Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “Bestie Budget Problems”

This week, R. Eric Thomas and Nadira Goffe discuss a Prudie letter: “Bestie Budget Problems

R. Eric Thomas: Hi Nadira! What did you think about our letter writer’s problem (and also their seemingly luxurious European lifestyle)?

Nadira Goffe: Well, I’m definitely jealous of the lifestyle. The friend issues? Not so much! I actually found this really frustrating. I think that there are many factors that aren’t being considered here, but I definitely agree with the original advice.

Eric: Yeah, I try to assume the best often, but it seemed to me that the LW’s benevolence about their financial planning skills was kind of short-sighted. Like, it’s clear there’s tension with the old friends there, and I’d guess that this money stuff has been an issue for a lot longer.

Nadira: Yeah, absolutely! This is definitely something that has been simmering for a while now. In whose pot, it might be hard to say, but this isn’t new! And I don’t think the solution is to …
host Finances 101 for your friends? When has telling someone how to spend their money ever been the path of least resistance? I think my larger frustration is also with the lack of recognition around European and (I’m assuming) American life.

Capitalism in America is a very different beast. Of course, it exists in many places. But it’s really hard to tell your friends not to care about luxury cars when that’s how the mothers in the cul-de-sac show their “worth” or “value.” It’s hard not to want to Keep Up With the Joneses, as it were. And it seems like the LW has found a really great community in an area where those things are less important. Which is great! But not the reality of everyone everywhere.

Eric: That’s a fantastic point. It’s not so simple as “prioritizing” one lifestyle over the other.
The LW seems to be ignoring the fact that you can’t just live your Eat, Pray, Love life in the middle of an American city.

Nadira: Right, exactly! I don’t know where the LW’s home base is, but it might not have the fantastic Metro or Bus system that’s in other European cities, and so on. Of course I’m speculating, but it’s an important frame to consider when you’re evaluating someone’s spending.

Eric: Context is the key here (and everywhere tbh). I wonder how much the LW actually knows about the specifics of their friends’ lives and how much they’re simply overlaying their choices and circumstances. It seems like a bad fit.

Let me ask you: Have you ever gone to a friend for financial advice?

Nadira: Man, I’m a mid-twenty-something graduate student. My finances are between me, the powers that be, and my mom. Which is to say, no. Haha! But! I have expressed financial concerns with my friends—we all have them.

Eric: LOL! I hear you on your mom being part of that cohort!

Nadira: Mom’s know all! The thing about my friends is: We’re all in the same boat. So there’s much less judgement. Which leads me to another note—I would maybe prioritize finding a new circle of friends? In the country the LW actually lives in, who would be more accustomed to the culture of that place.

Eric: That stuck out to me, too. I wonder how much contact this old group of friends and LW have with each other now anyway. Some of the tension may come from having a friend who is all about their European life randomly interjecting in the American group. It can be hard to start a new life, but that’s essentially what the LW has already done.

Nadira: It’s like being that one kid who studied abroad in Rome and talked about it incessantly, thus immediately incurring eye-rolls from all of their friends. (It’s me, that one kid was me.)

Eric: Hahaha, I was never that kid but I sometimes turn into that adult talking about a vacation I just took. No one needs all that information. And if they want to know, they’ll ask.

Nadira: I had every good intention. But that’s absolutely correct, if they wanted to know? They would ask. There’s nothing wrong with keeping friends from earlier, and perhaps humbler, beginnings. But there’s certainly nothing wrong with branching out, either. We all do it. There’s a time and a place and an audience for certain needs, worries, and conversations. And it seems like finances might need to be a topic for a different group! And if that means that sharing your travel stories and experiences also needs to be for a different group, then so be it!

Eric: So be it! Find your people!