bones and I appreciate their big heart and generosity but it’s just that I can’t keep up anymore. I am the one who earns the least and have the most financial burdens and my lifestyle is so different from theirs. I know I don’t have to spend as much as they do but when I don’t, it makes me feel like I’m so selfish because we have a friend who doensn’t earn a lot too but she doesn’t care that her debts mount up as long as she can give extravagant gifts. And they are very vocal that they love her for that! It makes me feel “unloved” since I don’t give gifts as expensive as theirs. The top spender also just gave each of us a signature bag which I will not buy myself since I prefer to save and it’s her birthday soon so I am pressured to give a gift that can match the price tag of her gift to me. I once gave them a simple gift but until now I have not seen them use it so it gets me to think that my inexpensive gifts are not appreciated- and neither is my friendship! Those who spend so much are closer to each other than to me. I would love to shower them with big gifts too but I can’t just afford it. I don’t know if I am just being paranoid but I feel they don’t like me anymore. I really want to find new set of friends who are not big spenders and who will just appreciate my friendship even if we don’t spend much.


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