How To Navigate A Salary Disparity Between You & Your BFFs

Going out to eat with your girlfriends is always a good time, until the moment your server drops the check. Now you're all staring at the bill, figuring out the best way to split it. Perhaps, you're the friend dreading the decision, knowing very well your BFFs are fine with dividing it up evenly, but all you ordered was a salad. You don't want to seem stingy, but rent is due soon and you can't afford to drop $75 on a meal you didn't eat. On the other hand, you might be the friend financially comfortable enough to treat the girls to lunch.


No matter which friend you are, you're probably aware that making more or less money than the rest of your BFFs has its challenges. Fortunately, it's nothing you need to worry about losing a friendship over. Certain situations can feel uncomfortable when money is involved, but there are ways to navigate the salary disparity between you and your best friends.

Understand it's a common situation

If you make less money than your friends, it's normal to feel insecure or embarrassed, but don't single yourself out! You aren't the only person who's been in this situation, nor will you be the last. People come from all walks of life, so there's a good chance you're going to have friends with a higher salary than you, and that's okay! It doesn't mean you're any less valuable than your BFFs. If they're your true friends, it shouldn't matter to them how much you make, nor should it matter to you.


The thing is, they don't have to know about your financial situation, period. It's up to you whether or not you want to disclose that information. If you do feel comfortable discussing your personal finances (maybe you're asking a friend to borrow some money) and they view you differently because of it, it might be time to make some new friends.

Don't assume they make a certain amount

Because the cost of living is so high these days, it's difficult not to think about money when you have a modest income or live paycheck to paycheck. If there's a salary disparity between you and your friends, you might think they never concern themselves with how much things cost, but you can't assume their financial situation. Websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn can give you a rough estimate of how much a certain position pays, but that doesn't mean that is the same amount your friend is taking home.  


Say you're out to dinner, and she comments on the high price of an entree. You may think, "What does Jessica have to worry about money for? I know she's making at least $80,000 a year." Unless Jessica specifically told you that's what she earns, all you're doing is assuming; that might not be even close to her actual salary. If it is, that still doesn't mean she isn't concerned about her finances. She could be using that money to pay off student loans, car payments, or maybe she's helping out loved ones.

Suggest more affordable activities

Again, salary disparities between you and your BFFs aren't a big deal, but it's easy to feel excluded from plans when you can't afford to join in on the fun. To keep you or your besties from feeling left out, suggest activities that don't require spending a ton of money (or any at all). If you're stuck when it comes to ideas, go online and search for free events in your area, especially ones taking place during warmer months. Summertime is prime time for street festivals, movies in the park, and other fun, affordable things to do.


Big cities are famous for these types of activities, but if you live in an area that doesn't offer them, you can still get together with your girls without breaking the bank. When in doubt, go for a walk! It's totally free, great exercise, and you get to enjoy the nice weather. This will also give you plenty of time to catch up with each other while getting up and moving your body (and really, who doesn't love a good #HotGirlWalk?).

Create a budget

No matter your salary, it's a good idea to create a monthly or annual budget for yourself. You don't need to hire a personal accountant to make a budget; it's a lot simpler than you think. To give you a good place to start, Bank of America suggests the 50/30/20 rule, which allocates 50% of your earnings for needs, 30% for wants, and the last 20% to savings or debt. If your income and spending changes, be sure to adjust your budget accordingly. This way, you stay within your means.


By creating a budget, you know ahead of time what you can spend on activities or events, so you don't feel conflicted when an invite comes up. Just take a peek at your budget to see if that last-minute sushi night is in the cards. It's never fun missing out on plans, but hey, it's better than being late on rent.

Spark a discussion about financial goals

Discussing salaries can make for awkward lunch conversation, but luckily, there's a more natural way to approach the topic. Instead of outright asking how much your BFFs make or dumping your money problems on them, start by talking about your current financial goals. Instead of saying, "I can't go because I have no money," you might say, "I'm actually saving up for a car, so I don't think I can make the girls' trip this weekend." This way, there's no pressure on anyone to disclose how much money they earn.


By having this discussion, you may learn that you and some of your besties share the same financial goals and can help each other out. Maybe you have some great money-saving tips, and your BFF is obsessed with extreme couponing. Now is the time to sit down and swap strategies! Plus, now that you've shared your goals, you don't have to feel uncomfortable turning down an invite because it isn't within your current means.

Decide on a spending cap

When it comes to finding gifts for your besties, you might feel embarrassed about the types of gifts you can afford. Maybe your friend bought hard-to-snag front-row tickets to your favorite band for your birthday last year, and on top of that, she treated you to an expensive dinner and your favorite restaurant before the show. Unfortunately, spending that type of cash for her birthday just isn't a reality for you, and that's okay. Like we said, your friends are your friends because they love you and care about you, not how much money you spend on their birthday.


To prevent feeling sensitive when it comes time to exchange gifts, decide on a spending cap beforehand. This way, everyone is on the same page. After all, some truisms are right on the ... money, including "It's not how much a gift costs that counts — it's the thought."

Be open and honest

Money shouldn't come between friends, but if your financial situation is causing an issue in your relationships with the people closest to you, it's a good moment to sit down and talk everything out. If your friends are constantly pressuring you to go out with them, then ragging on you when you can't, or making you feel inferior because you don't have the same income, take a pause to evaluate which friendships are worth saving. Maybe they don't even know about your finances, but if money is creating an issue, now is the time to talk about them.


The best solution is to sit down and be open with your besties about what's going on (again, the amount of detail you give is up to you). If you're interested in doing certain kinds of activities, bring that to their attention. For example, you're over spending $100 at brunch every weekend, and you'd really like to start attending sports events instead. Whatever the case may be, just be honest. When you and your besties are on the same wavelength, you can devise a solution that satisfies everyone.