Jean Fitzpatrick, a psychotherapist and marriage counselor with over 20 years of experience, tells CNBC Make It that money comes up as a common issue with couples and friends. Her advice to everyone trying to navigate this sensitive issue: Talk it out.
For many friendships, this is no small task. "It's tricky to talk about sharing costs," she says, "especially if there is a significant income disparity."
Differences in salary can be a common point of contention, says Fitzpatrick. "With friends, if there is a significant difference in income or financial responsibilities, making plans for trips and going out for meals can be tricky. The one with less disposable income often feels awkward declining outings that aren't in his or her budget and is also uncomfortable not paying for what feels like their fair share."
Even though money can be taboo, having an open discussion can help alleviate tension between friends with different budgets. "Don't be afraid to talk about it," she says. "If you want to pay for a meal or event, be clear and say, 'My treat.' If you can't afford something, suggest a fun alternative."
Try an approach where you don't split things 50/50. "Some couples talk about proportional contributions. If one earns twice as much as the other, that one pays twice as much," she says. "Have a plan so you don't find yourselves dithering or bickering every time a waiter puts a bill on the table."
Employing this technique allows friends to contribute what they can and helps both parties feel respected.
It's OK to let a generous friend pay for more than half of a meal or experience. "With an extravagant friend, enjoy their generosity and also be sure to suggest simple things to do that don't cost a king's ransom," she says. "It's grounding and fun."
Perhaps the biggest way money can come between friends is if they decide to live together. While Fitzpatrick says that living with a pal can be "a great way to have a built-in social network," she acknowledges that it can also create new challenges.
Fitzpatrick suggests having honest conversations and setting expectations early if you decide to live with a friend. "Whether or not you decide you need a legal contract, it's a good idea to talk about your basic expectations and habits: Are you a late night person or an early bird? Do you want to have parties in the apartment? Will you work from home a lot? Do you plan to bring home one-night stands? Do you have a significant other who will be spending substantial amounts of time in the apartment? What rules will you set up for food that's left in the refrigerator? "
She explains that "the goal of the conversation is not to persuade your friend to change but to discuss realistically what life together could be like and how you can both make it work."
From splitting the check to DIY adventures, "Young Money" helps you navigate tricky financial situations.
Check out more in the series:
- I kept a log of how much I spent on food for 8 weeks, and the results shocked me
- How I spent $1,230 on convenience in just two months
- 5 things you should never pay full price for
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