How to avoid financial comparison with friends and family

Money can be the source of tension in all kinds of relationships.

We’ve all been out for dinner with friends who earn more than us and felt uneasy when it comes to splitting the bill.

On a bigger scale, seeing your friends make big life changes – like buying a home – can make you feel inadequate and jealous if you’re not in the financial position to do the same.

This feeling of inadequacy can really affect your relationships – and it all stems form comparison. Seeing what someone else has, and worrying that what you have isn’t good enough.

Millennial finance specialist at Barclays, Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy, says financial comparison in friendships is really common, but we have to find ways to push back against it.

‘Comparing yourself to those around you, whether that’s family members, partners or siblings, is an easy behavioural pattern to fall into and it can feel especially painful when it’s regarding a close friend,’ Zainab tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Money can be one of the main sources of comparison and can become a prickly topic to navigate if the topic of money is making you feel less adequate or impacting your relationships.’

Whether there are big differences in the amount you earn, how you choose to spend your money, or how you talk about money, Zainab says it always feels like a delicate topic to discuss and can leave you feeling ‘uncomfortable, guilty, or resentful’.

‘Recognising this behaviour, and taking steps to focus on your own money priorities, achievements and goals can go a long way in making sure financial comparison doesn’t come between you and a friend,’ she adds.

How to break free of financial comparison

Get on top of your own finances

Getting to a place where you feel confident and comfortable with your financial means is an important step towards avoiding comparison with others. Zainab says a great way to do this is to identify your exact monthly outgoings.

‘This allows you to see a clear breakdown of your spending and helps you determine areas that can be cut down, whether that’s your weekly manicure sessions or numerous TV subscriptions,’ she says.

She also suggests writing down your goals.

‘Taking a pen and paper and jotting down where you see yourself now and in a few years’ time can make you feel more grounded and with clear goals in mind,’ she says.

‘By being able to visualise these, and setting your sight on them every day, you’ll find yourself more in tune with your own progress and future. This will help you avoid comparing yourself to others as you’ll be spending more time improving your own self-awareness.’

Communication is key

We will only make money talks less awkward and taboo my normalising them.

If you can’t afford a certain restaurant, tell your friend this. Suggest somewhere a bit more affordable, or offer to cook instead.

So often, feelings of shame around money and finances come from trying to hide things, and shutting down communication because you feel embarrassed. But there is no shame in operating on a different budget to somebody else.

You don’t know what kind of help or support each person has received to get them to where they are, and what you earn, or how much you have in your savings isn’t a reflection on your character, or how good a friend you are. So get used to being more open about what you can and can’t afford – especially with those closest to you.

Get professional financial advice

‘Don’t be afraid to seek advice when it comes to your finances,’ says Zainab.

‘Sometimes, saying things out loud can leave you feeling like a huge weight has come off your shoulders.

‘Whether you choose to discuss your financial goals with a friend, family member, or colleague, having these open conversations can bring to light the root of your problems; often giving you perspective as to why you’re comparing yourself to others and ways to combat it.’

Save, save, save

If it’s a possibility for you, work towards building on your savings. Even if it’s just a tiny amount per month. Having a little put aside for emergencies, or for fun things like holidays, can help you feel much more confident.

‘Nothing feels as good as having a savings pot, so it’s important to set yourself new, and realistic, saving goals to work towards,’ suggests Zainab.

‘Watching your savings grow will not only flood you with dopamine but it will give you that healthy feeling of stability that will reduce the temptation to compare your finances to others.’

Zainab suggests using a tool such as the Barclays Savings Goals, which will help you calculate the amount that you can realistically save each month, while also allowing you to track your progress.

Set spending boundaries

‘Speaking openly about how much money you can or can’t spend with those around you is key to keeping your bank balance in check while feeling in control and will nip those feelings of envy or inadequacy in the bud in the long run,’ Zainab says.

‘If your friends suggest an expensive activity that’s above your means, don’t be afraid to push back or suggest an alternative, cheaper option. It’s likely there’ll be others in the group secretly thankful for your transparency.’

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