Money

What's the true cost of friendship?

Turns out, your BFF will set you back a bit

Money is one of those taboo topics that long time friends still avoid. We might share intimate details about our sex life and battles at work, but so many people feel uncomfortable discussing money out of fear it will destroy their friendship.

This is particularly true where large income disparities make it awkward for mates to split the bill over dinner. You know that situation where someone says "I ordered the chicken skewers and a glass of tap water, you had all that sashimi and top-shelf sake".

Nothing builds resentment faster than money and politics. But it’s amazing how much importance people attribute to milestone gifts - 30th birthdays, weddings, baby showers - there’s a long list of must-have moments where a woman wants to celebrate in style with her friends.

Failing to afford an 'appropriate' gift may leave you feeling judged by others who think the price tag reflects the value of your friendship (remember that scene in Bridesmaids where Annie gives Lillian a box of her favourite things, only to upstaged by Helen's TRIP TO PARIS?!).

So how much should you expect to splash out on a good friend?

Research from TopCashback.co.uk says the average friendship lasting 20 years will set you back £7,910. Stay besties forever and you’ll end up spending £23,870.

In a survey of more that 2,000 UK adults, a third of people said they really went to town on milestone occasions, with birthdays alone costing £4,679.

Keeping in touch with mates abroad costs £276 a year - an expensive friendship to maintain, but there’s only so much love and empathy you can share over skype and social media.

Aside from the big events and friends scattered around the world, it’s the little things that add up, like helping a friend through a break-up (£168) and small gifts to spread some cheer (£242).

Only six per cent admitted to begrudging the amount they’ve spent, with a whopping 85 per cent saying their relationships are worth more than money.

Whilst it’s a relief that most Brits hold their friendships in higher esteem than their bank balance, being a social butterfly can put serious pressure on your finances.

Many people equate large friendship circles with success, particularly in professions where building contacts is part of your own 'brand'.

Leading anthropologist Robin Dunbar says the average person has a whopping 150 contacts in their social world (that’s almost £1.2m per year, we did the math). But you’ll be relieved to know this is the upper limit of acquaintances our brain can cope with. Most people have an inner circle of five friends and a second layer of 10 mates and family members who get invited to important social events.

Seems reasonable but worth contemplating the next time you do a budget. Turns out your BFF costs almost as much as your rent.

If you’ve got the opposite problem of feeling a bit isolated, you can always rent a friend from £18.90 a month or £8 an hour.

The US website (now available in the UK) was born years ago during the online dating boom. Entrepreneur Scott Rosenbaum realised platonic friendship was an untapped market, especially in big cities like London where it can be difficult to meet new people.

Italian born Ellie Coden, 32, is a friend for hire on the site.

She told The Times: "I can see why it’s popular because it’s so hard to meet people in London." But "if I get on well with someone and they become a friend, I wouldn’t ask to be paid."

The fine print stresses: RentAFriend.com is NOT a dating website, and NOT an Escort agency. Services on RentAFriend.com are strictly for FRIENDSHIP purposes only.

Some of the pouty photos and promises to deliver "the time of your life" suggest otherwise. But for people like Ellie, paying for friendship (unlike love) may actually lead to a long and lasting relationship.

It’ll just set you back a membership fee on top of the milestone gifts.

Closer magazine cover