A Friend in Debt Needs Your Support, Not Your Charity
The dos and don'ts of helping a friend in debt.
Debt can kill friendships — or at least make them incredibly rocky. I have friends in three categories: in debt and making repayment, not in debt, and in debt but totally unfazed by it. Naturally, my relationship varies with each friend, depending on the person’s situation.
How Debt Affects My Friendships
Since I’m open about my desire to be debt-free, I usually have no problem telling others about my difficulties and what I can and can’t do. In discussing my situation, I’ve gotten a range of responses from my friends:
“You have 10 years to pay down your student loans. Calm down and enjoy life.”
“You’re going to stress yourself out.”
“I don’t know why you’re so cheap.”
“You talk about money too much.”
“You sound like an old lady talking about retirement.”
Last year, when I asked for birthday money to put toward paying off my student loans, I got a few weird looks in return.
Now, you might be thinking that I need some new friends ASAP. But these are just a handful of the most extreme responses from only a few people. The majority of my friends and family are pretty supportive of my debt-repayment journey. I know that no matter what people think or how they react to my plan, I’m doing what’s best for me — and so should you.
Understanding Your Friends Who Are in Debt
If you have a friend in debt or who’s going through a hard time financially and she’s taking huge strides to improve her situation, you need to be sensitive to the fact that she’s doing something extraordinary and life-changing. Working to get out of debt is a huge deal.
While many people are on a quest to become debt-free, many others aren’t. They’re still comfortable spending on unnecessary items and going further into debt to finance their lifestyle.
Being in debt is an emotional rollercoaster that seems to go on and on. Sometimes it’s a daily struggle.
Can you really go out to dinner when you know that you owe someone $30,000? Can you “live it up” when you are facing a 10-year repayment plan?
It can be disturbing to open your Facebook or Instagram and see all your friends traveling, buying houses, and experiencing new things when you’re saving every cent to pay off loans.
Your friends who are in debt know first-hand that making impulse purchases and going on vacations that they can’t afford will only offer a temporary sense of happiness that will soon fade away when the bills start to pile up. But should they have no life at all? Should they stop living just because they’re in debt? My answer: No.
How to Better Support a Friend in Debt
What people in debt need are some good laughs with friends and the feeling of being appreciated and supported. Let them know that they aren’t alone on their journey.
You can be a better friend to someone who’s in debt by:
- Offering solid support and trying to be sensitive to what she’s going through so that you can react better in certain situations.
- Inviting him over for a meal or potluck instead of inviting him out to dinner each week.
- Not putting pressure on her to make big purchases just to fit in.
- Not lending money to him (he needs your support, not your charity).
- Respecting her choices and keeping any negative comments to yourself.
Having a friend in debt who’s eager to get out can be an interesting and insightful journey for you, as well. And good friends will remember and reciprocate the support you gave them if and when you need their support someday.