This Loose Change article is by Luci Olivia, a UK money blogger writing and advising about how to have amazing life experiences without giving up on your financial goals on TheFrugalFox.org.
Recognising that you have a bad habit – from smoking to drinking to shopping – and then working on it is an admirable journey and I want everyone to be able to get the support from the network they deserve.
I recently wrote about reasons why people may not support your debt-free journey because I sadly heard from numerous people on social media that friends and family members were not being helpful on their quest to improve their life.
How to Recognise a Friend in Debt
Unfortunately not every friend will feel comfortable having an honest conversation about their debt. Keeping your eyes open towards the ones you love may just change the way they feel about themselves and their money worries without them even knowing you.
- Withdrawal – If a friend who is usually bubbly and outgoing shuts themselves off from the world you might obviously jump to the conclusion something big is wrong however not everyone would think it would be money issues – especially if you have never dealt with debt.
- Secrecy – A friend who is normally happy to talk about money may suddenly hold all their issues inside. This can be hard to notice because you don’t want to push them if they aren’t comfortable.
- Weight Change – Overeating because they are depressed about debt or under-eating because they have no money for food may both be signs of money issues.
- Previous Debt – A friend who has had a previous debt issue may have learnt how to manage their money but also possible is that they were previously bailed out and may have continual shopping or spending habits that were never resolved.
- Spending Change – Someone who used to spend money every weekend may decrease spending as they have no money or they may be overspending to compensate or feel better.
If any of these symptoms sound like a friend or family member you know then you should encourage them that they can talk to you if they have any worries. Some won’t open up to you and that’s fine – they just need to know you’re there when they are ready. But some will and that’s fantastic and just talking about it can sometimes be enough for them to see how you’re doing on your journey and be inspired.
Depending on if they open up or not, there are some routes below you can take to support a friend in debt.
Seven Ways to Support Them
- Don’t Offer Financial Distractions Don’t be the friend that encourages them to come out for drinks at the weekend as they may feel obligated to come out to be a good friend. Or they may want to come out but was trying not to spend money this weekend. Don’t suggest anything that could cost them money no matter how small you consider the cost to be.
- Put Them In Touch with Professionals Stepchange is a free debt-management charity that one of my closest friends used to climb out of debt. If you’re based in the UK and have a friend with money worries, please recommend Stepchange to them as they help you pay off your debt, talking to companies you owe money to on your behalf.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff When you do see your friend or family member, make sure you aren’t reminding them of the £10 they owed you from last week but instead just learn to let it go. £10 could certainly go towards your goals but chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re thinking of someone who is further into debt than you. If you can, cover the small change too such as grabbing the coffees or petrol next time you’re together.
- Be Sensitive to Your Wealth Wealth may be the wrong word if you have debts yourself but just ensure you don’t flaunt what may seem like a big purchase to others. If you manage to save for a new TV or sofa then be sensitive to flaunting it to those who struggle to afford the food in the fridge.
- Plan “No Spend” Activities “No spend” days with friends and loved ones are days where you spend nothing together. This may involve using up vouchers you have, having a day at home doing something as simple as catching up over coffee, window shopping including trying on outfits together but spending nothing or taking a long walk and stopping for a picnic made up of food from the house. A good friendship shouldn’t cost you anything.
- Offer Your Friendship, Not Your Money Jeopardising yourself and putting yourself into debt over helping a loved one if far too common. Also, if you bail someone out, you may just be teaching them that someone will always come to their rescue. However, helping them with support and friendship whilst they work to solve their issues is the best thing you can do for them in the long term.
- Prevent The Worst Finally, if you’re truly worried for their mental welfare and think they may be suicidal over their debt then you can point them in the direction of a helpline such as the Samaritans. You can help as much as you can but if you feel they need professional support then here are some excellent helplines that will listen and guide your friend with those difficult feelings. Talking to someone anonymous is sometimes easier than discussing your problems with someone you know.
You can only do so much as a friend but reading this article and thinking of someone you care about is a good start. Money is still such a taboo subject for some people however breaking down those barriers conversation by conversation is a good start. Let them know you’re there for them, inspire them with your financial journey if they’re open to it and support your friend in debt any way you can.