Audrey is a mother to a 16-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son. She probably should have taken into account who she was marrying (Osher Günsberg) much earlier, as she’s far more comfortable behind the camera as a freelance hair and makeup artist, than a TV host’s wife who doesn’t know how to work her angles for any on-camera duties.
Audrey loves to cook, decorate cakes, gardening, DIY and is very handy with a flat-pack, few of which you would pay her to do for you, but she’d happily give it a shot for free.
My friend is driving me around the bend with how stingy she’s become. It’s a tricky time for a lot of people, I’m well aware, but it seems that her reluctance to spend money on birthdays, weddings or any celebration has spiralled out of control, please help! She’s got a pretty well-paid job at a bank and hasn’t really been affected by the pandemic at all, which is making me angrier at what she’s become.
Take for instance a dinner our friends had been planning for weeks which finally went ahead recently The wine was flowing, share plates were coming out left, right and centre and everybody was finally letting loose after a hard year. Then things took a turn when we went to pay the bill. My friend decided she was only paying for the food and wine she had consumed, even though the rest of us had agreed to split the bill evenly. Obviously that was a nightmare to sort out and extremely awkward.
Last year she asked me to look after her plants when she went overseas, which initially sounded like a bit of a treat for me as she lives in a beautiful coastal home, but it soon became a chore having to drive there every day to make sure they were watered. The day she was due to come back home she told me she had left a bottle of wine as a thank you gift for me. I looked in the fridge and there was a bottle of chardonnay, which she knows I can’t stomach. So I opened a cupboard and a bottle of shiraz in a pretty party bag stood out. I presumed that was for me so I took it. Next day, she texted me saying that she had actually received the shiraz as a gift and I was supposed to take the chardonnay. Instead of just letting it go, she asked for it back.
I could go on, as she’s got on the wrong side of a lot of our friends in the past few years, even asking one of them if their photographer husband could photograph her wedding so she wouldn't have to fork out thousands for a professional. I’m afraid one day I’m going to explode at her as her stinginess is leading to a lot of pent up anger and bitterness on my part. How do I address this without putting too much of a strain on our relationship?
When reading your question, my first response was not very sympathetic towards your stingy friend. Thankfully I’ve not had much personal experience with people like her, but I can only imagine the bad taste left in your mouth after a night out with this friend.
After my initial reaction, I had to take a step back and reconsider what might be motivating her to be behaving like that. At first glance, she may look like she’s got financial security and a job impervious to the instability that COVID has brought to our lives, but perhaps that is merely an image that she’s projecting.
Who knows what state her finances truly are in? She may have inherited some debt from a previous relationship, or have an issue with gambling, or a shopping addiction (we can all sympathise to some extent) that she’s hidden from you. The reasons for her behaviour could be anything. Either way, there’s always that possibility that there’s more going on than she is letting on. The other option is that perhaps she just tends towards self-centredness, but let’s try to look with empathy and compassion - after all, wouldn’t we want that to be the way others looked at us?.
I can understand how frustrating it is when you and the rest of your friends have a different attitude towards your friendship benefitting spending. There’s nothing worse than having a fun mood dampened by the auditing of a bill at the end of dinner. It’s generally been my experience that when the bill comes, we split it by the number of people there. Or if we have any non-drinkers, we split the food part so we can get their total, and the balance gets split amongst the remaining friends. I have a couple of girlfriends that almost fight over who is getting the bill, and eventually the triumphant one can tap the card machine, assured that come the next Yum Cha, we will go through the same process but there’ll most likely be a different victor, and it all comes out in the wash in the end.
To answer your question as to whether or not to confront your girlfriend about her stinginess, I think that depends on whether you’ve done a little investigating. I’m sure you’re able to chat with her and find out how she is truly doing during COVID, and determine how much of her financial success is real or not. If you think she’s actually doing ok, then I think that the best time to chat with her about her actions at group dinners, or her seeming lack of generosity in return for your friendship is just prior to your next group gathering. There’s not much point bringing it up too far ahead of that occasion, as having it more present in her mind will probably help her to remember to check her behaviour prior to the meal. Or if she seems particularly against doing the even split, suggest that she starts a bill for herself at the start of the meal, before the wine and the share plates start flowing. You could even frame it as a more convenient way for her to track her spending.
The last suggestion I have is to accept your friend’s behaviour as a major personality trait and a clear example of her values. It’s ok for us as individuals to have different values, however, recognising them and adjusting our responses and our expectations accordingly certainly makes life much easier. If you’re set on the idea of keeping this friend in your life, perhaps a different sort of gathering would be a better way to avoid the frustration and resentment caused by her relationship to spending. Choose a dinner venue where you pay as you go, like at a pub or bar that has a decent dining room. Really, just choose anywhere that you can avoid the share plate.
When it comes to doing this miserly friend favours, if it makes you feel good to help her, then do it - but lower your expectations of gratitude from her in return. The only person we can reasonably expect to change is ourselves, so holding on to the idea that confronting your girlfriend with the truth of her behaviour in the hope that it will change the way she does things is extremely optimistic, and will set you up for disappointment.
So, that change can start with the language you use to describe her and her relationship to money. Instead of thinking of her as your “stingy” friend - she could be your friend who’s “lovely, and very careful with her money”. Slowly as your view of her changes - you might be surprised how much easier she is to be around.