MONEY

How to Tell a Wealthy Friend You Can’t Afford to Vacation Together

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Can't afford to travel with your rich pal? Don't just grin and bear it. DavidF—Getty Images

A disparity in income can put strain on a friendship. You've got to say something, pronto.

Your flush friends have been pressuring you to book tickets to Belize with them this summer, and have been talking up the five-star resort where they always stay—where rooms start at $500 a night.

They say “beachfront dining!” and you hear “$35 entrees.”

They say, “Wouldn’t it be fun to fly first class together?”… and you think you hear your wallet crying.

Trying to keep up with a wealthy pal’s spending not only creates anxiety for you—it can also put a serious strain on your friendship.

“This really is a litmus test of a relationship,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and co-author of Mind Over Money. “When you’re on a different socioeconomic level there’s a natural tendency to drift away. To stay close, you have to have a conversation about it.”

That means honesty. Here’s how to break it to your buddies that you can’t keep pace with their haute holiday:

YOU SAY: “I love spending time with you, so I’ve been thinking a lot about that vacation you mentioned.”

Open the conversation on a positive note, reinforcing how much you value the friendship. “Start by talking about how important the friend is to your life,” says Klontz.

Make sure that your friend knows you’re not trying to make him or her feel guilty.

But you should also make sure she understands you’ve thought deeply about this. That way she’ll know your decision is firm and not impulsive, says Maggie Baker, a psychologist specializing in money and relationships.

YOU SAY: “My major financial goal right now is to save up to buy a house. That means I need to cut back on my spending. This vacation isn’t in my budget.”

“Help them understand your interests and your constraints in a clear fashion,” says Marty Latz, a negotiation expert and author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want.

That doesn’t mean you need to give them an all-access pass into your financial life. Simply look for one specific reason you can’t spend the money on this right now. If you’re saving for a major purchase or need to focus on paying off loans, your friend may get a clearer picture of why you’re skipping out on the fun.

But beware of insinuating that you think the trip is a waste of money.

“Her spending may be totally aligned with her budget,” says Klontz. “You don’t want to give her any indication you think she’s being frivolous.”

YOU SAY: “When you’re back, we should really check out that free concert in the park.”

Be proactive—make it a priority to invite your friend to events that you can afford. You’ll send the message that you care about preserving your friendship, despite your financial constraints.

“You want to avoid giving her the problem to fix,” says Klontz. “She’s not going to know what to do, and she’ll feel guilty. Always make a counter offer.”

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