Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Checkbook Friends

The invitations always follow the same format.  "Let's meet at [some expensive restaurant/resort] at 7:15 pm on Friday night.  I will make reservations.  [Some person you want to see] is coming as well, and I will see if [other person] and [other person] can make it."

Or join me at The University Club or some opening night performance, try out the new guest wing, see my new house on the island, have lunch at the yacht club, or take the new (old) 380SL for a spin.

And, it does not need to be said, that friend will insist on picking up the tab.

These are checkbook friends.  They are generous to a fault.  Some even pick up air fare and book blocks of hotel rooms.  They have vast social networks.  But every event, and in fact every conversation, is on their terms.   

These checkbook friends are always charming (often self-deprecating, describing themselves as "cranky" or "bossy").  They are genuinely valued friends.  And tremendous fun.  

And these relationships have their golden time, even if they eventually wind down.  

Offering to go Dutch seems like a solution, but trying to pull it off gets resentful glances.  Suggesting gatherings that don't involve bills also seems like a good idea but does not alter the trajectory of the more sponsored events.  

For many young people, having an older check-book friend (or relative) can be highly influential.

18 comments:

  1. Dear God, am I a "checkbook friend" after all...?

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  2. Ok, I’ll go first. Having been on the receiving end before, some gifts cost more than I wish to pay.

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  3. This all seems like a bit of an uncomfortable challenge. I have always been of the perspective that friends were people with whom I want to share time in my life. Accepting an invitation to an occasion or event at which I would feel awkward or ill at ease would not be enjoyable.

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  4. As a nearly 30 something, my view is that Venmo and the like have killed the social norms of reciprocity. I may be described as a checkbook friend, but that's only because I was raised that it's not an invitation if someone gets a bill for it. It's all about reciprocity. Yes, I may ask you to join me for breakfast at my club before work one day. Or out to dinner, or to visit me at my place on the beach. But I do so because I want *you* there and your company is the best gift I could ask. I certainly don't keep a tab or keep score. But invariably the best friendships, with those raised with good manners, will involve reciprocity. I may make this week's invite (and pick up the tab) and you'll make next week's (and pick up that tab). Always splitting and nickel and diming along the way kills the social norm of reciprocity. As long as there is good give and take on the social calendar, it will all balance out in the end.

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    1. This answer is, in my opinion, the best one. It’s how we live as well. My father was generous, almost to a fault. He always reached for his wallet first. He would not split a bill, but if a good friend (or even me) insisted on paying, he had the grace to smile and say thank you. Lovely man.

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    2. Thank you "Anon" for your balance and perspective. Friendship is based on enjoying one another's company and with that may come challenges but why invite them by keeping score. If you are not comfortable with reciprocating in the future, don't accept the invite. But reciprocity does not always entail money. It could be helping with a chore when your friend is sick or out of town. It could be a home cooked meal or a handwritten note. The important thing is being respectful and kind to each other.

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  5. Transactional relationships make me squirm.

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  6. I'm uncomfortable even letting ANY friend pay for an Uber we share.

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  7. Be gracious, say "thank you," and either accept or decline. If you would like to reciprocate, do so with something that is within your own means. A real friend will not keep score, and neither should you. And remember, it may very will be that your company and companionship are vastly more valuable to your friend than the cost of the tab they pick up to host you. Life is not about money. Stop thinking about it..

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  8. A checkbook/chequebook friend sounds like a wealthy narcissist to me.

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  9. Puts one in a rather difficult spot, trying the balancing act! Thanks once again!

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  10. I often used my workplace ethics rules (banking and government) to get out of such situations.

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  11. Sounds fine to me. They either like you or feel that you bring some positive element to their network. You can always say no.
    But if you say yes, you get to see the island/house/car/club and meet new people and then have a more robust sense of what you do or don't like, without tapping resources that you can then use to do what *you* like to do.
    Unless there are unspoken obligations - that's a hard no.
    And always have your own way home, just in case things tank.

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  12. We have summer friends in Maine that we enjoy having either lunch or dinner with. When it comes time to pay the bill, we give the server 2 credit cards, and split it evenly. We agree to a 20% tip ahead of time. An even split eliminates needless nickel and dimeing.

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  13. Good practice. You don’t want to have to answer questions like, “OK who ordered the Volkswagen?”

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  14. Beware of "friends who want something." Keep your "debts" low, or better yet, none. "Debts" have a way of becoming markers that get called in some day. The older we get, the more we learn who our real friends are, especially when going through difficult times.

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  15. I need some checkbook friends. Does anyone on this feel want to be my checkbook friend?

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  16. Nope. I don't participate in this kind of transactional relationship. We have enough of that in our lives without having it bleed over into our friendships. Resentments always grow, no matter what people say.

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