Mar 10

I’m I enabling money misbehavior?


“Bellini martini” yum!

This weekend I went out to dinner with a few friends. We went to a local bar and grill for lunch and had a few drinks. By the end of the afternoon/evening (about 6 hours later) we had a pretty hefty bill. Since I don’t get to see those friends very often I don’t mind dropping a little cash when we go out. But I do worry that our all day eat and drink fest may have made my friends overspend.

Just for reference, I met both of these friends at work when I was their boss. One has since finished grad school and moved to a new job and the other is still in grad school finishing her degree. Ms. “finishing her degree” and I are pretty close and whenever we go out she always says how horrible she feels that she’s still relying on her parents financially.

As her former supervisor, I know how much money she makes and I completely understand how difficult it is to survive on that meager salary in NYC. That being said, I also know that it is possible to live on that salary, because I have 3 employees who do it currently. I’m not saying it’s easy or fun, but when you budget carefully and cut out most of the “extras” you can make it work. But that’s neither here nor there and how she budgets her money is really none of my business.

I guess my only concern is that I might be enabling her “money misbehavior” when I invite her to lunch. I know that my friend is trying to pay off her credit card balance and rely less on her parents for money. So when we do go out, I’m overly conscious of the fact that she probably should be saving her money, not dining out with me.

I try to suggest places that are reasonably priced and always pay a little bit more than my share of the bill to try and help her out. But I also feel a little bit strange even asking her to go out because I know she’s not in a great financial place. To be fair, I sometimes ask her to come over to our place for dinner so she doesn’t have to spend any money, but we live about an hour away from each other, so it’s sort of a “hike” that’s not always convenient for her.

Of course I understand that she’s an adult and she makes her own decisions about how she spends her money, but I don’t want to feel like I’m enabling her to spend money she doesn’t have. I also don’t want to put my “money values” on her and make her feel bad about her situation. **She’s never asked me for “help” and I learned a long time ago to keep my mouth shut about money unless someone specifically asks for advice.

Do you go out with friends when you know they’re broke?


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  1. Demaish @ Borrowed Cents

    I have gone out with friends when they are broke and I have also gone out being broke…lol…Like you said at the end, it really comes to personal responsibility. Sometimes I assume may be somebody got some extra cash somewhere. I think talking to the person when they are spending money they don’t have can cause denial.

    1. KK

      I’ve definitely been the “broke” one too, so I know how it feels to say “no” when I really want to go out but can’t afford it. Thankfully I’m not shy about money so I had no problem telling people I was broke and wanted to go to the “cheap happy hour” 🙂

  2. E.M.

    I understand you feel a bit bad, but in the end, it’s her choice to go out to meet you. I’m in her situation right now, and I’m not afraid to tell our friends if we can’t afford to do something. My boyfriend and I only hang out with them if they’re doing something at someone’s house. I would probably pick driving an hour to have dinner with you over spending additional money on food, though. It’s a tough situation to be in, because you don’t want to miss out on good times with friends, but I know our financial situation well enough to know when to go and when not to.

    1. KK

      It’s true, it’s not like I didn’t give cheaper (free) options, so I feel like it’s her decision to spend. I love getting together at friends’ houses for dinner and drinks, but sadly in the NYC area nobody ever asks you to their place because most folks don’t have the space in their shoebox apartments.

  3. Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial

    When I had friends in that situation, I tried to let them make the plans – or when I did suggest we go and do something, I came up with lots of suggestions, and always included hanging out at our house our theirs as an option. Ultimately, everyone needs to do what’s best for them and their money – but I understand it’s hard to constantly turn down invitations out, so that’s why I tried to always make sure the offer of just hanging out or doing something that didn’t require money was always on the table!

    1. KK

      You’re a good friend! It’s always nice to have friends who “get it” and aren’t dissapointed or annoyed when you tell them that you’d rather do something low-cost or free. Thankfully my friends were always really understanding of my financial situation and nobody left me out or made me feel bad when I was plugging along on my debt.

  4. Michelle @fitisthenewpoor

    I rarely see my friends as well (money and distance get in the way). I do not mind spending extra money on that experience, even though we are not exactly well off financially. She may feel the same way about you.

    I do often plan like Kali does. I let them pick the place and how much they want to spend.

    1. KK

      I think you’re right. She might be planning for and saving for when we do go out (I hope so at least). I know I would save up several week’s worth of my slush fund when I was paying down my student debt so that I could go out with everybody and not feel deprived.

  5. Liz

    I think as long as you let her decide where to eat the ball is in her court. It’s hard to know where she is with learning how to manage her finances. I think you are doing everything right.

