157. How to Set Financial Boundaries for Weddings, Family, Friends, and more

May 16, 2024

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“When it comes to setting financial boundaries, you have to figure out what those boundaries are — and you also need to listen to them.”

Do you ever find yourself saying “yes” to dinners, trips, or events that you can’t really afford? Do you feel pressured to invest in your friend’s MLM or attend a destination wedding that will break the bank? 

In this episode, we dive deep into the uncomfortable topic of money and relationships. We provide practical tips and scripts on how to navigate tricky situations, from declining extravagant invitations to breaking up with your financial advisor. We’ll even tackle the controversial topic of weddings and the insane expectations they often come with. 

So if you’re ready to learn how to build healthy boundaries in your relationships and navigate tricky financial situations with grace and confidence — tune in to the full episode and put the following tips into practice!

Key takeaways:

  • Master the “gratitude sandwich” communication technique to politely decline requests while still expressing your appreciation.
  • Remember that no is a complete sentence. Don’t overcomplicate things. Sometimes a simple “no” is all you need.
  • Be transparent (but not brutally honest). Share your financial limitations with your friends in a kind and understanding way.)
  • Remember – it’s not about them, it’s about you. Remind yourself and your friends that your financial boundaries are about your needs and priorities, not a reflection on your relationship.
  • Set expectations early. When planning trips with friends, discuss the budget and how costs will be split upfront.

Notable Quotes

“If you have any sort of friendship that is worth keeping, your friend is not going to be mad at you for asserting your boundaries.” 

“I don’t want my friends to feel like they have to spend money in order to show that they love me.” 

“If you’re loaning somebody money, it’s with the expectation that you will not see it again.”


≫ 03:13 Navigating financial boundaries with friends

≫ 07:06 Setting boundaries on trips

≫ 11:08 Managing expectations for weddings

≫ 15:37 Saying no to MLMs 

≫ 17:55 Breaking up with your financial advisor

≫ 20:48 Conclusion – embracing financial boundaries for healthier relationships

Feeling Overwhelmed? Start here!

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Tori Dunlap:

Hello Financial Feminist. Welcome to the show. I have a fun thing that happened to me last night that I have to tell you about. So our partnerships manager is literally, probably right now, giving birth, is pushing a baby out right now. And this is our first team member who has had a baby while working at HFK, who has gone on mat leave. And we’re so excited for her. And she both requested it and also we were like, “We’re doing this.” We have a group chat going of just encouragement and just hype. And so last night, because of course I sent her Push by Salt-N-Pepa, “Ah, push it.” Because of course. And then I also sent her Push It to The Limit by Corbin Bleu. You remember that song? “Push it, push it, to the limit, limit, because we’re in it to win it, in it to win it. Oh, yeah.”

We might have to cut some of that because of copyright. But banger of a song. You guys remember that song? So I had not forgotten that song existed, but was just like, “Oh yeah, that song.” And I went to his first album, which is called, I couldn’t even remember the name of it. Hold on, give me a second. What’s his album called? It was Never Let Go. Another Side. That was the first Corbin Bleu album. Another Side. And I owned this album, I don’t know what age, I was probably 12, 13. I have not listened to Corbin Bleu’s Another Side in, yeah, probably since about that age, 13, 14. I start playing it.

I remember every single word to every single song. It wasn’t even an album that at least I thought I had soaked in that much, but it just reminded me how crazy brains are that it’s now 15 years later and I’m trying to learn languages and be a sophisticated person and remember things that are important and my brain has decided, no, we’re not going to remember how to do that thing in French that’s really important to you when you travel, we’re going to remember Deal With It and Roll With You and We Come To Party, which are real song titles, and Homework by Corbin Bleu.

So I don’t know if this has been your experience. I just feel like when you’re young and you’re a sponge, and also for someone who’s musically inclined, I don’t know, I just soaked it all up. I know fun facts about boys I had crushes on and celebrities I had crushes on. Their exact birthdays and their favorite cereals and I’m like, “I don’t need to know this.” But it stayed. So that’s what’s going on with me and Corbin Bleu. And we’re wishing Taylor, our partnerships manager, all the best in her labor and delivery. Hopefully she is pushing it to the limit.

