You be the judge: should my best friend be more mindful of my lower income?

The prosecution: Michelle

She’s richer, more money-focused, and a bit obsessive over spending

I have known Lily since we were 15. We have grown up together, really. But now, aged 29, we have really different attitudes to money. Lily has got a bit more bougie as we’ve grown older and I’ve gone in the opposite direction. It might have to do with the people we hang around with – Lily has a posher group of friends linked to her fiance. They all go on safari holidays together whereas I’m single and probably won’t ever do those types of trips.

Recently on Lily’s hen do I saw how much we’ve diverged. She’s very generous and paid for a lot of meals and activities, but there were times she wanted us to go somewhere super fancy that was totally out of my budget. One time I suggested going to a cheaper hotel for a pool day instead of one which was almost £70 a head, but she pushed back and said “everyone’s earning six figures – we can afford the fancy one”. I think she forgot that I’m on less than half that.

She is also a bit more anal with money than me. When we’ve gone on holidays together in the past, she wanted to add everything religiously to the Splitwise app (which keeps track of expenses and gives you a total of who owes what at the end). Lily says it’s the fairest way, but I feel it takes away from the experience of travelling together. We will be abroad and she will stop in the middle of the street to add a £1 bottle of water into the app, when I don’t actually care. It all comes out in the wash. You get a meal and I get a meal. It’s balance. What’s £20 between friends anyway?

I don’t want to spend my trip tallying up pennies. I trust that our spending is pretty equal and I know Lily trusts me. But maybe she doesn’t want to risk being out of pocket at all? I don’t know. I think she’s really careful with money even though, to me, she has quite a lot of it. She thinks I’m too slapdash.

Look at how our lives have panned out, I can see that she’s more money-focused than me. She likes the finer things in life. We both come from fairly middle-class families, but I guess I don’t care as much about fancy brands and keeping up with other people’s opinions, whereas I would say Lily definitely does.

The defence: Lily

I don’t want money to come between us, but I prefer to track my spending

With my hen do I guess I was wrapped up in the mania of it all. You want everyone to have a good time. Michelle was my oldest friend there and responsible for putting it together. I really appreciated that but I also added a lot of money to the kitty to make sure everyone’s cost was lower. I think, when it came to going to a fancier hotel, I wanted everyone to have a good time. I didn’t know Michelle had a problem with the cost. But I should have been more thoughtful.

I think that when you travel, Splitwise is the best way to sort everything. Everyone knows exactly where they stand and there’s no messing about at the end. Michelle says it disrupts the flow of the trip, but in the past when we travelled without Splitwise in Australia for a month, Michelle didn’t keep track of anything. She’d say, “It doesn’t matter – you get one, I get one.” But then you never know who owes what. It’s not that I’m tight, but I think it’s better for both of us if we keep track.

After Australia I remember Michelle sending me an online banking request for a random amount three months later. That was annoying and certainly less accurate than totting it up as you go. I just handed over the amount because I don’t like to argue, but I was like, “How did you get to that total?” She couldn’t remember and neither could I. And it’s because we didn’t track anything. I’d rather do it all as we go and then there’s no surprises. It’s much fairer.

I do think we have different attitudes to money. I don’t think about it as much because I work in tech and earn way more than Michelle, who works in a creative field. I wouldn’t want money to come between us as we have known each other for years. Me and Lily have lots of mutual friends who didn’t go to private school like my partner. Our lives have gone down different paths, but I like to think we can still hang out and travel on the same wavelength, like when we were teenagers.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Lily be more aware of Michelle’s financial position?

Paying for fancy things a friend can’t afford risks making them feel like they’re a charity case. Lily should get over herself and agree to cheaper places.
Aidan, 32

Lily can’t help earning more, but if she wants their friendship to endure she needs to choose activities they can both afford.
Jackson, 25

Michelle says Lily is essentially generous and happy to pay. The Splitwise issue is trivial compared with that core truth – so she’s not guilty.
Danielle, 48

Lily should treat her friend when she wants to splash out, but Michelle can compromise by keeping track of costs.
Sara, 53

I suspect this case is not really about the money. As Lily says, it’s about two lives going down different paths, so the most important thing is for them to be open and honest with each other to maintain a healthy friendship.
Caetano, 39

Now you be the judge

In our online poll, tell us: should Lily be more aware of Michelle’s financial position?

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