Friendship Economics

The friend penny jarHere’s a little something that I’d like to share with the world. It will make you a better friend and you’ll stop wasting your time on people that don’t value your friendship. I call it “The Friend Jar.” This idea has evolved over my years and I wish I employed it back when I was in High School.

The idea is: You view every friendship – male, female, romantic, platonic, employee, boss, couple, etc. as a jar of pennies. So you meet someone and the jar is created *poof. You make a gesture of friendship and your money goes into the jar. They make a return gesture and their money goes in. Now you don’t have to assign some actual number – just that some intrinsic value has been invested in the friendship. If they don’t take you up on your offer you lose your change (as in: the amount of time you have invested in the friendship is gone forever). Time is money after all. The jar can only grow when both friends are contributing. Some friendships, like future spouses, take gobs of effort and lots of change. Some friendships, like neighbors, only take a few pennies now and then and grow stronger over time.

You are invited for an event and you go and have a great time – their money in the jar, you reciprocate. You invite them to an event and they show up and have a great time – your money in the jar, they reciprocate. You probably already know when a friendship isn’t working or is one sided, but this will help you spot it a lot sooner. I usually give the jar 3 turns before I stop putting money in.

For example: You call up your friends and mention going out. They are too busy and can’t set a date. That’s okay, it happens. You run into them and suggest a movie night or other activity and they don’t show or forget and don’t call. People forget stuff. Now you are on your third round of putting some change in the jar without a return on investment. The jar is empty and you are about to lose more change. At this point you may want to make a big final effort. “What day should we go to that pastry shop that you love? Any day this week would be great!” Something that I know (from being friends) that they and I enjoy – that we could enjoy (as friends) together. :D

So, you go to the pastry shop, or play laser tag, or meet up in a brothel – whatever… :p You have a great time and as friends always say. “We should do that again!” Now is their turn. You are out of cash, my friend, and you’re not going to call them or email them until they call you. Nor should you try to arrange another meeting, get-together, gathering, etc. The ball is in their court. Time to ante up.

I will tell you that I can actually remember some of the final efforts I have made. Clearly my friendship was not that important – otherwise I would have got something in return. As I’ve only invested a small amount into the friendship, I’m not pissed when they never call and I run into them. Until they make some effort, they are wasting my time. When a friend does reciprocate, it’s even more special. That – “Hey we haven’t talked in a while. Why don’t we get together?” phone call or email is sweet and something I like to call “Money in the jar.” This concept works great with ‘couple friends’ and has weeded out and built some great friendships in the time we’ve been in California.

About The Author


Hardware hacker, technology integrator, and maker. He enjoys staring blankly at code, voiding the warranty, and touching things in the back. When not doing that he is building and racing a rally car.

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01 2008

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