    1. KK

      Thanks, I hope so. I know how hard it is to be in a tight financial spot, so I’m always acutely aware of how finances (and lack there of) impact other people.

  6. Mrs PoP @Planting Our Pennies

    With many friends, we alternate paying the bill and generally the person who picks the restaurant pays the bill for the whole table.

    Alternately, if you feel like this is more of a mentor/mentee relationship, would it be appropriate for you to pick up the entire tab as a mentor?

    1. KK

      I like your suggestion about alternating bills. It definitely cuts back on the who ordered what and how much does it cost confusion at the end of the night. Our relationship started off as supervisor/supervisee, but definitely isn’t that way now. I’ve try to pay more of the bill and grab the tip when she’ll let me. But she’s pretty stubborn about paying her way (which I understand and can appreciate since I used to be in a lot of student loan debt).

  7. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    This is a tough call. I have always made more money than my friends, and I think when I was younger, I was less mindful about their struggles, or I could just pick up the tabs. Now, I make sure to find reasonable options for them when we go out to together. At the end of the day, as you mention, though, she is a grown up and if she can’t afford the meal out, then she needs to say no or she needs to save up during the week, so she can “splurge” on time out with you.

    1. KK

      I think you’re right. If she couldn’t afford to go out I would hope that she would say, “no” and if she doesn’t I can’t control that. I can just try to choose inexpensive places to eat and hope that she wouldn’t go if the didnt’ have the money.

  8. Alicia

    If I know a friend is going through a tougher financial situation than me, I let them direct the plans. So it we want to go to $5 burrito bar, sure. If they want to stay in and cook dinner and have cheap wine, okay. If they choose to go out and spend it unwise, ultimately, it isn’t my place to judge their financial situation.

    1. KK

      I love burritos so that place sounds wonderful to me! I guess like you said, just keep giving options and if the option isn’t one that’s good for her financially she will make that decision. Nobody wants unsoliticted money advice, even if it’s good advice.

  9. Morgaine

    I agree that this isn’t easy. Yes, its her responsibility to manage her finances not yours but I can understand how you can feel guilty because you suggested going out. The only thing I can really think of is to meet for coffee or a walk (or other free activity). That way you’re still hanging out with this friend so she doesn’t feel left out. She may have also wanted to bring up not wanting to go out and spend money but may have worried about offending you, you may actually do her a favor by bringing it up first!

    1. KK

      Good ideas. I think what should have been a really inexpensive lunch turned out to be pretty expensive because we stayed so long. Next time I’ll definitely suggest leaving after the first drink so the bill doesn’t get too out of control. It’s also harder to leave after a few rounds because you get talking and are having such a good time.

  10. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    I think you’re fine. You might want to let her suggest plans or a place to go so you know it’s within her budget and she doesn’t have to feel bad about saying no to you or paying more than she wants to. My friends all make more than I do, and if I can’t go somewhere I simply suggest other places or say no. It helps that my friends know about my blog too. 🙂

    1. KK

      A lot of my friends make more than me too, so I definitely know how it feels to go somewhere and feel uncomfortable with the menu prices. I used to just go and keep quiet but now I tell them I’d prefer somewhere more moderately priced (and nobody has ever been offended or said no).. I always let her pick or at least show her the menu before we go anywhere because I want her to feel comfortable with the prices (truth be told I’d never go anywhere really expensive myself because I’m too cheap-so it’s really never an issue).

  11. Girl Meets Debt

    I’ve been on both sides of the coin and ultimately it’s my choice if I want to go out or spend that money on debt repayment. When I’m the broke one, I just usually the dinner special and fancy H2O to drink. 😛 Don’t feel bad KK!

    1. KK

      I’ve definitely been on both sides which is probably why I’m so acutely aware of how it feels to not have a lot of expendable income. I guess ultimately it comes down to her decision about how she wants to spend her money. If she’s OK with spending on dinner I can’t put my (no spend) values on her.

  12. Debt and the Girl

    I’ve gone out with friends when they were broke. We just go out to the cheaper locales. Its not really a big deal. If one of us is really broke, then its a netflix night with $5 pizza. Oh yeah!

    1. KK

      I’m all about neflix and frozen pizza :-). I can have a wonderful time with a cheap bottle of while and some good conversation.

  13. Prudence Debtfree

    It sounds like you’re something of a mentor to this friend, and as such, I think it would be best if you made your get-togethers free for her. It would show a real sensitivity and consideration. The hour-long trek that she has to make to your place is probably preferable to her having to pay a restaurant bill. It can be hard for some people to say “No” in certain situations. So even though it is ultimately up to her whether or not she spends her money, I think it would be great if you helped facilitate and establish a “no-spend” norm for your friendship with her.