Okay. Today on the show we are talking about financial boundaries. This is a question or a concept that we get asked about a lot, which is, “My friends asked me to do this thing, but I can’t afford it, but I don’t want my friend to feel like I’m a bad friend.” Or, “I can afford it, but I don’t really want to go. And how do I actually stick up for myself while not pissing people off and ruining my friendships and ruining my relationships?” So let’s talk about a couple of the instances where we see these things come up a lot. I’m going to save weddings for later because weddings are the big one. We’re going to build up to weddings. The first is going out to dinner or going out to an activity. So we’ve all been there where your friend says, “Oh my God, I would love to see you.” And you go, “Yes, I would love to see you too.”

And she goes, “Let’s go get dinner.” And maybe that’s just enough where you’re like, “I can’t afford or don’t want to spend my money on going out to dinner.” Or she does the, let’s go out to this dinner that is way more expensive or way beyond the budget you had set. And now you’re like, “Shit. What do I do? I don’t want her to feel like I’m a bad friend, but I also don’t want to be resentful.” So what do you do? The answer to what do you do in all of these instances is going to be pretty much the same. But if you have any sort of friendship that is worth keeping, your friend is not going to be mad at you for asserting your boundaries. So if I have a friend who is asking me to either do something I don’t want to do, that costs money, maybe that is go to a hockey game and we’re not going to get cheap seats, we’re going to get suite seats, and I’m like, “I don’t want to spend my money on that, that doesn’t feel worth it for me.”

Or it’s that dinner and it’s too expensive. What we’re going to do with all of this is a lovely gratitude sandwich. The feedback sandwich is always my favorite thing. The pieces of bread are positive. The meat is the thing you’re scared to say. So if Kristen is asking me to go to a really expensive thing that I don’t want to do, I’m going to be like, “Thank you so much for inviting me. I would love to see you. That is not in my budget right now.” And then offer an alternative thing. “But we could go get drinks or I could have you over for dinner or I would love to go to that hockey game with you, but I don’t want to spend my money on those seats. Can we find something cheaper?” Or if you really just don’t like hockey, you can be like, “I don’t want to spend my money there. I don’t really like hockey. But I love you, so can we do something else?”

That’s always what this comes down to is giving an alternate example or an alternate suggestion and reminding the person that it’s not about them. It’s not about, “I don’t want to see you, I don’t love you.” And this is where my abandonment issues come in immediately. But it’s not about that. It’s about, “Hey, I either can’t afford that. It’s not in my budget right now.” And by the way, that’s a full sentence. It’s not in my budget right now, period. Now if your friends, hopefully you’ve been transparent about money, they know you have a little bit of money, you might not be able to say, it’s not in my budget right now. You might just want to say, “That’s not a priority for where I want to spend my money right now.”

Or just be like, “I don’t want to spend my money there. Can we do something else? That seems like a lot of money, that’s more money than I want to spend. Can we do something else?” So this is the perfect response to, okay, you’ve asked to go out to dinner, maybe the dinner’s too fancy, too expensive or you’ve been asked to do an activity that’s too expensive or that you just don’t want to do. So that’s the first thing. Let’s talk about… Wow, I just saw Kristen’s MLM, we’ll get there. But she’s like, “Okay, can we talk about when your friend wants you to join an MLM?” Yeah, we’ll talk about that in a second. Okay, trips with friends. This is the elevated version, which is, “Okay, we’re not just going to go out to dinner, we’re going to go to Cabo for a week.” First of all, try to be involved in as much of the trip planning from jump as you can. Because I think that this is where things get really sticky.

It’s like friends getting inserted when the location and the hotel and the vibes have already been set and then you realize, oh shit, Cabo sounded great, but it doesn’t sound great for my bank account. So try to be in there as soon as you can and starting to insert your opinion, make some plans. One, that’s going to help out a lot. That’s just the nice thing to do, I think. And then two, you’re not stressed later where the vibe’s already been set and you’re like, “Actually, I don’t like the vibe.” So get in early. Second thing, very similar to, “I can’t afford this dinner, I can’t afford…” I don’t know why I’m picking on hockey. I don’t want to go to a hockey game, guys, I’m good. “I don’t want to go to this hockey game. I don’t want to go to this dinner. It’s too expensive.”

