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Negotiating Friendship and Money

Are you cutting back while friends are cutting loose?

After reading this plea for advice on Slate.com, I started thinking about how secretive people are when it comes to matters of finance. In case you don't feel like making the jump, here’s the gist of the plea: We have couple friends who have much more dough than we do, and we keep sidestepping their invitations (to meet them at expensive restaurants) rather than just admitting we can't afford it.

If you’re wondering what my advice would be in this situation (and, um, why the hell wouldn't you?), it would be to invite the rich couple over for a small, two-couple dinner party where you'll have complete control over the cost of the meal. Super-broke? Make it something fun and frugal like taco night.

Here's the thing: Jack and I have been in this position in the past. In fact, we've been on both sides of the equation. Once, we were the richer couple (which caught us by surprise!) and invited another couple to meet us at a restaurant that was out of their price range. I'm so glad that they were completely honest about it and told us that they were on a really tight budget and couldn't swing it. I can promise you that neither Jack, nor I, thought a single negative thought about them. We were just glad that they spoke up, so that we could make an alternate plan and enjoy each other's company. Maybe that's why it was easy for us when the shoe was on the other foot: We were invited to a dinner out that would’ve cost as much as our last vacation. Needless to say, we politely declined, and it was no big whoop. But I know that Jack and I are way more open about money than most people, and honestly, our level of openness may seem tacky to outsiders.

So what about you? How would you handle it?

-- Holly

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