    1. KK

      I definitely agree about trying to make things cheaper (or free) for her. Going forward I’m going to offer hanging out at my place again and see if she “bites”. If not I’ll take it as a sign that she’s OK spending her money on lunch (or whatever she picks).

  14. DC @ Young Adult Money

    Honestly, everyone has to make their own choices. I don’t think you are enabling bad behavior at all. If they are going to spend money on things they arguably shouldn’t, that’s their choice.

    1. KK

      I agree with you. We’re both adults and if she decides that spending her money on lunch or drinks or whatever she spends money on is OK who am I to judge or try to convince her otherwise?

  15. moneystepper

    Let your friends decide where you go to eat and drink. Then, they have the option to spend whatever amount they wish and they don’t have to come out at all if they can’t afford it.

    At the end of the day, if people aren’t committed themselves to good financial behavior, then your “being an enabler” isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference.

    1. KK

      Agreed. If you let your friend chose the place you dine and they chose somewhere they can’t afford that’s totally on them. I can’t make her spend or not spend.

  16. Anne @ Unique Gifter

    That’s a tricky one. We’re also more well-off than a lot of our friends. That said, we live in a small town so there’s only a few places to go out anyway. We can control what we order and so can everyone else. We do end up at people’s houses more frequently when the group we’re hanging out with has less money, which is a good thing for everyone involved.

    1. KK

      I really like going over to peoples’ houses for dinner and drinks, I just wish that was more common in NYC. Maybe if and when we move to the suburbs we’ll have more “takers” on our offer.

  17. Shoaholicnomore

    My BFF lives 3.5-4 hours away from me, so on the rare occasions we see each other, I’m ok with spending more than usual of my “blow” money. I am actively trying to get out of debt, but at the same time I can’t stop living. If I don’t spend some money on fun from time to time I will probably go crazy and not be able to complete my journey to becoming debt-free.

    1. KK

      I think that’s a really good point. Debt and dieting are really similar for me. If I don’t let myself have a nice piece of chocolate here and there I got crazy and eat a whole bag of hershey kisses 😉 Ditto for it I deprive myself from going out to dinner with friends.

  18. Tarynkay

    Since you are her former supervisor, she might consider you as something of a mentor. So she might see paying for a meal out with you as a kind of investment. Or she might just prioritize spending money on connecting with friends- I am that way. I happily drive a 12 year old car and go without cable so that I can afford to meet friends for dinner.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing for you to be inviting her at all- she obviously feels like it is worth it. But you might consider suggesting other activities that are free or cheaper and also not an hour drive for her. Could you go to a museum together, or an outdoor concert, for a walk in the park, or even just out for coffee? $5 on fancy coffee is a lot more affordable than $20 on dinner out.

    1. KK

      I think at one point she might have considered going out with me as a sort of investment (I know I feel that way about going out with my managers), but I think now we’re totally on the same “level” so to speak. I don’t think of her as a supervisee and I know she doesn’t think of me as the boss anymore. That being said I do want to make things more affordable for both of us, so now that the weather is warming up I’m going to start suggesting picnics in the park and cheaper activities.

  19. Michelle

    She is in charge of her finances…it may be a nice relief for her to go out on occasion with friends. I have been on both sides of the issue. Now I’m still in debt but I balance out the number of times I go out….maybe she is doing the same? Wait until she approaches you for: advice or support then you could suggest doing free stuff. There’s a ton of stuff to do for free in a big city. Why not going to Governor’s Island and walking around. It’s such a cute little island.

    1. KK

      That’s true. I sure hope she’s saving and “splurging” to go out once in a while so it’s affordable (I know I definitely did that when I was paying off my student loans). I’ve never been to Governor’s Island. I’ll have to add that to my “NYC” list.

  20. Dear Debt

    I wouldn’t feel bad. I would be considerate an offer cheaper places or happy hour specials. I’ve been on both sides and I like to try to eat at home, or go to happy hour. If she really didn’t want to meet with you, she could say no or offer up something else.

  21. Erin @ Gen Y Finances

    Honestly, she made the decision to go out. As long as you aren’t suggesting crazy expensive places, you are not at fault. It would be different if you picked pricey places because you could afford it, not caring whether or not your friends could also afford it.

  1. Friday Roundup #21: Baltimore Bound -

    […] “I’m Enabling Money Misbehavior” from Student Debt Survivor […]

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