It’s just like, “Hey, again, I would love to go to Cabo with you, that sounds great, but I can’t sit in first class. I don’t have the budget to do that.” Or, “I love this hotel and man, I would love to stay there someday, but I can’t afford it right now. Can we find something else?” Or, “Hey, are you willing to split the cost of this thing?” Hotel rooms, the nice thing about staying with friends is typically you’re splitting the cost. But please be transparent and actually ask. Because my third thing is what gets people in trouble is you’re already on the trip and none of you have talked about how you’re actually going to split the cost of things. If somebody’s like, “Hey, we can go on this day cruise.” And everybody’s like, “Yes.” Some people assume, oh, the person who brought it up is the person who’s going to pay for it. That might not be the case.

So this is where financial transparency is really important and it can be scary, but just ask really quick, “Hey, how do you want us to split this?” Or, “What are your expectations for the cost of this thing?” And again, any friend who is worth having is going to sit down and have an actual conversation with you about it. This is what Christina and I do every time we’re going on Friend Moon. Because we’re now in two different tax brackets, I make more money than she does.

Sometimes I am the person who is the, “Hey, can we stay in this nicer hotel?” And she sets a boundary or she says, “I would love to stay with you in that hotel, but I can’t split this cost 50/50. So if this is something that’s really important to you, would you mind covering a bigger percentage?” And usually I’m just the person who’s saying that now because I know her well enough, I can see it in her eyes where I’m like, “Hey, let’s go stay here.” And she has this look of panic and I go, “I can cover 60% or 70% of it. Or I’ll pay for two nights if you’re okay paying for one.” So have a conversation, set expectations. And larger conversation about just budgeting in general.

I think our friends are well-intentioned. We want to spend time with them, we want to have great experiences, I think especially around travel and food and entertainment. We want to go see every concert. We want to go to every football game. We want to go to every place that somebody is inviting us to. And sometimes you’ve got to pick and choose. Sometimes it might mean, okay, I’m just going to go on one trip a year, that’s nicer. Or, okay, I’ll go to three trips, but it’s slightly less nice. I’m staying in slightly less nice hotels. Or I’m in the middle seat in economy as opposed to premium economy. So you just have to know your budget too. And this is why, listen to the rest of the episodes of this podcast, but why knowing your numbers is really important if you’re going to start setting these boundaries.

Okay, weddings. Let’s talk about it. You knew it was coming. Here’s the deal. I’m just going to go on a quick rant. We can cut this to put it on Instagram. Weddings are fucking expensive. They have gotten completely out of hand. Everybody’s talking about it. Alex Cooper Call Her Daddy is talking about it. And if she’s talking about, you know it’s a problem. Weddings are so goddamn expensive. And the expectation a lot of brides have for people is bonkers, insane. It’s no longer just a wedding, but it’s also a bachelorette party, not just one day or not just local. It’s like we’re going for an entire weekend or an entire week to some international destination. And there’s also the bridal shower and there’s gifts and oh, maybe there’s weekend or a couple of days before the wedding too. And if you’re in the wedding party, it’s so fucking expensive.

But even if you’re just attending a wedding, things are just really pricey. This might be a controversial opinion. If you have a destination wedding, if your wedding is in Hawaii or Mexico or Italy. If I’m getting married, I do not expect a gift from you. You paying your flight and your hotel is the gift. Your presence is a present. I don’t need another gift from you. Again, I know that I can see the comments already, but I think it’s insane to also expect, as someone who’s getting married, that okay, I’m going to make this destination wedding, which is in your right, but then to go, “Oh, I also expect a gift from you.” The gift is the cost of all of the travel and all of the planning and all of the shenanigans and the hotel and everything else. So, no. Let’s just talk about wedding party for a second.

