A few months ago, my two best friends and I decided to go on a fun, relaxing road trip in California. As we sat around a table at a local bar and grill, we decided where and when to take that trip. We planned out a vacation budget, estimated costs, and looked up plenty of free and frugal activities to enjoy along the way. As the trip approached, we began solidifying our plans.
Since we live in Kansas, we each booked our flights for the beginning and end of our road trip. We reserved our rental car and split the cost ($167 each), then began researching hotels and activities along the way. Once we booked everything we needed to book, things seemed to be in order. We were eager to go on our trip.
Then the unthinkable happened. Just a few short days before our trip was set to begin, one of my friends canceled due to a family emergency.
Her father was in the hospital, and she felt uncomfortable going across the country while he was sick. Of course, we were understanding about why she could no longer attend. But because of her backing out, the two of us were going to have to spend an estimated $250 to $300 extra each on gas and hotels. We couldn’t believe how much more it would cost us, since expenses could only be split two ways instead of three.
Poor Decisions: Putting Money Over Friendship
After a lot of thinking, the two of us decided that it was only fair that she still pay her portion of the rental car. We didn’t feel that it was our responsibility to refund her, since she'd already paid. This way, she was only out $167 for the car, while the two of us still had to cover $250 to $300 extra on other expenses that we hadn’t planned for. Unfortunately, she didn’t see it that way.
It’s been almost two months, and while we used to talk frequently, we no longer speak at all now.
I tried to make it right. I pointed out why we thought it was fair. And I told her that our friendship should be worth more than the $167 in question. But in the future, I plan to avoid losing friends over money as much as possible.
For example, when money is involved, expectations should be spelled out. Maybe if we’d made it clearer from the beginning that each person was “on the hook” for the expenses that they’d already paid for, $167 wouldn’t have lost me my best friend.
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Another contributing factor was unclear communication. Communicating over text message or email is difficult because there are no visual or audio clues about a person’s emotional state other than the occasional emoji. While we did discuss this over the phone, it still would’ve gone over better in person. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that luxury, as she lives a few hundred miles away. But if you have the opportunity to talk to your friends in person when money is involved, do so!
I never imagined that I’d lose a best friend over such a small amount of money. Maybe one day we’ll be friends again. But in the meantime, it’s painful to know that money meant more to her than our friendship.
Money and Friendship: How to Make It Work
Nicole Coope, a financial therapist and work/life balance expert, agrees that communication is the key to mending friendships torn by money. She suggests that you try the following steps to mend a relationship:
1. Be Prepared to Talk. Is It Really About the Money?
“Often, we assume we know exactly the reason why a relationship has come to an end. However, in many cases, we are not on the same page. While you may clearly believe this is a money dispute, the other person may not agree,” Coope says.
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2. Take Time to Listen. There Are Two Sides to Every Story
“While your reasons for ending the relationship may be perfectly sound to you, there is another side to the story. The friend or family member involved also has a perspective or opinion that is their truth,” she says. “Listening carefully demonstrates your caring, as the other person has an opportunity to be heard and validated. You do not have to agree with their perspective or recollection of the events, but listening is the start to healing.”
3. Friendship Over Money: Lessons Learned
Coope suggests inspecting the relationship to see if there are portions of it that you can still repair. “If the money problem was not an issue, are there other aspects of the friendship that you value? If that is the case, share with your friend and family member and focus on keeping the parts of the relationship that you value.”
Juggling Money and Friendship
It’s a shame that money can cause relationships to go south, but that’s just another reason to avoid money matters as much as possible in close relationships. “Clear money boundaries demonstrate your care for the relationship,” Coope says.