The cost of being a bridesmaid, absolutely crazy. Especially for some weddings. If you have been asked to be a bridesmaid and you know just right off the top that you cannot afford it, you are allowed to say no. And it’s not a bad thing. I feel like women don’t know that they are allowed to say, “I love you and I can’t do this.” Especially for being a bridesmaid. Because it’s the biggest day of your friend’s life and it’s so exciting and you have been bequeathed to this honor of being in the bridal… You’re allowed to say no. You’re allowed to say no. So what does that look like? If you just fully know that either you don’t have the time to dedicate to being a bridesmaid or you don’t have the money or both. You can literally just say, again, we’re going to sandwich it.

“Oh my God, I’m so honored that you asked me. Your friendship means so much to me, I’m so excited for you to get married. This is such a big day. I just don’t have the bandwidth right now to be able to support this and to be able to show up for you in the best way possible. And I don’t have the budget to be in a wedding party right now. But anything I can do to help, I would love to take you out to celebrate, and I will be there with bells on supporting you. And I would love to attend your wedding.” There we go. There’s your response. Now, if you want to be a bridesmaid, but you can’t do all of it, you do a version of this which is, “Oh, so honored, so thankful, love you, love this. I am happy to come to the bachelorette party or the bachelorette weekend or the bachelorette month long extravaganza, but if I do that, I’m not going to be able to afford to get you a separate gift or to come to your bridal shower.”

Again, you have to figure out what this looks like. What can you afford versus what can’t you afford? Or you can say, “If it is a weekend away at a cabin within a two-hour distance of where we’re at, I’m so down to do that. But if it’s an international trip for your bachelorette party, I would be happy to be in the wedding party, but I can’t afford that. I can’t be there for that. I’m not going to be able to afford to get you a separate gift or to come to your bridal shower.”

Again, you have to figure out what this looks like. What can you afford versus what can’t you afford? Or you can say, “If it is a weekend away at a cabin within a two-hour distance of where we’re at, I’m so down to do that. But if it’s an international trip for your bachelorette party, I would be happy to be in the wedding party, but I can’t afford that. I can’t be there for that. I can’t afford a trip to Mexico. I can’t afford a trip to California right now, so unfortunately I’m going to have to politely decline. But I am so thrilled for you and if there’s anything I can do to help, you let me know.”

Let’s talk about multi-level marketing companies. Or when your friend asks you, cue The Office at the dinner party where Michael asks Andy and Jim to invest in Jan’s candle company. “And just for $10,000, you can be part owner in Serenity by Jan.” Yeah, somebody asks you to join an MLM, somebody asks you to invest in their company. You’re always, at least for MLMs, you are saying no. You’re saying no 100% of the time. We have done MLMs two, three episodes on the show about how predatory and toxic and bad MLMs are. 99% of people who join MLMs lose money.

You are not, not supporting your friend in entrepreneurship, because that’s always what happens is we get comments being like, “I thought you supported women.” And I’m like, “I do support women. I don’t support predatory structures. I don’t support things that actually literally prey on women and take women’s money for no actual results.” So you’re always going to say no to MLMs. Always, always. When you get the, “Hey, boss babe,” from the person you barely remember going to high school with, you’re going to say no. In terms of investing in a company, I leave that up to you. I don’t know. Do you have the money? Do you have the bandwidth? Is it a smart investment? Maybe? It’s probably not.

Adjacent to this. When somebody asks you for money, we’ve talked about this on the show before, if somebody asks you for money, asks you to borrow money, asks you to loan them money. If you choose to loan them money, you’re giving them a gift. Do not expect to get that money back. So if you’re comfortable loaning somebody money, and by loaning I mean giving somebody money with the expectation that you will never give it back, no matter how much they promise you that they will.

Okay. I would just say as a blanket rule, try not to loan people money. It just gets really weird. It gets really awkward every time somebody spends money on something that isn’t paying you back, you then get resentful and you’re like, “They owe me money though.” And I would just, blanket statement, try not to. It’s just weird. And if you are going to do it, try to put a contract in place. That’s the first thing. We’ve all seen Judge Judy, we’ve all seen how that goes. You need to have it signed, otherwise it is a gift. If you’re loaning somebody money, it’s with the expectation you will not see it again. So do it with that what you will.

Last financial boundary that we get a lot, which is, how do I break up with my financial advisor? We had a Q&A call in about this, so I’m going to keep a brief. They are providing you a service. You are paying for said service. If you realize that you do not like the service anymore, do not want the service anymore, no matter who this person is, you’re allowed to say, “I don’t want the service anymore.” If you don’t like how they did your nails last time, you can stop going to that nail salon. If you did not like… I’m trying to think of… You get it. I don’t need more examples of this.

Same thing with a financial advisor. You’re allowed to say no. So I think what I said last time and what I’ll say this time, again, sandwich. “Thank you so much for all of your hard work for me and for hopefully teaching me more about money and just being a great resource for me. I am choosing to move my money elsewhere and I will be ending our contract of services effective, whatever date.” That’s maybe even too formal. You can just say, “I am choosing to work with somebody differently or I’m going to manage my own investments. And I really appreciate your help. If there’s anything I need to do in terms of transferring accounts, making sure that my money’s all in one place, let me know. Thank you again. Sincerely, your name.” It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

With all of these, a couple of quick things. No is a complete sentence. You can also say things without ruining friendships or without ruining relationships. You setting boundaries is actually really healthy for a relationship and healthy for you and healthy for living your authentic truth. And it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad friend. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad partner. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad client. It means that you’re advocating for yourself and what you need and anybody who is upset at that is not a good friend. Now, if you’re the person who’s out here just like, “Fuck you. No, I can’t afford that and I don’t want to attend your wedding and I don’t like the person you’re marrying.” Which is sometimes what I want to say. You’re not going to do that. But if you’re the person who’s just like, “You know what? I can’t afford it.” Anybody will respect that.

And the last thing I would want if I was getting married or if I was asking somebody out to dinner or to go to a concert with me is to have them go into credit card debt to afford the thing or to go into significant or even minor financial hardship just to prove that they love me. I don’t want that for you. That’s not healthy. And that’s not me talking as a financial expert, that’s literally me talking as a friend. I don’t want my friends to feel like they have to spend money in order to show that they love me. And if they are overextending themselves, that’s the exact opposite of what I want. So when it comes to setting financial boundaries, you have to figure out what those boundaries are and you also need to listen to them.

Because too many people go, “I can’t afford it. I can’t fucking afford this, but I’m just going to do it anyway because life’s too short and it’s fine.” You think that’s just going to be it though, until you’re paying that credit card debt off and until you become a little resentful and bitter after and until you realize that maybe this has affected your friendship or has affected your relationship. So set your boundaries, be kind in setting those boundaries, kind but firm, and also don’t look back. Don’t feel guilty about it. This is something that’s really important for your friendship, but also for your financial health and is something that you have to get comfortable doing because you’ll do it for the rest of your life.

So let us know if there’s any other instances where you’ve had to set a financial boundary. If any of this was helpful, feel free to share it with a… I was just going to say, sub tweet your friend who’s getting married and it costs $100,000, send this episode to them. No, but have a conversation. Have conversations with your friends. Be open and as transparent as you’re willing and able to be about money. And no is a complete sentence. Thank you for being here. As always, thank you for your support of the show. I hope you have a kick ass week. And we’ll talk to you later.

Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist, a Her First $100K podcast. Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap. Produced by Kristen Fields. Associate producer Tamisha Grant. Research by Ariel Johnson. Audio and video engineering by Alyssa Midcalf. Marketing and operations by Karina Patel, Amanda Leffew, Elizabeth McCumber, Masha Bakhmetyeva, Taylor Chou, Kailyn Sprinkle, Sasha Bonar, Claire Kurronen, Daryl Ann Ingman, and Jenell Riesner. Promotional Graphics by Mary Stratton. Photography by Sarah Wolf. And theme Music by Jonah Cohen Sound. A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting this show. For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests and episode show notes, visit financialfeministpodcast.com.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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